What are Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)?

In Mobile Testing by Jonathan Silverstein

Supercharge Web Loading Time with Google’s ‘Accelerated Mobile Pages’ Standard – and Measure Your Improved, AMPed Up Performance on Mobilizer.

If you develop commercial websites or oversee their performance, you probably have been giving your undivided attention to the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project, spearheaded by Google.

What Is AMP?

The AMP open-source initiative leverages existing web technologies to offer a markedly improved user experience on mobile devices. In particular, AMP enables web pages to load “almost instantaneously.”

Why the Need for Speed?

The average load time for mobile sites is a shocking 19 seconds, says Google research – a veritable lifetime to a mobile user. Web analysts have shown over and over again that customers despise waiting, and they demonstrate that disdain by departing from slow-loading websites, often never to return! Radware warns that each additional second’s delay reduces conversion rates by 7%, and after a mere three-second delay, website visitors start fleeing.

How fast is your site on mobile? Have you precisely assessed your load time across an array of market-leading phones and tablets?

Have you consulted an agency, such as Mobile1st, that specializes in diagnosing and fixing all the factors slowing your website’s speed?

Image courtesy of Radware

The Washington Post deployed AMP to enhance its load time, and the number of mobile readers that returned to its site within the week jumped by an impressive 23%.

What Is the Purpose of AMP?

AMP aims to resolve the issue of slow load time that bedevils ecommerce. Using AMP components, Google says most sites can drive that down from 19 seconds to a mere 5, or roughly a 400% performance improvement. In fact, when fully realized, the AMP’s optimization tactics will enable pages to appear to load instantaneously.

In particular, AMP makes it easier for publishers, but also advertisers, to deliver more resource-intensive content such as video, image carousels and plug-ins by substantially reducing the amount of bandwidth needed to deliver such content.

How Does AMP Work Its Tech Magic?

The AMP open-source initiative is centered on AMP HTML, a new open framework designed to utilize already existing web technologies to deliver an enhanced user experience on mobile.

AMP hastens the delivery of web pages by enforcing a highly specific and limited set of technologies that can be included in webpages (for example, use of JavaScript is kept to a bare minimum) and by serving the content from Google’s own servers. Other core components are the AMP JavaScript Library and Google AMP Cache.

To entice developers to kick the standard around, Google just made available the AMP Experiment, a tool for optimizing the user experience with AMP-ready code.

Mobile1st offers mobile optimization services to increase your mobile website’s revenue/conversion by decreasing your shopping cart abandonment rate, reducing your page load speed, improving mobile UX and SEO, analyzing your mobile analytics, and more. Our team of mobile experts analyzes and improves your website across 35+ factors, A/B tests ideas, and can even (optionally) implement the design/code changes.
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How Does AMP Impact Your Search Ranking?

Google is giving prime real estate to AMP pages in mobile search results and is highlighting AMP-enabled pages throughout its search results. Google says, however, that “currently” AMP does not impact the ranking of websites in mobile search. As Search Engine Watch stresses, the emphasis is on “currently” and Google may factor AMP into its algorithm in the near future.

AMP search rankings

Who Is Deploying AMP Now?

So far the AMP framework has been adopted by hundreds of websites and is being incorporated into leading software platforms, including Twitter, WordPress, Drupal, Facebook, eBay, Pinterest, and by analytics providers Parse.ly, Chartbeat, and Adobe.

At the same time, many SEO professionals and website developers have yet to adopt AMP. They may be taking a wait and see attitude as Google’s rollout continues. An informal survey by SEO Powersuite, found that only 23% of developers are actively using AMP. However, fully 50% of SEO pros expect it to “significantly affect their rankings in mobile search results.”

What Motivates Google?

So why the intensive effort by Google to speed up webpages on mobile devices, and why now?

It’s no secret that Internet users around the globe have drastically altered changed their online behavior over the past three years. Mobile use has skyrocketed, and now more people are online via their smart phone than desktop or laptop.

As a result, close to 90% of this time is focused on the use of apps, not surfing the web with Safari or Chrome. The use of apps circumvents Google’s ability to serve up search results and deliver advertising. Apps threaten Google’s close to $75 billion in annual revenue. In seeking to reverse these trends, Google has decided to attack the elephant in the room, namely that slow loading times on mobile devices are a key factor discouraging web surfing on iPhones and Android.

Who Else Benefits?

Officially, Google cites three primary areas of benefit for AMP adoption:

Content: The AMP open source approach makes it easier for publishers to deliver more resource-intensive content, such as video, image carousels and plug-ins by reducing substantially the amount of bandwidth needed to deliver such content.

Distribution: By making the Google AMP Cache service available to all comers, the massive global footprint of their data centers will store and deliver webpages with greater efficiency than most publisher’s own hosting services ever could. Think Akamai for publishers (and anyone else really) for free. It also extends Google’s control over content created by others in a similar fashion as Facebook’s Instant Articles.

Ad Delivery: At the heart of the AMP initiative is the mission of strategically protecting Google’s cash cow advertising franchise. Google aims to grow its roughly $80 billion annual ad revenue, especially relative to its largest competitors. AMP was designed to work with most ad formats, work with any ad network and will support publisher paywall and subscription services.

Is Your Website Fast or Merely Furious?

As more and more AMP-enabled websites appear online, how much has AMP truly accelerated their load time? Let’s check their rendering speed with Mobilizer’s online mobile testing lab on 14 market-leading devices and see how they’re doing.

Thrifty AMP enabled websitethrifty-iphone6s-load-speed

Wow, that’s fast! ThriftyFun.com took under one second to load an image-rich home page on the iPhone 6S. Consumers will surely appreciate that lightning-fast load time. In fact, ThriftyFun’s website takes four times longer to render on the desktop than on mobile: an unending 4 second.

AMP’s Unpredictable Performance

In contrast to ThriftyFun, CNET’s AMP-boosted website revealed less than impressive load times in tests. CNET.com turned in wildly uneven rendering times, ranging from the molasses-slow 28.30 seconds on the iPad Mini and 9.93 seconds on the iPhone 5C to a blistering-fast 1.50 seconds on the HTC One (M8).

CNET AMP enabled website cnet-galaxy-tab-load-speed

AMP Poster Child? Google’s News Page

google news page with AMPGoogle news mobile load time

Further highlighting the inconsistency of AMP’s performance is Google’s own News Page, an often-cited demo of the initiative. While the News Page loaded in just 1.15 seconds on the iPhone 5S and 2.49 seconds on the iPhone 6S, the page rendered at a less impressive 4.99 seconds on the iPhone 5C and 5.14 seconds on the HTC One (M8).

The jury is still out on whether AMP will achieve critical mass and accomplish Google’s lofty goals. What is clear, however, at least at this early stage of the AMP Project, is that developers experimenting with its capabilities should test and re-test their website’s performance across a wide a spectrum of devices. Not doing so may result in ignoring poor performance on some very popular devices.

Mobile1st is a leader in marketing technology and site optimization solutions. More than prioritizing and executing industry leading CRO practices, we do what makes the money; optimizing our Client’s digital commerce product toward consistent financial growth and ROI. All achieved through excellence in Lean UX, Analytics, Research, Experimentation and Development.
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