Google's AMP Project

It’s hard not to look back and think that 2015 was finally the Year of Mobile.  OK, that’s up for debate, but not as far as Google is concerned.  Mobilegeddon scared everyone to death (unnecessarily so, in retrospect) but arguably more important was the launch of the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project on Oct. 7.

An open-source initiative, the project’s goal is to “dramatically improve the performance of the mobile web.” It’s hard to tell how much the partners in the project (Twitter, Pinterest,, Adobe Analytics, etc.) are supporting this, but most, if not all, of the updates are being provided by Google. The focus is on content, distribution and advertising, but what’s intriguing is the carrot that Google is dangling: Use this platform and your search performance will likely improve.



But why is AMP necessary?  It’s simple: Mobile Internet performance is awful. Web pages are getting bigger and heavier, especially with the adoption of responsive technology. Responsive sites do a great job formatting content across multiple devices. In the desktop environment, this isn’t a big deal. However, mobile performance suffers greatly because pages take forever to load. 

The Speed Round On AMP

Here is a quick overview of AMP’s infrastructure:

  • Technology: A new open framework called AMP HTML provides for the development of lightweight Web pages. Having multiple media publishers adopt this should free them up to spend their time on great mobile content. The December 16 AMP blog post provides a long list of page optimizations that make AMP pages load quickly.
  • Developer Community: Getting traction with this new platform is critical, and to facilitate this Google has set up a version control environment at GitHub. Since the October launch, there have been 79 releases and over 3,000 commits (a tech term for saving/submitting updated code), meaning that there is a lot going on at a very rapid pace.
  • Analytics: Making pages fast requires a few sacrifices. One of those is on the AMP analytics front -- currently you can collect less information from AMP pages using Google Analytics (GA) than on a standard page. But the great news is that you can use GA on AMP pages, one more advantage Google provides in driving this initiative.
  • Ads: In order to ensure that this platform works for publishers, Google has made ads a focus.  A January post highlights how Google is working with publishers (Outbrain, Daily Mail) and ad tech vendors (Moat, Kargo) to provide beneficial AMP ad units measureable via today’s tools.

The Payoff

So we understand what AMP is and why it benefits the user.  But what about the marketer?

  • Search: Here is the biggest incentive that Google can offer.  When relevant, pages built in AMP will appear within the Top Stories section of the search results page.  This is significant on a number of levels:  first, these stories are located the top of the page, second, they are presented in a very appealing layout – a headline over an image, just the kind of result that gets fantastic click through rate. Make the investment in AMP and get great ranking and great CTR -- can’t beat that payoff.  The only caveat is that Top Stories are only shown when there is high demand for a specific topic. Beyond Top Stories, Google is going to do everything possible to promote AMP pages. If your AMP pages are as light and fast as Google claims, these factors will certainly help your mobile organic ranking.
  • Ads: Better mobile ads are a great first step.  If users like AMP pages and ads are a focus, impressions will be worth more than they are today. While users are using the mobile web much more than ever before, typical mobile display ad performance has not kept pace.

Let’s be clear -- AMP pages are not a panacea. In fact, Facebook’s Instant Articles and Apple News are competitive platforms that seek to provide the same benefit. But stepping back, the February Facebook launch and March Apple launch confirm that Google is onto something big. And while Facebook and iOS are big opportunities for marketers, neither of those platforms can offer preferred treatment in the world’s leading search engine.

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