It’s no secret that accelerated mobile pages have been a polarizing issue since they launched. Accelerated mobile pages’ promise to adopters was ambitious: Faster websites, a better experience for one of the most important segments (mobile users), and high rankings. All that, with minimum extra work.
There were lots of early adopters, especially news sites. And today, almost five years have passed and AMPs are still around. But the question remains: Is AMP worth it in the long run? Additionally, some news have led SEOs to ask: Is AMP over in 2023?
In this article, we’ll take a look at AMP’s history and recent evolution. Our goal? To find out if this technology is still relevant for SEO in 2023.
- What exactly Google AMP development is all about
- How AMPs work (+ why it’s controversial)
- How to implement & validate AMPs
- AMP’s role in mobile SEO
- The current state of Google AMP development
- Common SEO AMP cons
- A look at AMPs from a modern SEO lens
Ready? Let’s get to it!
What Is Google AMP Development?
You probably know what Google accelerated mobile pages are. But just in case, let’s start by defining AMP.
The Accelerated Mobile Pages framework (or AMP) is an open-source web framework developed by Google. While AMP has been officially developed as an open-source framework, Google is its sponsor and promoter. Hence, no one qualms about calling AMP a Google development.
AMP’s goal is to make web content more user-friendly. User experience has been and will always be Google’s primary concern. In fact, this was greatly evidenced by its most important 2022 update: the Helpful Content Update.
Google’s user-centeredness leads to favoring websites that provide a good user experience on organic search results. But, what does a good user experience entail? With AMPs, Google sent a clear message: now “user-first” meant fast.
Starting Fast and Staying Fast with AMP and Progressive Web Apps – PWA Roadshow
Originally, the purpose of Google AMP was to offer light mobile pages. However, since its launch, other elements have been added, including:
- Desktop versions
- Interactive stories
- Email support
- Optimized ads
- E-commerce solutions
Now that things are a bit clearer. It’s time to dive into how AMP works.
How Does AMP Work? [+ Why It’s Controversial]
By implementing AMP, developers can make mobile pages load instantly. That’s its biggest perk.
That speed improvement is mostly achieved through design constraints. However, AMPs also introduce a very efficient rendering technique. With AMP, pages start loading before they’re even visited.
It turns out that AMPs work through design constraints and preprocessing. Both of these techniques have led to controversy.
AMPs impose considerable design constraints. On AMPs, design must conform to the inline styles that the framework supports. And on a more technical note, there are size limitations as well:
- Your CSS should weigh up to 50 KB
While these restrictions guarantee faster pages, they’re not a magic ingredient that makes them instantly responsive.
Additionally, these design limitations can take away from a brand’s visual uniqueness. That’s why some website owners feel that the AMP framework is a way for Google to impose a restrictive idea of what websites should look like.
In mobile search results, Google loads AMPs even before a user clicks on them. Hence, when you select an AMP-powered result, the site is already loaded and will display instantly.
On the other hand, non-AMP pages load only when you enter them. As a result, there’s a great performance gap between AMP and non-AMP pages.
As you may have noticed, part of the debate revolves around how Google “benefits” AMP pages: they gain an unfair advantage over standard pages.
And, it’s obvious that Google can’t pre-render every page. Some pages are just too heavy.
However, it’s been reported that Google is working on a project that aims to pre-render non-AMP pages that meet certain speed criteria. Nevertheless, it may take a while.
How to Implement AMPs
Google provides you with extensive documentation and resources to add AMP to your website. It’s a fairly straightforward process and will remain so in 2023. And if you use WordPress, it’s even easier, thanks to the official AMP plugin.
Although it requires some manual adjustments, the process of converting a website to AMP usually takes less than three weeks. In this section, we’ll take a closer look at how to implement AMPs for SEO in:
- JAMStack websites
- WordPress websites
How to Implement AMPs on a JAMStack Website
The exact steps you should take to implement accelerated mobile pages on the JAMStack will vary depending on your specific stack of choice.
