What are Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)?

So what’s all this fuss about Accelerated Mobile Pages, otherwise known as AMP? Let’s find out.

When it comes to the Internet, speed is an important factor.

Picture this scenario. You’re out and about, going on your daily business when your mobile buzzes with a notification. You look at your screen, and you notice an email marketing message from a brand you’ve subscribed to.

You open up your email inbox, and you see a pair of shoes that piques your interest. You click on the call to action and you wait for the page to load.

And you wait some more.

And more, and more.

Eventually, you get frustrated and put your phone back into your pocket and carry on with your day.

Sound familiar?

We have all experienced something like this. There’s nothing more frustrating than clicking on a link and having the website take forever to load.

But those wait times don’t even have to be that long before we get impatient. In fact, according to KissMetrics, 47% of people expect a website to load within 2 seconds. Additionally, Google reports that 53% of people will abandon a mobile site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load!

Pie chart indicating how long people will wait for a website to load

We’re not exactly a patient species, are we?

And this lack of patience is something that Google recognises. In 2018, Google’s Webmasters Blog indicated that they started using page speed as a metric for mobile page rankings.

With over 51% of Internet traffic generated by mobile phones, it makes sense for brands to optimise their sites for mobile users. But what can you do if you’re finding your website is loading slowly on mobile?

The solution?

Accelerated Mobile Pages.

In this article

What are Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)?

Back in 2015, Google announced a joint project between news publishers and notable technology companies like Twitter to create faster loading mobile pages.

The idea was to create a universally recognised HTML standard where the code was stripped down and optimised for mobile consumption. The parties involved knew that although mobile consumption was on the way up, it didn’t necessarily mean that people were on the best internet connections. Slow and heavy mobile sites resulted in poor user experiences.

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) logo

With the Accelerated Mobile Pages open source initiative underway, site owners and operators were waiting in anticipation to see whether Google would make it a ranking factor. However, that time never came. In 2017, John Mueller from Google stated while AMP was “not” a ranking factor, he did state that mobile page speed is, and AMP is a platform for websites to optimise for mobile.

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) can make mobile sites faster

Initial tests from Google reported that the AMP plugin reduced mobile page load times by 15% to 85%.

How does the AMP plugin work?

As mentioned, web pages with the Accelerated Mobile Pages plugin applied to them will utilise a more stripped down version of HTML. Not all tags are available, and your CSS code also needs to be more streamlined. JavaScript is also not available.

This makes pages much lighter from a coding perspective and therefore optimised for speed rather than functionality. Overall, AMP pages are typically 6x lighter in code than their desktop counterparts.

Comparison between standard HTML vs amp code

Another beneficial aspect is that all the content can be heavily cached and stored on Content Delivery Networks (CDNs). Therefore, when someone visits an AMP page, they don’t need to source content directly from your hosting environment, instead, it can be sourced from a CDN point that’s closest to them for more efficient delivery.

Will Critchlow from Moz provides a diagram on how the AMP process works.

A diagram of how AMP works

For website operators, you can still have your standard web page, represented on the left as the Regular Page in Will’s diagram. This is what most desktop users will see.

In the source code of your site, you can have a tag that indicates the presence of an Accelerated Mobile Page version of that page. In the diagram, this is represented by the Hosted AMP page.

This Hosted AMP page exists on your hosting service. However, with the proper setup, your page can also be mirrored on a Content Delivery Network such as Google’s Cloud CDN and stored as a Cached AMP page.

Even though this Cached AMP page exists outside of your hosting environment, it will contain a tag that indicates that your Regular Page is the canonical version or the original version, and web traffic and activity will be associated back to your site, along with the added benefits of loading content faster for your customers!

In a nutshell, AMP is not only just a more efficient loading HTML standard. Accelerated Mobile Pages is also a mechanism that allows pages to be hosted on different servers so that customers from around the world can access content from a server that loads quickest for them, rather than having to source it directly from your own (which may not always be the fastest).

How different do AMP sites look?

As you’re aware by now, the Accelerated Mobile Pages coding standard isn’t as comprehensive as standard web HTML. What this means is there are some things that your pages won’t be able to do.

But having AMP doesn’t necessarily mean you’re sacrificing your brand. Here’s an example from The Guardian website.

Example of how The Guardian site looks with and without AMP applied

If we visit one of their article pages on a desktop, by adding a /amp at the end of the URL, we can see the AMP version.

It looks pretty good, right?

The impact of a slow mobile site

If we recall our slow web experience, the likely behaviour demonstrated in such a scenario is that of giving up.

