AMP lightning bolt

Are AMP Pages Important in 2021?

AMP has been around for 5 years now, and it’s evolved a lot in that time.

But 5 years is a very long time in online terms. So are AMP pages important now? And if you haven’t set them up yet – are AMP pages worth it?

Let’s dive in and get to some answers.

What Are AMP Pages?

AMP is an open source framework created to make web pages load faster for mobile devices. Which is why AMP originally stood for ‘Accelerated Mobile Pages’.

But whilst it’s technically ‘open source’, it’s always had heavy involvement and support from Google. So it’s commonly referred to as Google AMP.

AMP pages first started to appear for Google mobile search results back in February 2016. So they really are now over 5 years old.

Why Are AMP Pages Important?

Google is all about user experience these days. And they have been focussed heavily on the mobile web experience for some time now. They even implemented ‘mobile-first indexing’ back in July 2019 – which basically meant that ‘mobile’ became the starting point of everything Google did to assess your website.

AMP feeds into all this because there are very strict design rules for AMP pages. Visually they have a very minimal page layout and all sorts of technical rules about what you can and can’t do. Everything aimed at keeping things minimal and fast. At first this was far too restrictive and greatly limited functionality. That has changed a lot in 5 years though.

So however web pages are generated these days, they need to be fast loading and work well on small screens. But there’s now more to it than just that, which we’ll come to in a moment.

AMP for Easy Mobile Friendly Pages?

These days websites are often built to be ‘mobile first’. That is, they primarily look good on mobile devices – then shift and adapt to also look good on larger screens too (tablets, laptops and desktops).

But go back 5 years and sites were still built to rigid sizes. They didn’t flow and adapt, they weren’t ‘mobile responsive’. They were generally pretty horrible to browse on a phone. And slow, oh so slow.

To fix this meant big design changes to create a more flexible design to cater for all screen sizes and devices.

Or you could just leave the main site as it was, and add a plugin to let AMP pages get created automatically for mobile users. It’s a poor solution but a lot of businesses took this route as a panic ‘cheap fix’ (and it’s probably still hurting them even now).

AMP = Google News Carousel = Big Traffic

Google News Carousel

The big benefit for AMP (for website owners) has been ‘Google News’.

To be eligible to appear in the Google News Carousel that appeared at the top of news related searches, a website was required to support AMP. That is, only AMP pages could appear.

Clearly this prominence was hugely important to news and media websites as the News Carousel can send huge amounts of traffic to your site.

Which is exactly why AMP was taken up very strongly by the news and media sector, but largely ignored by everyone else.

The AMP requirement for Google Top Stories Carousel is however now changing.

So Are AMP Pages Worth It Now?

AMP is one way to create fast loading pages with a good user experience.

But it’s not the only way. Standard (well built) websites can achieve the same thing.

So should you implement AMP now if you haven’t already?

Google News Carousel Changes (Big Change 1)

Whilst AMP has been important for a few years for news/media sites because of that very prominent traffic boosting news carousel, things have changed over the last few months.

One of the key benefits of AMP, for website owners, was that only AMP pages are eligible to appear in the Google Top Stories carousel when searching on mobile (which can send significant spikes in traffic).

That is about to change as all web pages will become eligible – but ‘Page Experience’ scores will become a ranking factor to appear in Top Stories.

AMP vs Google Page Experience (Big Change 2)

AMP was all about providing a fast page loading experience on mobile, mostly by delivering a visually very minimal page layout. Page Experience has multiple angles to it (and has connections with ‘Google PageSpeed’), but the upshot is the same thing – faster loading pages with less jarring for the user (avoiding page layout jumps etc as different elements of the page load).

The big difference being that (typically) AMP requires a site to also have a second ‘cut-down’ template design, whereas Page Experience is all about maximising the performance/usability of the existing site as it is. That is, don’t make it good for one set of users – make it good for everyone.

Sidenote: technically it is possible to build an AMP based site for all devices. But the reality even now is that it’s difficult, i.e. expensive, to achieve satisfactorily AND the end result is still quite restrictive for larger screens so you’ll likely have to make compromises.

So we’re now hitting a transition period where Google’s Page Experience is potentially replacing AMP, and we’re only now getting some real clarity on what this all means.

Google Page Experience is currently scheduled to start rolling out in May 2021.

Is AMP Going Away?

AMP is not going away – at least not for a while anyway. So if you’ve already implemented AMP pages stick with them, but start working now on the Page Experience for your main site design.

Google is still pushing AMP, and says it’s one way to achieve good Page Experience. But it does feel very much like Page Experience in general is now the future, and AMP may be phased out in the long term.

Is AMP Good for SEO?

Things like page loading speed are already minor ranking factors in Google anyway. So it’s something you need to be conscious of whether delivering AMP pages or not.

The extra Page Experience elements have NOT been stated by Google as ranking factors (beyond Top Stories). At least not for when they start rolling it out (currently scheduled for May 2021). But it’s not a big stretch to imagine they will become relevant to search rankings. If not directly, then indirectly from observing the way people use your website. If your competitors websites look better, perform better and deliver what your customers want more easily – then Google is going to want to send more people there instead.

Should I Implement AMP?

The world has changed – again. So if you don’t have AMP pages already, now is not the best time to implement them.

Whilst not everything is a known as yet, my recommendation now would be to put resources that would have gone into AMP into improving Page Experience instead. That way you will better serve all of your website visitors and likely see a solid return from increased search traffic alone.

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