Generally, the process takes place on your theme/layout/templates. And it involves:
- Adding the ‘amp’ tag to your html
- Removing unused CSS and adding the styles inline
- Adding boilerplate CSS to ensure a baseline of AMP compatibility
- Setting canonical tags to avoid content duplication issues
Here are 3 guides you may want to check out:
How to Implement AMPs on WordPress
If your website runs on WordPress, you can start creating AMPs without code. You’ll just need to:
- Install and activate the official AMP plugin
- Open the onboarding wizard
- Select an experience that adjusts to your level of technical expertise
- Pick a template according to your website’s structure and approach
- Choose an AMP-friendly theme
- Set automatic mobile redirection
Looking for a step-by-step guide on how to set up the WordPress AMP plugin? Check out AMP’s official Youtube Channel:
The official AMP plugin for WordPress: Standard Mode | AMP for WordPress
How to Validate an AMP Page
Considering implementing AMP? Don’t forget to test your pages. We recommend checking out:
- The free AMP validator
- Google Chrome’s developer console
- The AMP validator Chrome extension
In case the validator detects problems to publish your AMP page, it’ll provide with you a detailed report. Once you’ve applied any necessary changes, you’ll see your page published and crawled.
Are AMPs Essential for Mobile SEO?
According to Google:
- AMP pages load in about 0.7 seconds on average
- A regular mobile page takes 15 seconds to load
But is that really true? Well, not exactly. Mobile pages aren’t necessarily optimized mobile pages. This is like comparing pears and bananas.
Optimized mobile pages typically take no more than 2 seconds to load. And with a consistent optimization effort, you can even beat an AMP page. Of course, that’ll require some extra work. In either case, an optimized mobile page or a standardized AMP page are both valid options.
Generally, you’ll want to optimize a page yourself if:
- It needs to make a powerful first impression
- It includes essential interactive elements
Meanwhile, AMPs are a great option for:
- Content-centric pages (such as blog posts, recipes & news)
- Product pages
- Pages that provide essential, time-sensitive information
Does AMP Affect Ranking?
Google’s John Mueller has stated that AMP is not a ranking factor in itself. Although, if we look at the big picture, AMP brings dramatic improvements in page speed, and that is a big ranking factor.
You can improve mobile performance in many ways. But almost none will be as easy as adopting pre-rendered AMPs.
The Current State of Google AMP Development
There are few launches as successful as AMP’s. Several major platforms were interested from the get-go, including Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and WordPress. And there was also a lot of hype about its results: AMP was supposed to increase websites’ mobile traffic, time-on-page, and conversions by a factor of 4.
Now that the initial excitement has passed, we can look at what has happened objectively.
Let’s look back at how Google AMP has evolved:
- October 2015 – Google announces the launch of AMP
- February 2016 – We see the first AMP pages in
- October 2015 – Google announces the launch of AMP
- February 2016 – We see the first AMP pages in “featured stories”
- September 2016 – We start to run into the first AMP pages in search results
- August 2017 – Ads could now leverage AMP’s speed benefits
- February 2018 – February marked the arrival of AMP stories and AMP emails
- December 2018 – We began having access to the official AMP plugin for WordPress
Perhaps you remember the 2017 and 2018 announcements that showed the rise in AMP usage from 900K domains and over 2 billion pages to 31 million domains and over 5 billion pages.
If you remember those announcements, you’ll also recall that in 2019 the Google AMP development team gave no new updates: the numbers had stopped being impressive.
But statistics recently published by W3Techs show that the number of websites using AMP has grown by 70% in 2022 alone.
However, the percentage of sites using AMP as a markup language is incredibly low compared to 94.7% using regular HTML.
Conferences: An Audience Indicator
To share progress and future plans, Google AMP has held three annual conferences since 2017. Attendance at these conferences has been growing steadily, but this hasn’t had much impact. Nonetheless, it’s a good sign for the project as a whole.
Google AMP Development Contributors
Contributors to the AMP project have grown steadily from 400 in 2017 to over 800 in 2019. We can look back at the 2016-2019 GitHub commits to the project to see that it’s very much alive, with a slight uptick in activity in the most recent years.
A Bad Sign: AMP Is No Longer Included in Google’s Structured Data Recommendations
One less-than-stellar sign was when Google removed all AMP recommendations from its structured data recommendations list, last October. Formerly, an AMP version was required for news articles to rank high.
But since then, Google has completely removed all references to AMP from their structured data guidelines.
This news was already warned in a Google preview on the same topic, in 2020:
“AMP will no longer be required for stories to appear in Top Stories on mobile; it will be open to any page.”
The Most Popular AMP Cons
Now that we’ve gone through AMP’s adoption rates and its evolution, it’s time to dive into the ultimate question: “Is AMP worth it?” So, let’s examine the main reasons why many SEO specialists oppose AMP.
Spoiler: Technical implementation and Google’s control over AMP content are at the heart of this issue.
