AMP indeed does make sites quite a bit faster. We go into detail about why this happens in the article on whether your website should adopt AMP. So, in theory, AMP should offer significant benefits for people who implement it.
Looking beyond speed, why AMP works for news sites is pretty clear: there is a huge incremental traffic opportunity created by the AMP News Carousel (also known as Top Stories on desktop devices). Placement in that carousel is available only to AMP pages, and it represents a huge UI change from the normal SERPs, as shown here:
The results that follow from the news carousel are compelling. Here is what we saw for results across three major news sites:
Thrillist is an online media brand covering food, drink, travel and entertainment. The company was founded in 2004 and is based in New York City. It converted all of its article and venue pages, representing 90 percent of the pages on the site.
Its first pass at AMP took one week to do, but that had only very basic styling. The second pass took three weeks, which included a lot more styling, and implemented more complex things like event tracking and social sharing.
Unlike other early adopters, Thrillist did not have major issues with ads, but this was helped by the fact that its sells its own ads. For historical background, other companies had issues with availability of advertisers because of the AMP requirement for everything to run https, which some ad networks were slow to support. That issue is largely gone now.
Overall, Thrillist has seen a 70 percent lift in traffic, with 50 percent of that growth coming from AMP. Needless to say, it’s very happy with the ROI on its AMP investment. A detailed case study of the Thrillist experience with AMP can be found here.
Another large media publisher (an anonymous participant in the study) also implemented AMP on a custom platform. It ended up converting 95 percent of its articles to AMP. There were some that they could not easily change to AMP because they contained more complex interactive components that weren’t easily converted.
This publisher is highly metrics-driven, and revenue per page is something that it monitors closely. In the early days, the revenue per page was lower, because different ad formats and advertisers were slow to become AMP-ready, but this is no longer that much of an issue.
One of its larger sites saw a 20-40 percent increase in Google organic traffic, and the other one saw a lift of around 67 percent. Overall, the investment in AMP for that publisher has really paid off.
So, is that it? AMP is only for news sites? Or should we all do it because Google tells us to? Do we have to live with stripped-down versions of sites? OK, it’s time to explore four major myths about AMP.
Myth 1. AMP Only Benefits News Sites
The initial versions of AMP placed a heavy emphasis on news sites, and the AMP News Carousel (a.k.a. the Top Stories block on desktop devices) gave them a major traffic incentive to participate. But it turns out that many other types of sites can benefit as well.
One example is the story of NoBroker, a company based in India that matches up renters and potential tenants, without requiring the use of a broker. NoBroker launched its AMP implementation in December 2016. As a result, the pages per session and session time on the site are both up 10 percent, and their bounce rate is down 18 percent.
Perhaps more importantly, the number of connections that it makes between tenants and renters is up 77 percent. This is an awesome result! You can read the full story on the NoBroker experience with AMP here.
AMP can work for far more than just news sites. It's a great thing to do for commercial sites as well.
Myth 2. AMP Can't Be Used on eCommerce Sites
One of the big issues with eCommerce sites is that they typically require a great deal of interactivity. The fact is that this used to be a legitimate complaint.
But the arrival of the AMP Live List Component and the AMP Bind Component changes all that. This has enabled a new world of interactivity and dynamic components that were previously not possible.
Consider the example of Myntra, the largest fashion e-tail site in India. It did its AMP implementation in May of 2017. It took about seven days to convert the main product listing (category) pages of the site, and three to four more days to convert the home page.
The product listing pages account for two-thirds of organic SEO and SEM traffic, and the home page is responsible for another 20 percent. In addition, it built out a progressive web app (PWA) implementation for the rest of the pages of its site.
This plays an important role in Myntra’s site-speed story, because PWAs include a component called a service worker that preloads pages in the background, before a user clicks on a link to request them. As a result, when the user request for a new page comes through, that page is already partially or completely loaded, and this also offers significant performance benefits.
The load time of the product listing pages has dropped by 65 percent, and the bounce rate on those pages is also down 40 percent. The overall mobile revenue contribution is also up.
