How To Get Your Website Up To Speed With AMP

Google aims to speed up mobile Internet access. How AMP websites speed up the loading of web pages to reflect increased mobile use of the Internet. The factors to be aware of when creating AMP pages.

Google’s AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is, as its name suggests, designed to improve web searches conducted on mobile devices by making pages load faster. With more and more people using their mobiles to access the Internet, Google wants to make sure the ‘mobile web experience’ is a good one.

Before the unveiling of AMP in October 2015, Google released a significant algorithm update focussing on a given website’s ‘mobile friendliness’ in terms of loading and rendering; this plays a large part in determining how high it ranks in search results. AMP takes this a step further for the search giant, and competes with other mobile web options such as Apple News and Facebook’s Instant Articles.

What is AMP?

AMP isn’t simply an app or business partnership in the way that Instant Articles or Apple News are; it’s a whole new way of creating web pages and effectively changes the mobile web. In effect, it is said to be changing the way the web is constructed by marginalising some technologies and advancing others.

Some web technologies that slow page loading down, such as JavaScript, are tightly controlled with AMP pages – a ‘library’ of JavaScript available from Google is the only type that can be used to create AMP pages, for example.

The general aim is to remove the ‘slow’ parts of the overall HTML. The result (at least so far) is plainer looking web pages, and some critics say it’s like looking at web pages from over twelve years ago.

This has an implication for advertising as most ads are created from third party web tools.

Open source

AMP is open source so publishers don’t have to use it, but due to Google’s dominance in Internet search it’s likely that AMP pages will rank well (at least for mobile friendliness). Consequently, web designers creating sites where organic search is important could well find themselves compelled to create AMP versions of web pages.

Creating your AMP pages

In effect, you or your web designer will be designing two versions of many of the web pages on your sites – some of the pages will be AMP with non-AMP pages running ‘side by side’. Because of the JavaScript restrictions and other constraints, forms, on-page comments and other features commonly used on web pages will be tightly controlled.

Site templates to accommodate AMP restrictions will likely need rewriting, and multimedia will have to conform to certain criteria of height and widths amongst others using AMP specific tools. For example, when embedding a YouTube video, a specific AMP YouTube component has to be used.

You’ll also need to modify the original non-AMP version of your pages to allow Google and other technologies supporting AMP to detect the Amp version of the page.

Google have said that it won’t automatically rank AMP pages higher than non-AMP ones, but has made no secret of its policy of rewarding faster loading pages with potentially higher rankings.

Caching

Another way AMP loads pages faster is by Google caching them – they ‘serve’ the page to the searcher from their servers rather than the website host’s. This is optional; a website’s AMP pages don’t have to be cached by Google.

The effect on advertising

How will ads be affected? Since virtually all ads are created using third party web tools, then not only the ads but much of the analytics has to be put to one side with AMP pages. While no ad network provided JavaScript can be run within an AMP page, a separate frame is loaded containing the ads and the creator’s JavaScript.

So far, only five advertising networks – four of which are owned by Google, AOL and Amazon – are supported, although any network can join. Presumably, so long as certain guidelines are met.

Overall

While faster page loading for an increasing part of web search – mobile – is a good thing, it’s argued that a technology company such as Google is taking yet more power from web publishers. The idea that it may be a case of having to follow a certain way is considered by some to be a throwback to the time when Microsoft dominated the browser market with Explorer.

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