Google AMP: The Need for Speed
Cookbook author Paul Sidoriak * recently asked me about Google AMP, after receiving the following tip: “Google is obviously giving preference to pages created with its new technology, known as AMP, by placing them at the top of mobile search results in the Top Stories area. So, if you’d like to win Google’s favor and see your pages in Google’s Top Stories, you should definitely consider creating Accelerated Mobile Pages.”
One thing for sure, major services like Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Google, etc. are pumping out technologies that help their brand, and help our websites work with their brands. Some of those technologies have become staples, such as Google’s Gmail and Facebook’s React, and others have diminished in use and some fallen by the wayside.
When I started teaching web development classes in Missoula, it was unlikely if you could get a job unless you were well versed in Dreamweaver. Now we look at Dreamweaver users as belonging to another era. Another example is that at a recent Missoula tech meeting topic was whether Facebook’s React Native framework is failing; some companies are dropping it, others aren’t. With that environment in mind, I tend to do a little research, instead of joining marketing parades. The question is, “Is AMP worth the effort of adding it to an existing site or using it to build a new site?”
AMP In 2022
This article was started in response to an inquiry by a client in 2019. It’s a common type of question because clients are exposed to hype here and hype there, here a hype, there a hype, every where a hype – hype … Like the situation with React Native, it seems that while folks are reconsidering AMP, there are still enough benefits for it to be in use. There are some drawbacks to using AMP, though. This article does a good job of providing an overview: https://setupad.com/blog/what-is-google-amp/
As part of my research for the current status of AMP, I posted on a Facebook page called Digital Alchemy to get some feedback from other geeks. One person commented, “It takes hits from the sites and draws them to Google.” Based on the article linked in the previous paragraph, this is something that AMP has always done, but it’s worth revisiting. (See What Do I Lose with AMP below.)
Following up on the post in Digital Alchemy, I learned that there are quite a few side effects with AMP that have to do with the fact that the addressing is changed.
See other articles about the problems with AMP and AMP removal at the end of this article.
What is AMP?
AMP is a set of files that work together to do a specific job. That is pretty much like defining a chisel as a tool; it doesn’t explain what it’s for. AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages.
Why do we have AMP? AMP started as a Google/Twitter project, in the software development race with Facebook. As often happens with competing technologies, they want their technology to become the “standard”. Remember the fight between Beta and VHS for the video standards?
AMP is a type of software called a framework. According to Wikipedia, “AMP is an open source HTML framework developed by the AMP Open Source Project. It was originally created by Google as a competitor to Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News. AMP is optimized for mobile web browsing and intended to help webpages load faster.” So, AMP came about because of the need for speed in websites, especially mobile sites which may be anywhere, even places where there isn’t much connection.
Let’s take a look at what the words in the quote mean.
- Open source means that the code is available to everyone. The opposite is if the code were “proprietary” where only the folks inside the company can see the code.
- HTML means that the code goes to the most basic building blocks of a web page. A web page is made of code that can be interpreted by a browser, such as Firefox, Chrome, Safari, etc.
- There is a website for the AMP Open Source Project. It’s like a box of Legos. All the Legos fit together. You pick the ones that you want. This page shows all the little pieces, called Components, that you can choose to use for your website.
While it started as a framework only relevant to the mobile version of your website, it has taken the route of many other software packages in growing to be a starting place for full websites, as well. WordPress is software that took a similar path. It started as software for blogging. Now, it’s mostly used for all types of websites, not just blogs.
What Do I Lose with AMP?
AMP components are made with a subset of HTML tags. That means that they have removed some options and functionality in favor of a website that loads quickly. There is not universal agreement whether you should replace your whole site with AMP or use AMP just for mobile.
“Despite several failed attempts at AMP stitching in Google Analytics, we never could tell how our audience moves from our AMP pages to our native ones. Users were undoubtedly being double-counted as unique in both the AMP and our native website dashboards.”
* 2022 Update: Paul’s new site was built by a marketing company.