It’s no secret that the mobile-first mindset is here to stay. When designing and developing a website, it’s imperative to design for users to seamlessly access your content on all screen sizes. When Google first announced their Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project it seemed like the obvious strategy for website design and development going forward based on their pitch. Google did a terrific job selling the pros of AMP but skirted mentioning any of the cons, which include a lack of control of your own website. We’ll explore both the pros and cons to help you decide if AMP is truly right for you. Spoiler alert: The answer is, “It depends.”
AMP was officially launched by Google in 2015 as The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project. The goal was to improve load times and speed on the mobile web, which is especially beneficial for pages with rich content like animations or video. Improving load times on mobile devices creates a better experience for users and also enhances opportunities for sites to earn revenue through advertising and subscriptions. AMP was first conceived and introduced to be a competitor to Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News.
In true Google fashion, their announcement about AMP was compelling, especially when they stated it would be a requirement for online news stories. Reactions to the announcement were varied though. Some were excited about the improved performance and instant mobile load times achieved by removing unnecessary code and functionality, while others pointed out this would be furthering Google’s control over the web.
Since its launch, AMP has been widely adopted by many news publishers worldwide and more than 31 million domains now use AMP. Should you? Let’s check out the pros and cons to help decide.
If you run ads on your website, research shows you may expect to earn 3x the daily ad revenue on AMP pages vs. non-AMP pages. Google also developed a tool called Fast Fetch which works with AMP to render ads 2.7x faster than previous tools. That’s a pretty big chunk of saved time when it comes to mobile loading.
Another Google study found that e-commerce websites using AMP experienced a 20% increase in sales conversions compared to non-AMP.
Google also publicly acknowledges that page speed is a ranking factor, which means it affects how high up in the search results your website will be shown.
Overall, the promise of AMP is that you’ll be able to send more traffic to your website due to improved search engine results page (SERP) rankings and visibility, and users will have a better experience when visiting your website due to faster load of pages and ads, which will generate more conversions and ultimately revenue for you.
If this is true and AMP is a free, open source technology that can lead to an increase in traffic, conversions, and ad revenue, why isn’t everyone using it?
Critics of AMP have pointed out a few crucial tradeoffs that come with using AMP technology. For one, the reason the pages can load so quickly is that they are hosted on Google’s server, not yours. This represents a loss of control of your website as well as a loss of link equity. Any backlinks pointing to your website that render on the AMP version, are not attributed to your website but to Google since the pages are technically hosted on Google’s website.
Secondly, the experience of AMP gives the user access to the content they want quickly but at the cost of many UX elements like images since it’s essentially a stripped down version of your website.
Another major con of AMP is that it does not allow for features such as chat boxes, Apple Pay or forms. As of now, AMP pages do not let users log in to see recently viewed products or have the functionality to make product recommendations. If your site relies on chat boxes and filtering, AMP is likely not for you.
Since AMP is separate from your responsive mobile pages, there will also be more to maintain. If you have the resources and the other cons are not a factor, running an AMP vs non-AMP test for your website is likely a good idea to decide whether that’s the direction to take. Remember to update content on both versions to maintain consistency and test that your analytics are configured correctly. Since your cached AMP content is not technically part of your website, you’ll need to also configure Google Analytics to track your AMP content.
Lastly, website visitors use your URL and SSL certificates to verify the authenticity of your content. If a user notices Google’s domain in the URL bar instead of your website’s URL, this may confuse or concern them, which can affect the conversion funnel by causing them to bounce. It takes additional time and resources if you want to have AMP display your website’s actual URL. If you don’t invest the time into displaying your URL in AMP, people that share your content may end up sharing a google.com address rather than your URL. This can cause lost opportunities for branding and building backlinks as mentioned for search engine optimization (SEO).
To decide if AMP is right for you, you’ll need to weigh a variety of factors. We’ve addressed the major arguments both for and against AMP but it comes down to your specific business type, important website features, resources available and customer base. At CTRL+ALT Digital, we are advocates of A/B testing to let data and your customers tell you what they want, not Google. If you’re considering implementing AMP, conducting adequate testing is a strategic way to feel confident in the decision.