If you’re reading this on a mobile device, we’ve created an AMP-HTML version on our labs site. You’ll need to come back here afterwards, but it’ll give you an idea of the difference in load time.

What is AMP?

Google’s AMP or Accelerated Mobile Pages project is, in their words, “an architectural framework built for speed”.

In super simple terms AMP strips websites down so that they load super-fast.

Source: www.ampproject.org

Your first reaction was probably, “Great idea. A faster, more engaging mobile web is a must”. And we’d probably agree with you. It’s no secret, mobile devices are the preferred viewport for customers in most verticals.

But once we’d stopped high-fiving, we started thinking about the implications and potential for the AMP project.

It could be a game-changer for all sorts of people. Let’s take a look at some examples.

What Does It Mean For Users?

For a user, the end result is undeniably a better experience consuming static content on mobile devices. They’ll see less ads and will have fewer concerns about the privacy of their data.

AMP’s scope is limited to web pages that display ‘static content’. In other words, it’s not going to make a gaming platform or banking application run faster. But it will help you load news articles quickly.

AMP is also pretty restrictive (at the moment) about JavaScript, which means less advertising and fewer analytics/tracking codes work with AMP.

The project’s goal is to remove any third party control of the user experience to size or position advertising (we all hate it when ads pop up hijacking our browser and killing our data). It also wants to remove heavy tracking codes that slow down a web page excessively.

The result should be pages that load quickly with less jarring resizes or reorientations.

In developed countries where large-screened-smartphones and 4G connections are readily available, will it make a massive difference? Well it’s certainly not going to revolutionise how I read the BBC news on my way into work.

However the real opportunity appears to be in developing countries. AMP could be Google’s catalyst to help the next 1bn people get online. You’ll agree, growing the web’s population has the potential to impact the future development of cultures, creativity, business, medicine, everything… but it’s also a very shrewd strategy for growing Google’s Ad revenues as more people enter its eco-system.

Is It A Risk For Publishers & Advertisers?

AMP has stated that supporting advertising, tracking and paywalls are key goals of the project. But these supporting statements come with the “…in a way that doesn’t negatively impact the user” clauses.

In other words, you can have advertising, but it can’t be excessive, overwhelming or distracting from the content the user was intending to consume.

This raises the bar for advertisers, who’ll be under enormous pressure to maintain their levels of reach but in a way that compliments the user’s experience rather than interrupts it.

It also means that publishers who rely on advertising revenue to fund their content production, may need to look at other business models to stay profitable. Could the ad restrictions imposed by AMP coupled with Google’s Contribute and Apple’s Ad-Blocking move be the ‘napster’ moment for digital journalism? Will publishers need to look at paid-for premium content models or subscription models to stay in business?

Our prediction is that publishing will move to a freemium model, that we’re seeing with things like Spotify: You can consume content with ads for free, or you can pay to get an ‘AMP’ experience, with faster loading pages and less-intrusive or no advertising.

What Questions Should Marketers Be Asking?

To answer that question, we need to break ‘Marketers’ into two groups: Publishers and Non-Publishers.

For publishers, it’s a business decision: Do you offer your user a better experience but with limitations on serving ads, and hope to increase revenue by scaling and retaining your audience? Or do you stick with your advertising model and increase your rates to grow revenue from a potentially shrinking audience.

For non-publishers there are slightly different considerations, which fall into four buckets:

  • To deliver content in this new AMP framework, you’re going to need to budget, develop or hire talent and allow time for building the mobile experiences. Will this additional investment produce a return?
  • With AMPs restriction on JavaScript, you need to consider that Analytics and tracking is limited. Is your marketing going to be as effective without the insights provided by your analytics and tracking tools?
  • AMP at the moment is a proof of concept. A huge public beta, if you will. There’s going to be a huge learning curve involved for everyone. Mainly to determine, “what can’t we do with AMP that we can with html?”. As such, the last question a marketer should ask is, should we be jumping into this right now?
  • And finally, marketers need to keep a watchful eye on digital reach. Viewability, ad-blockers, AMP and Google’s Contribute could all have a negative impact on a campaigns ability to reach its market on-line. If overall reach decreases then the cost of reaching an audience will be higher, impacting budgets.

My opinion is that it’s a watching brief for the short term. At moment, the likes of the BBC and WordPress are experimenting with this new concept to see how best to implement. For those who don’t have huge R&D funds or vast amounts of traffic to syphon off into AMP experiments, a wise stance would be to make a move once the early adopters have ironed out the creases.

How Does It Change SEO?

Reading between the lines of every algorithm update shows that Google ultimately care about user experience. So I think it’s safe to say there are going to be rewards in visibility or ranking for those businesses that adopt AMP. These rewards may not be immediate, but we only have to think back to the “mobile friendly” update to see what could happen here.

The next thing to consider is that it’s another technical consideration for SEOs to wrestle with. AMP introduces a new AMP-HTML specification that needs to be evaluated and understood as it grows and develops.

The reassuring thing though, from our perspective, is that a lot of the technical recommendations that AMP is trying to make are already being focused on by any good SEO: optimise the delivery of JavaScript and assets (like images) and leverage browser caching.

In Summary

AMP has the potential to be really cool. But we don’t think anyone should jump into this fully, yet.

As we’ve mentioned in the last section, there are already technical SEO options out there to deliver fast(er) mobile experiences to your users.

Of course, we’d be happy tell you about them. Give us a call on 01293 265 370 or email us at enquiries@rocketmill.co.uk