Google’s Rolling Out AMP to the Main SERPs – Are You Prepared?

Posted by jenstar

Are you ready for AMP? Ready or not, it’s coming to the Google search results, and it’s arriving in a big way. Google has announced that they’ll be showing Accelerated Mobile Pages in their search results for the “ten blue links.” This means that sites that aren’t news-specific now have the opportunity to show AMP pages in Google’s search results.

AMP is a very lightweight version of a webpage that has been stripped down of the many elements that cause a regular webpage to display slowly, such as tons of cookies, multiple third-party Javascript, and slow loading ad networks. This results in a page that loads lightning-fast, which is great for those who are on slower connections or simply don’t want to wait for a regular heavier page to load.

AMP has had a fairly positive reception both from site owners and from users. It’s much faster and more streamlined for searchers, especially on mobile devices that tend to be a little bit slower connection-wise.

Not a ranking boost

It is important to note that AMP in the mobile search results do not get any additional ranking boost. Google currently has the mobile-friendly ranking boost, and because AMP pages are mobile-friendly, they receive the same ranking boost.

However, there isn’t an additional incentivized reason to use AMP strictly for ranking purposes. Don’t switch everything to AMP simply because you think you’ll get an additional ranking boost to help you beat out competitors.

There are indirect ranking benefits, though. For example, if searchers seek out AMP results, some sites could see higher clickthrough rates on their AMP pages. And as consumer awareness grows about AMP, that will likely rise.

Replacing mobile results

Google isn’t showing additional search results based on AMP specifically. Sites with AMP won’t show two versions of the same page in the search results, one mobile and one AMP. Rather, if any of the pages in the SERPs have an AMP version, Google will show that instead of the mobile or desktop page that would normally appear.

Just as a mobile-friendly page has a tag at the front of the description snippet showing that it’s mobile-friendly, AMP has the same thing. For AMP, those results are tagged with AMP and an encircled lightning bolt before the description.

Will you be penalized for not displaying AMP?

No, Google is not planning to penalize a site simply because it isn’t AMP. Your site will still have the same positioning in mobile search results as the mobile version of the page.

Google will simply replace the mobile-friendly page — or the desktop page, if a mobile-specific page isn’t available — and show the AMP version of the page.

For sites that don’t have an AMP version of their page in the SERPs, Google will opt to show the mobile-friendly page first, or the desktop page if there’s no mobile-friendly version. But sites that are AMP-less will not be demoted in any way.

Do other ranking factors apply to AMP?

There’s no reason to believe that some of the regular ranking factors wouldn’t apply to AMP pages, especially for those websites that are currently AMP-only. However, because of the nature of AMP, they likely wouldn’t be a concern.

This will include things like page speed. Because AMP pages are significantly faster than mobile pages, there’s no reason for a site owner to worry that they could be negatively impacted in rankings because of slow page speed.

Likewise, with the above-the-fold algorithm that targets sites with significant ads above the content, this again isn’t cause for concern as most AMP pages are “ad-light.”

But it is important to remember that while Google is crawling the mobile version and AMP version of pages, rankings are based on the desktop page. Thus, faults with the desktop page — such as slow page speed — could impact the overall performance of your AMP page positioning.

Should sites ditch their mobile version for AMP?

This question is going to become a bit more interesting as this rolls out to the 10 blue links. There are sites that are currently only available in AMP, such as the AMP Project website itself. But with Google now showing the AMP version in place of the mobile version, should site owners be concerned about having a mobile site?

Well, as of now, this is a Google AMP initiative. Other search engines haven’t announced the use of AMP in their own search results. First you’ll need to consider whether other search engines have issues with sites that are AMP-only — for reference, Bing has no problems indexing AMP-only sites.

Another consideration is that AMP pages are definitely more bare-bones than your typical mobile page. You need to look at it from a user-experience point of view. Are there elements on a page that will negatively impact your customer’s experience if they’re not displayed on AMP?

Also, look at it from a resource perspective. For sites that maintain a separate m.site already, maintaining three versions of the page could be impactful from a resource and work hours perspective. This won’t be as much of a concern for those using responsive design, since changes made to desktop automatically get rolled out to the mobile version.

Will users gravitate to AMP results?

Just as many searchers gravitate towards search results that are tagged “mobile-friendly,” it’s very likely that some searchers, especially those on slower connections or those concerned about their data usage, will gravitate to those results that are in AMP format.

Also, because AMP pages tend to be less ad-heavy when compared to their mobile counterparts, some prefer AMP for this reason alone.

How popular is AMP?

At Google I/O, Google revealed that it has more than 150 million AMP documents indexed in their search results. And those documents are coming from 650,000 domains.

