Accelerated Mobile Pages: Are they worth it?

Up until now, Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) has been an accessible and widely used open-source HTML framework. Initially designed as a tool to help publishers create a fast-loading mobile web page experience, it enables the majority of pages to load within a couple of seconds. Google chose to incentivise AMP by making it a requirement for publishers who wanted to be listed on the Google top stories “carousel” for mobile devices.

While still in use, this article will highlight the reasons why AMP Pages may no longer be valued as highly by Google algorithms. Ultimately, a new normal is emerging for publishers who will now have to weigh in other page experience factors such as new user experience metrics.

AMP limitations

AMP is short for Accelerated Mobile Pages. The AMP project was launched back in 2016 to dramatically improve the performance of mobile sites on the web, often to the point where their loading time appeared to be instant. But while results were initially very useful in terms of hitting the highest number of page seed from a user experience, the solution has been riddled with limitations from its inception.

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

Ultimately, AMP has always been an add-on solution that is a temporary rather than practical and permanent. It has not, at any point, solved the core issues that affect a websites load time. Combined with this, the lack of useful features and resources available as well as AMP’s limited connectivity with google analytics tracking has always left users feeling left out in the cold.

With these limitations in mind, Google announced in their algorithm update for 2021 that the AMP page will no longer be a requirement for top stories eligibility. As a new alternative, Google will now incorporate the upcoming Page Experience Metrics into the top stories ranking. This is another way for Google to promote the importance of Page Experience to publishers and the wider web ecosystem early on.

What can we expect with the Page Experience Metrics algorithm update?

The Page Experience Metrics will encompass the following elements and each element has its own place in the overall Google ranking algorithm.

Google Page Experience

As we already know, Mobile FriendlySafe BrowsingHTTPS and No Intrusive Interstitials are all part of the existing ranking factor – so nothing has changed on that front.

So let’s take a look at the Core Web Vitals. These can be summarised as the following:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) is a measure for how quickly a page’s ‘main content’ loads (the main images and text, etc.)
  • First Input Delay (FID) is a measure for how quickly a page reacts when a user clicks on and interacts with a page.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) is a measure for how things move around on a page – for example if ads alter the placement of the text a user tries to read.
Amine Dahimene - SEO Consultant: twitter

Google wants to provide a better customer experience for mobile, so implementing these new measures for site speed has always been a priority for mobile-first indexing.

As part of this update, Google will also incorporate the Page Experience Metrics into the ranking criteria for the Top Stories feature in Search on mobile. Google continues to support AMP and will continue to link to AMP pages when available.

Core Web Vitals Metrics

Google Core Web Vitals

The Core Web Vitals Metrics on the large content Paint (LCP) should occur within the first 2.5 seconds, which to date has been difficult to achieve for the majority of businesses due to technical limitations on system infrastructure. Google stated that improving the page experience will take time considering the current climate. The plan is seen as a long-term vision that google will scale up as things improve.

Is AMP dying?

AMP is not dying and it’s not going away anytime soon. AMP launched a new video with regards to the impact of the recent announcement on the ranking signal and what to expect in the future.

Should I continue developing AMP?

Firstly, you will need to consider the maintenance costs that you
are incurring by having to maintain an AMP version and a non-AMP version of your code. But this implies that developers could pick experiences on their site that could benefit from AMP and only invest in AMP for those experiences. Or they could go fully AMP first across all their site if they believe that AMP can meet their needs.

What is the future of AMP?

AMP project is investing in allowing everyone to use AMP components even outside of AMP pages. This is an effort that they are calling Bento AMP, and they are expecting to release it later this year. This allows developers to use AMP UI component library and AMP optimizer server-side rendering, JavaScript modules and to automate web development best practices.

Do I need to shift to non-AMP pages right now?

Ultimately the answer this is a strong YES for me. This approach will allow you to implement the core vital metrics and provide a better page experience. Joining the bandwagon early on, you will also have an advantage when it comes to achieving a better ranking and search visibility moving forward.

But, as always, this depends on a number of factors. I have highlighted these below.

Do I need to shift to non-AMP pages right now?

In Summary

If you don’t have AMP, there’s nothing to worry about. I would strongly recommend that you consider updating your existing pages to improve Page Experience rankings, but if technical restrictions prevent this, AMP may still be a good option for the short term. However, that said you can still use the component library outside AMP pages in the near future.

If you do have AMP, a good approach would be to experiment with non-AMP pages for your top stories before rolling this out across your whole site. This does depend on whether AMP pages are over-performing compared to your normal non AMP pages, though even when they meet all Page Experience Metrics.

Finally, measuring the progress of the new Page Experience against your AMP page will be especially important in moving forward. Ultimately, every good site needs to offer the best user experience to its users and deliver the best metrics and ROI.