Google AMP: Do The Speed Claims (And Others) Live Up To The Hype? - Mad Lemmings

Google AMP: Do The Speed Claims (And Others) Live Up To The Hype?

 

The load speed of your website greatly impacts almost everything: the click-through rate, engagement rate, and conversion rate.

And that means a slow website is costing you customers, subscribers, readers and quite simply: money!

51% of U.S online shoppers said that they wouldn’t complete a purchase if the website is too slow. So, you know this is serious.

But how slow is too slow?

Well, as it turns out, every second matters. Even a 2.8-second increase in load time saw a 2.4% drop in conversion rate.

conversion rates on mobile

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Unfortunately, saving seconds on website load speeds is easier said than done.

Load speed talks a big game, but how can you easily increase the load speed of your website?

There are a ton of things you can do, especially if you are using WordPress. (Ashley even wrote a mega-post on it a while back).

But, there is another simpler way. Why not use a ready-made solution: Google AMP.

Never heard of AMP, don’t sweat it. We are going to break it all down for you.

To start: here’s a look at where AMP excels, where it falls short, and where you should use it (or not).

What is Google AMP?

Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is an open-source project that aims to speed up websites. The intention behind creating AMP is threefold. The project aims to make:

  1. Your content loads faster.
  2. Your pages rank higher.
  3. Your website looks cleaner.

And many people assume it aims to do that primarily on mobile devices. However, according to the Google AMP homepage, that’s not necessarily the only objective:

“The AMP Project is an open-source initiative aiming to make the web better for all. The project enables the creation of websites and ads that are consistently fast, beautiful and high-performing across devices and distribution platforms.”

Evidently, the AMP project isn’t meant to benefit only mobile device web browsing. It should improve web browsing on all devices, making the internet — and, more importantly, your blog — faster, more beautiful, and easier to find regardless of whether a user is using a tablet, laptop, or mobile device.

Consider this side-by-side comparison to give you an idea of what this looks like. On the left is the AMP-less page, and the page on the right uses AMP:

amp vs standard webpage

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You’ll notice a few key differences.

First, the mobile sizing is better with the AMP version. The logo in the upper right isn’t slightly cut off, and the “all” menu isn’t covering a word that says “America…” something.

Second, the AMP version has far more share buttons rather than using a “…” icon.

And lastly, the AMP navigation bar at the top is easier for users to navigate.

Those are, of course, just a few of the differences that the AMP project is making to websites. In Google’s words once again:

“We want web pages with rich content like video, animations and graphics to work alongside smart ads, and to load instantaneously. We also want the same code to work across multiple platforms and devices so that content can appear everywhere in an instant — no matter what type of phone, tablet or mobile device you’re using.”

So far, it seems that the AMP project isn’t just making these changes for the sake of change. For example, Relay Media, a company that helps website owners convert their pages to AMP versions, has converted 2.5 million pages in 30 days. And the Miami Herald claims that mobile users who visit an AMP article spend 10% more time on the page than users who don’t.

In other words, the Google AMP project can provide a huge performance lift seemingly overnight. But should you, personally, use it?

Let’s review the pros and cons of using it to find out.

Pro #1: Faster Load Speed

AMP web pages load faster than normal web pages.

This is partly because AMP HTML pre-renders content, partly because it minimizes style recalculations, and partly because it avoids using third-party Javascript in the critical path.

In technical jargon, AMP wants to speed up the “time to first byte” (or the time it takes a user’s browser to receive the first bits of data from a site’s servers).

But more important than how AMP increases your website’s load time is why that’s so important.

After all, why does it matter whether your website loads in a few seconds or a microsecond? Is that really going to impact clicks and conversions significantly?

According to Hubspot, the ideal load time for a web page is right around 1.5 seconds.

And that estimation isn’t just fluff. It’s backed by some seriously powerful data. In particular, by the fact that your page abandonment rate quickly increases as your load time increases.

page load speed vs abandonment

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For those of you trying to generate leads and conversions with your blog, the numbers become even more detrimental.

One extra second of load time can add up to a 7% decrease in conversions. Another estimate says that slow sites cost the e-commerce industry over $500 billion a year in the US.

You probably don’t need any extra convincing. After all, you’ve left plenty of websites that took too long to load.

Websites that use AMP, on the other hand, see four times faster load times than before switching.

The point?

Fast load times — around 1.5 seconds — engage your audience better. Slow load times directly hurt your audience’s attention. They also increase the likelihood of bounces, abandonment, and lost revenue.

Pro #2: Better Mobile Rankings

AMP pages help your mobile rankings… indirectly.

Technically speaking, using an AMP does not directly affect your website’s mobile rankings. Google’s representative, Gary Illyes, exclusively stated that AMP is not currently a ranking factor in Google’s algorithm.

But Gary, that’s not telling the whole story.

Here’s what AMP pages do help. They help your website load speed, which helps your website bounce rate, which helps your Google rankings.

In simpler terms, a fast load time causes people to spend more time on your pages — the opposite of a bounce rate — which then increases where you land on Google’s SERP.

While the correlation between AMP pages and rankings isn’t direct, the correlation between bounce rate and rankings is. In fact, with a higher bounce rate comes a lower ranking.

bounce rate vs google ranking

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And if that’s not enough to convince you that AMP pages can help you increase your rankings and generate passive traffic to your blog, consider that the Washington Post saw a 23% increase in mobile search users who return within seven days.

Or that Slate saw a 44% increase in monthly unique visitors.

Or that Gizmodo saw a 50% increase in its impressions.

And when did these companies see these results? It was only after they integrated AMP.

There is also a mobile-first index coming soon on the horizon.

