Google has heavily backed the project from the beginning, most likely as a response to Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News, both of which were creating faster content experiences for users within their mobile apps. Unlike the Facebook and Apple initiatives, however, AMP is not a closed ecosystem. It is truly open source, with participants that include Bing, Baidu, Sogou, Twitter, Pinterest, and many others, making this much more than an internal Google program.
Market share for smartphone apps
That said, what is Google’s motive? Keeping Google prominent on the mobile web is of strategic importance to them. While Google is a huge player in the world of native smartphone apps, Facebook has the lead there, and that may not be what Google wants, as shown in this chart of app market share. Google is definitely the number one player on the web. A fast, mobile, web will increase the amount of time that people spend there, and that will be good for both users and Google alike.
In the early days of AMP, the focus was on producing something for the mobile web that offered benefits like what was found in Facebook Instant Articles and in Apple News. As a result, AMP was structured initially around providing significant speed benefits to news media sites. This approach led to some major limitations in the architecture, as well as some persistent perceptions regarding what AMP is about, and who should be using it.
What was the initial structure of the AMP program?
- AMP pages were originally designed to create and design faster mobile web pages. The idea of using AMP for desktop pages was ignored.
- The AMP program targeted news media sites, and offered them premium placement in the Top Stories carousel in mobile searches as an incentive to participate.
- AMP wasn’t even designed to be the standard version of your web pages. In fact, the AMP pages were originally intended to be a second version of your mobile web pages. This, of course, created extra web development support burdens.
- This alternate version of your web pages can load from the Google cache (or corresponding ones from Bing, Baidu, Twitter, Pinterest, and others).
- Google has even said that it doesn’t index the AMP pages. It has since clarified that the content on the AMP version of a page should basically be identical to the regular version of your page (you can see their statement on that here).
- Due to limitations in the capabilities of AMP, initial pages launched looked very different than their mobile-responsive equivalent, giving them a “stripped down” look.
As noted, what makes AMP especially intriguing for media companies is that AMP pages are eligible for inclusion in some very exclusive real estate in the Google Search results, Google’s AMP news carousel that prominently features AMP web pages. Note that the AMP News Carousel is the same as the Top Stories block you see on news related desktop searches, but in the mobile AMP environment, AMP is a requirement for being eligible for being shown there.
Getting into the News Carousel can bring huge boosts in traffic. In fact, here at Perficient Digital, we did a study with many different types of websites, and among the media sites we spoke to that implemented AMP there were huge boosts in traffic – in some cases it was as high as 70 percent!
However, this also led to many other types of sites, ones that were not news media, writing off AMP as not being for them. Google has clarified that there are no rankings benefits to AMP (other than the Top Stories carousel for news-related queries). So, if you’re not a news media site, there is no rankings upside for you. The resulting misconceptions about AMP were:
- AMP is only useful as an alternate version of your mobile web pages
- AMP is only for media sites
But, these beliefs were not the only problem.