Google AMP

Let’s Talk about Google AMP

The world likes to latch onto new shiny things. Enter Google AMP.

For Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), and most new things, there’s a lot of fear, uncertainty, and doubt going around. In stark contrast to my previous statement… there’s also a ton of people clamoring to just pick this technology up and run with it.

The FUD comes from people who are telling you, that you need this. The clamoring comes from the people who want to follow leaders and hear that this is a popular thing, and they like to do what is popular.

I’m not a fan of either of those situations.

I want my clients, my co-workers and the industry to be well informed. I’m not going to spend lots of time re-hashing the same thing everyone else is saying. Those in this industry who know how things work and understand the purpose behind advancements in technology, are in a prime position to support, innovate and be impactful on a scale that dwarfs those who just go through the motions.

With that, let’s begin.

Why does everyone care?

Because if you are in a Web related or dependent business, and Google makes a move — people start discussing it. By discussing it I mean, they flood Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, every SEO/SEM online community, every technology forum, aggregators and so on with this “new thing”.

Everyone reads that, feels an immediate emotional reaction that they need to get ahead of whatever is changing or they may be left behind or miss an opportunity of some kind.

It’s an open source project. It was created with good intent. It was created by bright, passionate people. But that’s the story of just about every open source project. The only difference here is that people are viewing this project with through the lens of Google. Which can make things seem like great investments, or things you should jump on immediately.

For the SEO/SEM guys:

AMP is not a ranking signal now but he did not say it won’t be in the future.
Truth is, AMP is just in the news carousel now anyway.

Search Engine RoundTable

What is Google AMP?

In short: It’s an alternative method for serving and rendering static mobile content.

That statement encompasses the whole thing. Part of the confusion though, is that the marketing site isn’t doing a great job of relaying that very simple statement.

The Accelerated Mobile Pages (“AMP”) Project is an open source initiative that came out of discussions between publishers and technology companies about the need to improve the entire mobile content ecosystem for everyone – publishers, consumer platforms, creators, and users.

Accelerated Mobile Pages Project

Well, that’s not helpful is it?
Let me cut through the marketing machine here and lay it out for you.

Google has projects. Lots of them. Further more, as of 2003, they have built a reputation on releasing these experiments, and then retiring them shortly after. Here’s an article on that.

Google AMP — is a NEW project. Will it be discontinued in a year? No one knows. There is no statement or agreement with Google that speaks to the roadmap for Google AMP and it’s life cycle, performance metrics or retirement plan. It could be around forever, or be gone in a year.

This new project, is a set of standards that Google has created. It’s an agreement between Developers and Google, that if you have online content, and can link to an alternative version of that content, that is structured in a certain way, Google will grant you certain benefits.

Those benefits may or may not include an increase in ranking or more traffic.

They have however, stated that a key benefit of using this standard is that Google will cache and serve your website for you for FREE.

In addition, AMP files can be cached in the cloud in order to reduce the time content takes to get a user’s mobile device. By using the AMP format, content producers are making the content in AMP files available to be cached by third parties. Under this type of framework, publishers continue to control their content, but platforms can easily cache or mirror the content for optimal delivery speed to users. Google has stated that it will provide a cache that can be used by anyone at no cost, and all AMPs will be cached by Google’s cache. Other companies may build their own cache as well.

Accelerated Mobile Pages Project

That’s cool.

How does this all work?

It’s not black magic. Once you realize this is a set of rules Google is asking Developers to adhere to — the picture becomes way clearer.

So let’s talk about what it is NOT first and foremost:

  • It’s not a replacement for Responsive Web Methodologies.
  • It is not a new technology.
  • It is not a silver bullet for anything.
  • It’s not supported by anyone but Google at this time.

Ok, let’s talk about what it is:

  • It’s a series of limited standards for Web Development.
  • It’s a method for serving static content for Mobile.
  • It’s backed by services provided by Google.

You produce a page called “About Us” that has some pictures and some text on it. You then take that content, wrap it into these new Google AMP standards, and link to the AMP version via a tag in your HTML header and you’re done.

It’s THAT simple, which is why there’s already official WordPress support for it.

After you do that, Google crawls you. They see that you are playing ball and they may bubble you up in the rankings a bit, or they may have a feature within Google people get to use to find your site in, such as this:

Google-accelerated-mobile-pages

What are the positives and negatives of using it?

Let’s talk about the positives.

  • Faster content loading, which is good for the user.
  • Google initiative, so they may provide incentives for people adopting it.
  • Google has shown there will probably be features you will put into if you adopt this method.
  • Simple approach, so the overhead of implementing this is minimal.
  • You can still do some analytics.

Let’s talk about the negatives.

  • Serious limitations around what basic HTML functionality you can leverage.
    • Here are the requirements on how iFrames can be used, as well as Media in general.
  • Restrictions like “Only ads served via HTTPS are supported.” in place.
  • Assets are sized statically, which means you have to be specific with your dimensions.
  • How you write CSS and JavaScript has to change from how you may be doing it. Build tools will need to be changed if you want to optimize the production of these, unless you have an automated templating system.
  • More overhead for getting this done correctly, things like “your AMP pages have to pass validation” factor into this.
  • There’s a bunch of banned HTML tags now.
    • JavaScript is in there… “Prohibited unless the type is application/ld+json. (Other non-executable values may be added as needed.) Exception is the mandatory script tag to load the AMP runtime and the script tags to load extended components.”
    • img/video/audio/iframe are all replaced with AMP tags.
    • Forms are currently a “no go” with support coming later. Big deal.

When to use and when to not.

Use it when it makes sense. Now that you know what it IS and what it’s NOT. You can use it properly.

  • If you are serving lots of static content, and by static content I mean “content that can just be read on a page without user interaction of any kind”, then go right ahead.
  • If you have a Form on your site, that your business depends on, then AMP isn’t going to replace or support that at the moment.
  • Blogs are a GREAT opportunity for this.
  • E-commerce could be a TERRIBLE place for this at the moment.

Is it Good or is it Bad?

I’ve been reading about AMP for some time now, they released an update in October of 2015 and were saying “We think AMP HTML is promising, but we know it’s not complete.” — which is great, it means they have a core set of requirements, and now that they released it, it meets the MVP line they drew in the sand.

Google AMP isn’t bad and it isn’t good. It just is.

In the same way that a rock is not a good rock or a bad rock. If you pick up this Google rock, and you use it badly and it lands on your foot, then it’s a bad rock. If you on the other hand pick up the rock and turn it into a tool that solves your problems, then it’s a good rock.

Use it as you will. Hopefully for good. Who’s a good rock? … You’re a good rock!

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