Accelerated Mobile Pages, commonly abbreviated to AMP in the spirit of keeping things speedy, is the back-to-basics coding and caching standard that Google introduced a few years ago in its efforts to make the mobile web a faster place. By limiting HTML to AMP-friendly tags, CSS to 50kb or less (and only in the head of the page – no external links or inline styles allowed), and caching the pages on Google’s servers, AMP offers a significant speed boost to many of the sites that adopt it.
At the 2018 AMP conference, Google made several announcements that should push the platform even further, with some developments that look like Google may be trying to make AMP the new mobile standard.
Originally, AMP was seen as a competitor to Facebook’s Instant Articles. Now Google is presenting AMP as a viable alternative to the entire mobile website, and possibly even apps. Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), another Google framework, offer websites the ability to bring app-like functionality to mobile sites. Think of being able to add a site to your phone’s home screen, just as you’d be able to with an app, but without actually having to install the app. Push notifications and some offline content, which are standard functionality for most mobile apps, are also possible through PWAs. Why would you want both? While you should aim to keep all experiences as light as possible, those AMP restrictions on JS and CSS aren’t there with PWAs.
The New Desktop Standard?
But in example after example, it became clear that AMP has ambitions even beyond mobile. Not only is AMP at the core of the mobile BMW.com experience, it also powers the desktop site.
The AMP Project practices what they preach, and only uses AMP html for their responsive site serving desktop and mobile users.
With news of AMP coming to email, powering desktop experiences, and making more visual formats for publishers, it’s clear that mobile is only the first step in Google’s plan.
Not content with going toe-to-toe with Facebook on Instant Articles, AMP is being used to bring an open web approach to stories. First popularized by Snapchat, later adopted by Instagram, then by Messenger, image and video cards with no more than a caption’s worth of text are quickly becoming a preferred communication format for social. So how does Google get in on the format? AMP Stories.
Described as a “visual, tap through” story experience, what it lacks in doodles it makes up for in distribution. While still an experimental part of AMP, this opens the door to publishers being able to put their stories in front of a broader audience than only the people who already follow them.
Additional AMP Stories features include built-in social sharing and a related stories widget at the end of the story to keep readers engaged.
Data & Analytics
There are many challenges to bringing an existing experience to AMP, especially when it comes to leads, purchases and conversions. While amazing stats like lower bounce rates and higher conversion rates are commonly-touted benefits, how do you measure them when a session can start on an AMP page and end on a glued together, but completely different platform?
In short, hopefully you’re using Google Analytics. While it may be possible to create a single view in Adobe Analytics, or with Facebook, perhaps to no one’s surprise there’s not much documentation about bringing sessions across AMP and non-AMP pages together.
If you or a client is already using Google Analytics, AMP Client ID and some clever coding can keep metrics together for sites that aren’t quite ready to go AMP-first or AMP-only.
But How Long Will It Be Before Someone Declares AMP is Dead?
A lot of shiny new features, and a few good AMPsterdam puns, came out of the 2018 AMP conference. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Google throw lots of support behind an initiative that ultimately didn’t survive.
Remember Google+? While it still exists and has pockets (or circles) of activity, it was enthusiastically pushed by Google, going beyond the tech early adopters to being woven into YouTube and as many Google properties as the search giant could. Ultimately, none of that ever pushed Google+ into the mainstream and it was left to languish.
Authorship, a feature connected to Google+ that was supposed to help publishers make their appearances in search results appear more personal and authoritative, suffered a similar fate.
Like Google+, AMP definitely seems to have strong internal support from Google, but support from publishers beyond magazines and blogs is likely to make the difference. Last year, it was the addition of Chinese search engines Baidu and Sogou as AMP partners that expanded the possibilities beyond Google properties in a major way. While Bing hasn’t announced official support, AMP-only sites like the AMP project website don’t appear to have any issue showing up for relevant searches in the #2 U.S. search engine. LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter – i.e. most of the major social networks not owned by Facebook – have also added support for AMP pages in various ways.
This year Instapage, a landing page platform, announced that their mobile landing pages would now default to AMP. While anything can happen and Google has been known to kill beloved products before (Google Reader, never forget), the effort being put into evolving AMP and creating a new standard for what makes a mobile page good for users, publishers and business means that AMP as a platform likely has a lot of life ahead of it.