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What is Google AMP and Why is it Important?

In this post, learn more about Google’s trend towards mobile and what Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) means for mobile devices, as well as search overall. Here’s a quick summary:

 

  • A brief history of Google’s shift towards mobile
  • What is Google AMP?
  • Why should I use Google AMP?
  • How do I use Google AMP?

 

A Brief History of Google’s Shift Towards Mobile

For those who have been watching Google over the past four to five years, there has been an observable shift towards mobile as their primary platform. Here’s a brief timeline of what’s happened:

  • November 2014: Google launches the Mobile-Friendly Test Tool.
  • February 2015: Google begins testing mobile-friendly callouts (and special icons) and begins a lot of saber rattling in the Webmaster’s Blog about mobile-friendly interfaces on websites.
  • April 2015: Mobile-Geddon strikes. Google begins rolling out “mobile-friendly” search results, giving a rank boost to sites that offer a mobile-friendly viewport.
  • Early-to-Mid 2016: Keywords remain important, but the context of the site starts to take priority over basic content, effectively eliminating keyword stuffing as a SEO strategy.
  • February 2016: Google launches Google AMP, building a content format specifically optimized for mobile devices.
  • Late 2016 and 2017: Several updates to Google’s algorithms strengthen Google’s position on context and user-intent, while working to reduce “spammy” results.
  • Late 2017: Google begins to specifically focus on mobile again, announcing plans to split the search index into two distinct indexes for desktop and mobile, with mobile as the primary. Discussion in Google’s forums begins to reveal a massive shift towards mobile search over the prior two years.
  • 2018: The search indexes are completely distinct, and Google adds new ranking factors focusing on page load speeds, as well as hints at Google AMP as a ranking factor

This quick timeline highlights Google’s focus and intention toward mobile, with one of the more interesting items being the introduction of Google AMP.

 

What is Google AMP?

Short version: Google AMP is a code-limited version of website pages or posts, created with the intent of providing a version of content that uses very little data and can be loaded quickly on mobile devices.

 

The long version: Google AMP is effectively a standard by which content is modified to eliminate any advanced functionality, providing a stripped-down version of pages and posts making them use less data and load much faster. These posts are then cached with Google, and rather than being served from the web hosting, the pages are served directly from Google’s datacenters, thereby making that cached content extremely fast for end users.

 

Why Should I Use Google AMP?

Before understanding the why behind using Google AMP, it’s probably important to understand the why not.

 

Google didn’t create AMP for faster shopping experiences, lead generation or really anything most websites are designed to encourage users to do. Most websites are built with a user goal in mind: ecommerce conversions, lead generation or sharing media content – like videos or images – to name a few. If you hope to implement Google AMP to improve those user experiences, you’re shopping in the wrong aisle.

 

However, if one of a site’s primary functions is to share knowledge in the form of blog posts, news articles or work as an ideation or discussion starting platform, then Google AMP is probably going to be a good fit. Because these forms of content typically offer very little in the terms of advanced functionality, they are the perfect content type to transition into a Google AMP format.

 

How Do I Use Google AMP?

There are a few basic requirements to implement Google AMP, not the least of which is a SSL Certificate. An entire website must be protected by SSL encryption ensuring security of the whole site. This is the only way Google will begin to cache your content on their servers.

 

Once content is secure, AMP must be implemented on content. Here’s steps to take to have the minimum requirements:

 

  • A separate page with the same content as the original post, formatted using Google AMP standards.
  • On the original content, a canonical link verifying that it is the original content and a canonical link that points to the AMP version of the page.
  • On the AMP page, a canonical link pointing to the original is needed with some markup to confirm that this is the amp version.
  • Typically, the URL is an extension of the original URL, appending “/amp/” to the end of the address.

 

The next step is to ensure Google’s tools are being used, and that Google is told about the site and content. This can occur through the use of Google’s Search Console. By verifying the site with Search Console and submitting a sitemap (along with a few other switches and options), Google will know the site is ready to be indexed and what content it’s allowed to crawl.

 

This may sound complicated and that’s because it is. Users managing static websites are going to discover that this is quite possibly the last thing they’ll want to do. This is where using a CMS (content management system), especially a CMS like WordPress, really becomes an advantage.

 

On WordPress, several plugins are available that will automatically create and style AMP content out of pages and posts, even going so far as to allow the webmaster to select which content should be converted to AMP. Additionally, using a plugin like Yoast SEO will help automate all the complicated inter-linking using canonicals.

 

And don’t worry, Google will be kind enough to tell you in Search Console if the AMP pages are up to snuff and will even provide statistics on their usage and how many AMP pages are indexed.

 

Ready to Use Google AMP?

Do you want to use Google AMP but don’t feel ready? Do you have more questions before you dive in? Contact the GRIT team for more information. (Heck, we can even take care of the whole implementation for you.) Contact us today!