How Google AMP Is Changing SEO: The Good and the Bad
News content is highly popular during presidential election years, especially following an election. And if you've browsed your smartphone for the latest scoop, then you've probably noticed the Google AMP carousel that appears atop search results.
What exactly is AMP, and why should online marketers pay attention to it?
The specific goal of Google AMP, or accelerated mobile pages, is to streamline content on mobile Web browsers, dramatically increasing page loads and driving user engagement. A webpage coded with the special AMP HTML displays with simplified formatting and basic images; meanwhile, complex page elements are loaded secondary in the background. In addition, Google caches AMP content on its servers around the world, which further enhances page speed. Some AMP pages load up to 10 times faster than standard Web pages.
But there's a bigger picture here. This is yet another effort by Google to provide answers rather than just search results. Think of this like the Knowledge Graph system through which Google shows answers to basic questions in large, highly positioned info boxes. Above-the-fold real estate is even more valuable on mobile SERPs given the smaller screens and steep orientations of smartphone screens. Google's efforts to preempt organic results with new widgets and placements should always be viewed skeptically.
That said, any marketer worth his salt should also think about opportunity. How can businesses take advantage of the Google AMP Project? Here, we'll review how AMP HMTL might affect SEO for better and for worse.
Google AMP: The Good
A person who clicks an AMP link wants to be engaged by compelling content, so you're halfway there already. The AMP further guarantees a positive connection by greatly improving page load speeds. In addition to racking up views and shares, here are reasons for marketers to embrace AMP:
1. AMP pages get premium SERP placements.
AMP pages show up on mobile web browsers without any need for vertical scrolling. Even better, they're formatted to display in what's clearly a horizontal swiping carousel, offering fantastic visibility for top-ranked AMP webpages. Any option for above-the-fold real estate on smartphone screens is worth pursuing.
2. More people will read content.
Thanks to AMP, Google is doing for publishers what Facebook did with its Instant Articles. People who click on AMP articles are less likely to bounce and more likely to get engaged. It's great for publishers who want to use long-form content to build connections and relationships with Web users.
3. AMP isn't completely static.
AMP pages can be designed with audio, video, social sharing buttons, dynamic content and more. Publishers can even display ads on their AMP pages, although ads resolve secondary to the primary content. Over time, the technology behind AMP will undoubtedly allow for more complex page elements.
4. AMP is supported by Google Analytics.
Just like with other kinds of webpages, you can track how users interact with AMP pages using a special tag that's supported by Google Analytics. Use this to measure page views, social interactions and clicks on different parts of your landing pages.
Google AMP: The Bad
Of course, not everything about AMP is sunshine and rainbows for SEO. The whole point of AMP is to hasten load times by simplifying landing pages, which can limit the usefulness of webpages. Also, there's the issue of AMP links on SERPs. Here are some reasons to be wary of AMP:
1. AMP pages don't generate leads.
The AMP HTML coding doesn't offer a way to include forms on landing pages. Until that changes, AMP is somewhat worthless if you're seeking leads such as email signups or subscriber registrations.
2. AMP doesn't help commerce-focused sites.
AMP is mostly focused on complex long-form articles that aren't usually answers to questions that customers would ask. However, business websites with substantial articles and blog posts may find use for AMP HTML.
3. Lackluster UX
AMP is made for speed and simplicity. While this drives engagement on content, this also makes for a worse user experience in other areas of functionality and branding. Of course, this is likely to improve as the AMP system grows.
4. AMP could hamstring your link-building efforts.
Before AMP, visitors who linked to your pages from their website added to your link network and domain authority - and that's a crucial component of good SEO. Unfortunately, the URL of an AMP page is still rooted in google.com, which could mean you don't reap the full benefits of shared links.
5. Your HTML coding has to be impeccable.
Is your website professionally made? If not, then you might not be able to capitalize on AMP. Under this system, Google won't cache your AMP-coded webpages on its worldwide servers unless it's completely free of HTML coding errors. While this is a good thing for Web users, this can strain small business owners whose websites were made on the cheap.
It's too soon to know exactly how the AMP Project will play out in the coming months and years. For now, AMP HTML is mostly relevant to websites that specialize in long-form content such as news articles and blog posts. In the future, Google may implement a similar mobile delivery system for business and e-commerce webpages.
Even if your website isn't directly impacted by the AMP project, this should be a reminder that page speed is an increasingly important metric in mobile SEO. Now is the time to audit your website and brainstorm new ways to enhance its mobile performance.
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Phil is Founder and COO of Main Street ROI. Phil leads the company’s operations and is primary creator of Main Street ROI’s marketing training programs. He is an expert in search engine marketing, website analytics, and sales funnel optimization. Phil’s marketing thought leadership has been published on Forbes.com, Inc.com, MSN.com, and many other major business media outlets.
Phil earned his Master of Engineering Management degree from Thayer School of Engineering and Tuck School of Business and his Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Engineering degrees from Dartmouth College. While attending Dartmouth, Phil started every game on the varsity football team as the defensive safety.