A Worse User Experience
Faster isn’t always better, especially when it comes to websites with interactive elements. Don’t get us wrong, it’s very important for those elements to load quickly. But it’s also crucial for them to be easy and pleasant to interact with. AMPs’ design limitations can have a negative impact in:
- Brand perception
- Overall user experience
Kinsta’s AMP experience is a pretty interesting case study.
Google’s AMP pages don’t support header bidding and programmatic advertising. This is a huge deal breaker for publishers that rely on this type of ad.
Maintenance & Optimization
Want to get the same results you get with your current website on AMP? You’ll need to redesign and optimize your website mobile version according to AMP’s technical limitations. So in short you’ll have to create a new site and optimize it for conversions separately.
This can feel like a bit much. Especially if your website’s mobile version is already high-performing.
Crawl Budget Optimization
AMP crawling comes from a website’s crawl budget. So, upon implementing AMP, you may find out that most of your crawling budget is going to content that Google has already crawled and ranked. This may be particularly inconvenient if you run a website that publishes lots of new content regularly.
In some cases, Google fails to detect AMPs and their non-AMP counterparts as two versions of the same page. Even when the desktop version of the site has been set as canonical. So both URLs appear in the SERPs.
Unreliable Analytics Data
Publishers aren’t exactly the ones delivering AMP content, Google is. And in the early days of AMP, users could only access AMPs through this type of URL structure: https://google.com/amp/[publisherwebsite.com]/[content-slug]
This often leads to erroneous data. For instance, AMP websites weren’t able to load the original website’s tracking cookies. So certain metrics were chronically inaccurate, including:
- Traffic source
- Unique users
- Pageviews per session
- Bounce rate
This issue was partially solved in recent years.
Poor Dynamic Content Support
While today AMPs support more interactive features than ever, they’re still limited. if you’re implementing AMPs on an e-commerce website, you’ll find that parts of your user journey will need to take place on non-AMP pages.
This could lead to a confusing and inconsistent experience for mobile users.
Our Perspective on the Future of AMP
The AMP project isn’t the hottest thing in Google’s portfolio. But in spite of low adoption rates, it might stick around. Plus, Google AMP development is still undergoing, with new features and emerging issues.
So, what is the future of the AMP project?
The project seems to be facing a path towards:
- The arrival of new types of content with AMP Stories and AMP Email.
- The development of what’s called “AMP Bento”. This concept will lower the barrier to entry, by making AMP benefits accessible without having an absolute commitment to the AMP framework.
- Non-AMP Pre-rendering. This is a fair solution for sites that are as fast as AMP pages. However, as there is no reliable way to evaluate the perceived performance of a non-AMP page, it’s still being examined. In addition, pre-rendering poses security risks and regulatory concerns, since it involves sending information to the user without their prior consent.
So finally, is AMP over? No, not really. But, is AMP worth it? Well…
You must be a little tired of being told that it depends. But in this case, it’s the most appropriate answer. Let’s see why.
If you own a news site, you may have implemented AMP to be featured on the Google News Top Stories carousel. However, after the AMP requirement was dropped, AMPs are no longer relevant to this discussion.
The key benefit of AMP is the speed improvement you get thanks to Google’s caching. But soon, Google will extend its cache to non-AMP sites. Additionally, the speed boost you get with AMP today can be achieved with intentional mobile optimization. And if you optimized for mobile yourself you’ll be able to maintain full control over your website’s design.
If you’re able to deliver a fast and competitive experience to mobile users, you have no reason to adopt AMP.
However, there are no arguments against AMP either. In its early days, it was an extremely limiting and buggy framework. But in 2023, it’s far more versatile than some of its detractors portray it as.
If your mobile website is slow and you want a simple way to optimize it, then AMP is a perfectly valid option to consider. Especially if you run a WordPress website.
After all, it depends.
Modern SEO’s Winning Combo: Great Content + A Polished UX + Robust Technical SEO
User experience is crucial for modern SEO. That’s what AMP is all about. But there’s more to SEO than just what your user sees. Your website’s code can significantly affect your ranking, even when it comes to elements that the user doesn’t notice, such as metatags and HTTP headers.
But, the code on your website can be tedious to monitor. Especially if you run a large platform with hundreds of URLs. That’s where SEORadar can help.
Chosen by some of the largest websites in the world, SEORadar automatically monitors the code and content on your website and alerts you of any changes that may affect your ranking.
Interested? Start a free trial or schedule a demo today.