Slow pages contribute to high bounce rates.

From a website metric perspective, a slow mobile page can have a significant impact on engagement. According to a study by Radware, a 1-second delay in a mobile page load can lower your conversion rate by 3.50%, reduce pageviews by 9.40% and increase bounce rates by 8.30%.

Graph demonstrating the affect of slow site load times and conversion rates

If we take a look at how site speed affects shoppers, according to Akamai and Gomez.co 79% of web shoppers who experience trouble with website performance say they will not return to the site to buy again, and approximately 44% of them would tell a friend if they had a poor experience shopping online.

And we all know how powerful word of mouth can be.

Finally, if we look at sales revenue, the numbers start to tell an impactful story. Amazon calculated that a page load slowdown of just a single second could cost the online operator 1.6 billion dollars in lost revenue each year! How crazy is that?!

Want to know how much page speed delays affect your business? Google has created an online calculator that lets you see the potential revenue impact of onsite delays.

Benefits of Accelerated Mobile Pages

We’ve seen that having a slow site can lead to a loss of revenue, website engagement and search rankings.

Google has made it clear that page speed for mobile is an important part of creating a good user experience. That’s where Accelerated Mobile Pages plays a role. AMP can help decrease load times of your mobile pages.

And frankly, customers expect it. 85% of Internet users expect a mobile site to load as fast or faster than on their desktop!

Pie chart of what people expect in terms of site speed on mobile vs desktop

As website operators, that alone should be enough incentive to get AMP implemented for your site.

AMP helps you stand out from the crowd

Apart from improvements in site speed, Google provides increased mobile browser visibility for those that engage in content marketing. Organic listings of AMP pages get highlighted with a thunderbolt icon, helping them stand out from non-AMP listings. Even subtle additions like the icon can contribute to increased click-through rates.

Example of amp icon in Google search

As consumers become more aware of the icon, mobile search users will prioritise visiting AMP enabled pages over those that are not.

AMP helps improve mobile search rankings

Although Google has states AMP itself is not a ranking factor, we now know that mobile page speed is. So even though Google isn’t seeking out AMP enabled pages, we know that the speed improvements from having AMP is going to directly contribute to your mobile search rankings.

Additionally, Google’s position on Accelerated Mobile Pages may change in the future. With Google’s increasing emphasis on creating good mobile experiences, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if their position changed on this matter.

AMP helps to improve site speed

As we’ve discussed, AMP helps streamline code and reduce page sizes. This also reduces the number of requests required to retrieve the page.

Below is an example a performance test conducted on a mobile-optimised version of a page versus the AMP version:

Standard Mobile Version

Performance test conducted on a mobile-optimised page

AMP Version

Performance test conducted on an AMP page

AMP can help improve customer retention

Improved site performance also translates to an increase in click-through-rates and can help promote repeat site visitation.

The Washington Post’s Jarrod Dicker, head of ad products and technology, said AMP improves click-through rates by up to 50 per cent. He also said,

The Post publishes over 1,000 articles in AMP every day, and they’re already seeing concrete benefits…We have seen load times average 400 milliseconds, an 88% improvement over our traditional mobile website. This has made readers more likely to tap on Washington Post stories because they know our articles will load consistently fast.

AMP has been great for retention as well. Traditionally 51% of mobile search users return to The Washington Post within seven days. For users who read stories published in AMP, this number jumps to 63%.

AMP code is constantly evolving

With more and more websites adopting Accelerated Mobile Pages, we’ve seen that the AMP Project Contributors have added support for more functionality.

In fact, developers over at AMP Project on GitHub state that they, “push a new release of AMP to all AMP pages every week.”

Frequent updates bode well for current and future adopters. Although there isn’t as much coding flexibility as standard HTML, AMP’s evolution has seen recent releases enabling favourite eCommerce publishing features such as:

  • Image Carousels
  • Video Embedding
  • Accordion Style Layouts
  • Ability to switch from AMP to standard mobile version

Eventually, the lines will blur between traditional mobile pages and AMP versions. However, for those that jump on the bandwagon, your site will benefit from the improved site speed, engagement and search rankings.

Conclusion

There is certainly a lot of upside to implementing Accelerated Mobile Pages for your website. With the emphasis that Google places on creating a positive mobile experience, it seems like a no-brainer to adopt AMP for your site.

Faster sites mean lower bounce rates, high page views and a greater likelihood of conversion.

If you already have AMP applied, let us know how you’re finding it. Are you experiencing better results now that your mobile pages are AMP optimised? Feel free to comment below to tell us about your experiences.

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