Many new sites are coming on board with AMP daily, and many large sites have added AMP pages to their entire website.

Is it country-specific?

Google is still rolling out AMP in the news carousel internationally. When AMP rolls out in the “ten blue links,” it will be an international launch. So even if your country isn’t currently showing AMP in the news section of the search results, AMP will show in the main search results when this goes live.

Is it live now?

No, this isn’t pushed live in the SERPs right now. Google has not said precisely when this will happen, other than they’ll be making “this feature more broadly available later this year.”

Google notes that they’ve delayed this launch to allow sites time to implement Accelerated Mobile Pages before it goes live for all results. Because of AMP being so new and due to the learning curve involved, pre-announcing the change is particularly welcome in this case.

Ecommerce sites

Ecommerce sites can effectively implement AMP, and many have successfully done so in preparation for the suspected launch. But with no specific timeline for when it’s going live, there’s a good chance this could go live in time for the upcoming holiday shopping season.

At the very least, ecommerce sites should make sure their content pages are AMP-ready. It doesn’t seem as though the various shopping carts have made their software or plug-ins AMP-friendly yet. But I expect that, on the heels of Google’s announcement, they’re scrambling to make their carts (or at the very least the product pages created through the cart software) AMP-friendly.

How to view AMP in search results

Google is only showing this to searchers who search through the Google AMP Demo URL, which can be accessed at g.co/ampdemo.

The demo shows how Google currently plans to display AMP in the search results, although Google could change the appearance before the official launch goes live in the SERPs.

Tracking AMP analytics

For those who have yet to set it up, Google does include information about AMP in their search analytics. You can drill down and see the specific keywords, positioning, clicks, and more just for AMP alone.

To find it, login to Search Console, click on Search Traffic, then Search Analytics. Underneath “Search Appearance” you can select “AMP.” Now you can drill down into AMP by pages, queries, etc. to learn more about how your AMP pages are seen and performing in search.

Setting up AMP

For those that are using a popular CMS such as WordPress or Joomla, there are already plug-ins to convert pages into AMP format. This makes it very easy for websites to make their websites AMP-enabled for searchers looking for AMP specifically.

WordPress AMP Plugin

Baby-step your way into AMP

You don’t have to implement AMP across the entire site at once. You can choose to test it out on a few pages first, or convert sections at a time so the errors are less daunting. Then those errors would also be cleaned up as you roll out the next section of the site to AMP.

AMP errors

It can take up to a week or so for AMPs to show up in Google Search Console, so it’s important that you go back and check which AMP errors show up on your site. There are some common errors, usually related to markup used in themes or missing logos, but Google’s help documents are fairly intuitive.

Google shows AMP errors on a per-page basis in their Google Search Console error reporting. And until these errors are fixed, those particular pages will not show AMP in the search results. The pages that are error-free will show. Site owners can correct the most widespread or significant errors first, then tackle the individual pages with errors.

AMP errors also show up on individual pages for specific elements on the page, such as where you might have embedded video or other elements that are not AMP-friendly.

You can find AMP errors, along with the number of indexed AMP pages, in the AMP section (within the Search Appearance section) of Google Search Console.

Google also has an AMP validator available.

Advertising on AMP pages

For those site owners concerned about loss of revenue, there are ad networks that comply with the AMP standards and can be used on your AMP pages.

The AMP Project maintains an extensive list of supported ad networks, including the most popular ones (AdSense, DoubleClick, and OpenX).

Social sharing & AMP

One of the newer features that Google has added to AMP is the ability to include share buttons for various social media platforms. Some site owners were reluctant to lose the potential for shares, since many sites derive a significant portion of their traffic this way.

The <AMP-SOCIAL-SHARE> tag doesn’t yet support all social media platforms, but it supports the most popular ones (such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+).

Checking for AMP validation

There’s a great extension for Chrome that will show you if an AMP validates properly, as well as show you any webpage that has an AMP version available. This is pretty handy if you need to do any competitive research and wish to learn more about the pages or types of pages that your competitors have AMP enabled for.

The lightning bolt will appear green for a page that is AMP, and it will show blue with a link to tell you that an AMP version of the page is available. Just click it to view the page as AMP instead.

This extension also enables you to view the page from a desktop computer. Right now, the Google AMP demo requires you to use it from a mobile device, which isn’t ideal for those looking at AMP from a site-owner perspective.

Getting help with AMP

Google also has an AMP support forum on the Google Webmaster Help forums for site owners running into any issues implementing AMP or getting it indexed properly. Multiple AMP experts regularly post in the forum answering questions and troubleshooting.

AMP resources

Suddenly find yourself having to get up to speed with AMP and don’t know where to start? Here are some useful industry resources.

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