So can AMP help your rankings? Yes.

But that’s a direct result of the fact that it helps your load time, gives your pages a cleaner look, and performs better for mobile users. Which then decreases your bounce rate, increases your click-through rates, and organically lifts performance.

Pro #3: Cleaner Look

AMP can also give your website a cleaner look across devices.

Even if your website is already mobile responsive, it might not be clean. There’s a big difference between a mobile responsive website and a mobile website that is easy to read and easy to navigate.

Consider the difference between the image on the left and the image on the right, for instance.

(Image Source)

It doesn’t take a web design genius to see which one is better. The AMP page is far easier to read, uncluttered with sidebar ads, and truly fits the device rather than just pretending to fit the device.

And when users can easily browse, navigate, and read your content, they are more likely to click, share, or convert.

One publisher, for example, saw a 600% increase in their click-through rate after implementing AMPs. And the average in the same test for all participants was a 220% click-through rate increase.

Don’t confuse site ‘cleanliness’ with just design, though. Check out the second and third most common reasons that people abandon checkout carts:

abandonment reasons

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Both issues come back to experience. Having to create an account or navigate a complex checkout process on a clunky mobile site is a perfect recipe for abandonment.

AMP pages are mostly content-driven. But the same principle holds true. The easier something is to browse and use, the more people who will ultimately enjoy it.

AMP can drastically increase site performance. But there are a few major drawbacks as well.

Starting with the implementation.

Con #1: The Switch isn’t as Easy as it Looks

Sadly, the story of AMPs isn’t just filled with butterflies and unrelenting happiness.

As everything that goes up must come down, so too does AMP have its disadvantages. It will be up to you decide whether the good outweighs the bad or the bad outweighs the good.

Which brings us to our first problem: switching from normal ol’ pages to AMP pages isn’t always as easy as people make it sound.

One person from Search Engine Watch, for example, can’t seem to escape these index errors on 258 pages after integrating AMP on his website.

search console amp

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And because of that and similar problems, only 23% of SEOs currently use AMP.

Many experts agree that AMP is actually making it harder, not easier, to publish on the web.

The good news for WordPress users is that a few reputable plugins have replaced a lot of the heavy lifting. Instead of having to swim through loads of JavaScript and CSS to integrate AMP, plugins like AMP and AMP For WordPress make the process as user-friendly as possible.

But keep in mind that, generally speaking, more plugins means a slower site. So be careful how you’re adding these AMP ones to your existing list (or see if you can reduce others to make room for one of these).

That difficulty shouldn’t necessarily dissuade you from using AMPs, but you at least need to be aware of it.

Con #2: Customizations Become a Bit More Difficult

Maybe you’re the kind of person who enjoys the simplicity of WordPress, but you also enjoy making some of your own customizations to the HTML and JavaScript every now and again.

If that’s you, then you might want to reconsider using AMP.

Once you start using it, the level of restrictions could quickly overwhelm your creative attitude. A limited use of code, advertisement placement, and overlay usage are just a few of the restrictions that AMP HTML will place on your website.

Here’s how Damon Burton at SEO National puts it:

“The downside of Accelerated Mobile Pages includes additional coding efforts and less than appealing layouts. AMP is a stripped down web language.

Since it is its own language that means integrating it requires additional knowledge beyond regular HTML and CSS. And once you decide to use AMP, your design options are extremely limited. That’s why AMP works so fast because there’s so little to load.

Do you sacrifice design and conversions for page speed and rankings? It’s a case-by-case basis. For journalists and news organizations, probably yes. For business verticals that require visual stimulation to convert leads and buyers, maybe not.”

In other words, if you sell your soul to the AMP gods, then your customizations are severely limited.

But maybe you’re not very worried about making customizations. Maybe you’re more concerned with click-through rate and conversion rate and rankings.

In that case, this con isn’t much of a con.

Con #3: AMP Pages Aren’t on Your Site

Technically speaking, these pages sit on other people’s servers. That means they’re not technically on your site.

Which leads to a trickle-down effect. It can distort your Google Analytics data. And publishers are seeing mixed reviews.

Indirect revenue businesses, like media sites that drive revenue through advertising, might run into financial problems with AMP because many are struggling to properly monetize it.

So if you’re banking on ad revenue, you might want to test a slower, more methodical implementation of AMP.

But if you’re selling products or services with a solid strategy to convert users from content-based pages over to lead-gen offers (back on your site), you’ll most likely be unaffected.

Whatever your situation may be, you now know the pros and cons of using Google’s AMP. So let’s ask the final question.

Should Your WordPress Blog Use AMP?

Ultimately, only you can answer that question.

But here’s a bit of help.

If you’re interested in fast load times for your websites, better audience engagement, and higher conversion rates, and you don’t know how to accomplish all of that on your own, AMP is probably the perfect solution.

If, on the other hand, you’re equally interested in those benefits but know how to increase your website’s load speed, design, and rankings without AMP, and if you have the desire to make heavy design modifications or rely solely on ad revenue, you’re probably better off without AMP.

Yulia Khansvyarova from SEMRush has this to say on the matter.

“This format benefits users and Google as it is supposed to improve engagement and user experience through mobile search. If you are a content provider, you should definitely embrace it. But it’s not useful for sites with complete functionality.”

There are currently 600 million published AMP pages with four times faster load speeds and using ten times less bandwidth.

But that doesn’t mean you have to join them.

In the end, you have to answer one question and one question only: Are the benefits too enticing, or are the limits too debilitating?

About the Author Brad Smith

Brad helps startups create actionable long-form content for a fraction of the price of a content writer. Give him a pug and a pencil and he's off to the races!

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