Is Google AMP a Ranking Factor?

According to a Study, nearly 60% of searches on the internet now happens from mobile devices. In 2015, Google officially stated that their mobile traffic has surpassed desktop traffic. Since the rollout of Mobile Algorithm Update – Mobilegeddon in April 2015, the way websites load in phones have completely changed. The Mobilegeddon update boosted the rankings of Web sites that were mobile responsive at that time.

Google doesn’t just want the websites to be mobile friendly but they also want the websites to load fast in Mobile phones because everyone has difficulty to load websites in phone compared to desktops. To promote fast loading websites across all the platforms, Google has created an official website to know your Pagespeed score. On Feb. 24, 2016, Google integrated with an open standard project called Accelerated Mobile Page(AMP) project which helps to load your pages quickly on mobile devices.

AMP logo

What is AMP?

AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages. It is a Google-backed project designed as an open standard for any publisher to have pages load quickly on mobile devices. It uses an HTML, JS, and cache libraries that accelerates the load time of a web page. Even if you have a 3000 words article with all the images and videos, the page will load under 3 second completely. For more information on how to implement AMP for your website visit the official website: https://www.ampproject.org/

The AMP project enables the creation of websites and ads that are consistently fast, beautiful and high-performing across devices and distribution platforms.

AMP results in SERP
The AMP results are shown n the form of a lightning icon in SERP

Benefits of AMP

If a web page takes more than 3 seconds to load then there are higher chances of user bouncing off. To keep up with the pace we can’t afford to let our websites forever to load. Amazon calculated that a page load slowdown of just one second could cost them $1.6 billion in sales each year. Google has calculated that by slowing its search results by just four-tenths of a second they could lose 8 million searches per day–meaning they’d serve up many millions of fewer online adverts.

This implies the importance of page load time. AMP is a great way to increase your page speed time and load your web pages in 3 seconds.

AMP improves the overall mobile experience thus increasing the chances of conversions.

It decreases bounce rate in a very effective way. When a website implements AMP, the website data is saved in Google’s cache and hence when you visit the website the URL looks like this:

www.google.co.in/amp/website-url/

Google’s Official Statement

John Mueller, a Google Webmaster Trends Analysts, stated in a that AMP is still not a ranking signal.

Google's statement on AMP
Google’s John Mueller ‘s answer when asked about AMP as a ranking factor

Is AMP worth the Time?

Is AMP worth the time?

We ran an experiment for our agency website, which was ranking on the 2nd page(11th position) for a very competitive keyword with a monthly search volume of 1000. We decided to create an AMP page for our website and track if Google gives any boost to the website in the rankings. No other website ranking ahead of us were having an AMP page.
While we ran this experiment, there were no changes made in the content, we kept the meta tags same, the markup was same on both the versions and not a single backlink was build during that period. In short, we mean to say that everything was same in both the versions of the website(AMP & non-AMP).

The Result:
Sadly, there was no ranking improvement even after a month of AMP implementation. Google crawled the page and it was even showing the AMP icon but it didn’t help our website to get on the 1st page in mobile rankings.

AMP rankings
Google crawled the AMP version of our website.

The average time spent on the website on the AMP page was less. Also, the bounce rate of both the versions is also same.

AMP analytics screen shot

We kept the AMP page for 25 days and after seeing no improvements in rankings we switched back to the non-AMP version for mobile.

During that time period our GSC data showed some exciting results:

Google Search Console of non-AMP pages
This screenshot from GSC shows how non-AMP pages have performed on mobile devices. It got 1622 impressions and 57 clicks, with an average of CTR of 3.51%.
Google Search Console screen shot of AMP pages
The AMP page had fewer impressions compared to the non-AMP page and the clicks and CTR were also less.

The AMP implementation took a good amount of time and there are few restrictions in the AMP code compared to normal HTML codes we use:

  • We had to inline all the CSS in our websites HEAD tag because there are no external style sheets allowed.
  • We removed all the other javascript from our code whether inline or external.
  • Normal HTML Image tags were replaced with <amp-img> and similarly with the other media.
  • We are unable to use forms in AMP because of the restrictions
  • We marked up our data using the same schema codes in the HEAD section.

You can validate your AMP code on this website or through this chrome plugin

We’ll compare the design of both the AMP & non-AMP versions of our website to show the changes we were forced to make in the design because of these restrictions.

Original Version:

original website - our association

In comparison to our original version, we had to realign these images in a 3X2  instead of a 2X3 grid. Aso, it didn’t accept text below the images.

Reason: In the Original website we are using bootstrap to align the images but in the AMP version it doesn’t allow to use “bootstrap columns”. We were also unable to set the text below the image because of the aligning issues.

AMP Version:

AMP Version - our association

 

Original Website:

Our philosophies - Original

In the original website, we have given numbers to all our philosophies which resembles our strengths. But that is not possible in AMP, so we decided to go with an auto carousel.

Reason: In the HTML version we can use JavaScript for obtaining the above effect but in AMP we can’t use JavaScript which is outside the AMP libraries. To optimise the website for the best page speed AMP doesn’t allow the use of JS.

AMP Version:

Our Philosophies - AMP version

Original Website:

original - our services

In our original version of the website, we researched icons and created them using bootstrap, which is easy to use and responsive. Also, we displayed all our services tab using accordion in bootstrap.

The Reason: We can use accordion in AMP but there are some restrictions like you can only use a single image/text. We tried using this tool to match our original version but the images were not aligning properly.

In the normal HTML bootstrap, we can use class=”img-responsive” and it adjusts according to the screen size. But in AMP we have to define height & width even after specifying layout=”responsive”

AMP Version:

AMP version our services

The point here is even after coding our website according to AMP guidelines and compromising our website design and layout, is it still worth to shift to AMP knowing the fact that it doesn’t give a boost in rankings?

AMP is surely a very fast way to load your website as it preloads the content even before the website is being opened but it is not for all the types of websites.

Summary

Is AMP the real answer to our mobile page speed issues? I don’t think so because adopting a whole different code and compromising our main version design in AMP knowing the fact that it is not a ranking factor is not advisable. If you will optimise the website according to the Google’s page speed insight recommendations or using Pingdom tool, then it is surely going to help your page load fast.

It’s not that AMP is totally bad, it is adopted by over 900,000 domains as of 2017 including big brands like eBay, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal etc.

Should we implement AMP?

Yes, if you are a:

  • Publisher
  • Blogger
  • E-commerce website
  • Retailer

You should not if you:

  • Have a B2B website
  • Use a lot of JS, CSS
  • Have a heavy E-commerce website
  • Have online tickets booking

Currently, AMP is good to implement for blogs and other article websites where you are getting more than 70% mobile traffic. If you have a business website where you have to show images and videos then don’t compromise your website design instead optimise it for page speed.

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