The AMP-bind component was a big deal, because it enabled robust product sorting and filtering. Myntra is continuing to expand its use of this component. In addition, in September 2017, it launched a PWA plus AMP (a.k.a. PWAMP) implementation, so its PWA pages are now also all AMP compliant.
Overall, the results for Myntra were very strong. You can read more about the Myntra AMP case study here.
AMP can work really well with eCommerce sites. In fact, it can offer strong conversion advantages. Users like speed. Faster eCommerce sites will convert better.
You may be tempted to say, sure, it works well for Myntra, because many users in India are on 2G phones. But remember, people like faster sites.
We spoke to Pete Dainty, Senior Director at eBay, and while we weren’t able to complete a full profile for this study, he did offer this comment:
“eBay has invested heavily in AMP, and remains fully committed to it. (We are) focused on rolling AMP out to more of our site, and we know that speeding up pages helps improve the customer experience leading to better eCommerce conversion.”
Think that UI compromises might still be an issue? Read on to the next myth.
Myth 3. Build it and They Will Come
There are some companies that who want to jump on the bandwagon early, because they want to ride any significant wave that Google sends out.
One of our study participants, Beach House Center for Recovery, had this mindset. Its site is on WordPress, and its did an initial AMP implementation with the AMP Automatic plugin. That did not offer the level of customization it was looking for, so it switched it over to the AMP for WordPress plugin.
The initial metrics resulting from this were not good:
However, it turns out that this was due to two things that were not right with the implementation, and these easily explain why the metrics looked weak:
- The analytics setup did not include the “session stitching” fix, which essentially means that the tracking was simply wrong. You can learn more about what the AMP analytics problem is, and how session stitching fixes it, here.
- The main menu on the AMP page was broken and was showing an illogical set of pages. Hence, users who clicked on the hamburger menu were not likely to click on anything there.
- The pages had no access to the sidebar menu or any CTA at all.
These three issues easily explain the reason for the poor initial metrics. We worked with Beach House to help it resolve all of these issues. You can read the full story on what went wrong with the implementation, and how it was addressed, here.
If you’re going to implement AMP, you MUST follow through to get the full implementation completely correct. In the case of Beach House, the session stitching fix was not even available when it initially built out its AMP pages. This meant that accurate tracking of what was happening on AMP pages was simply not possible. Now that the fix is available from Google, and it has been implemented, we should be able to get better stats on it.
Myth 4. AMP Sites Compromise My Site Design
This is one of the most popular myths. In fact, look again at the 9to5Google graphic shared above. The wording of the first response is fascinating: “Yes, I prefer the stripped-down versions of websites when reading something”. Stripped down, really? Let’s explore why this does not need to be the case.
Here is where there is one element of truth to this myth: if you do use non-AMP elements in an AMP-iframe (this would typically be some sort of interactive element), you must place it below 75 percent of the viewport height, unless you have a placeholder, and then you can put it anywhere on the page.
One reason why this myth is perpetuated is that the WordPress plugins do provide a stripped down version of your pages. Here is an example of an AMP article, generated by the plugin, on the Perficient Digital website, compared to its AMP page:
So yes, it looks stripped down. But is that an artifact of AMP, or an artifact of the plugin? We decided to find out. Working with our web developer, we were able to generate a page that looked a great deal like our mobile responsive page:
You will see some minor differences between the two pages, but all of them could have been resolved with another hour of two of effort. In creating this page, we proved the point: there is no need for a UI difference in your AMP page. In fact, I’d argue that the “Toggle Sidebar” feature we added to the AMP version makes it a superior UI. Better still, the page we generated by hand was fully responsive, so we can even use this page as our desktop page if we want. Last, but not least, here is how the sizes of the three versions of the pages compare:
As you can see, the size of the handcrafted page compares well to the other two versions of the same page.
There is no reason for your AMP page to look different than your mobile responsive page. It’s just a question of the level of effort that you put into it. And here is the punchline: if you have two versions of a page that look identical, and one is much faster than the other, which one will users like better? No, it’s not a trick question. They’ll like the faster one.