Website managers are under greater pressure every day to find new opportunities that demonstrate a positive return on investment. Often, just the claim of a positive ROI is enough to persuade managers to implement a new technology/feature. In a market saturated with providers, each promising that their service improves conversion or provides more powerful user insights, publishers are easily persuaded to add more to their websites.
As the condition of the web proves, convincing publishers to add to their website is easier than persuading them to remove anything. Unfortunately for visitors, the more content, the slower the site performance. *Note: In June 2016, the Interactive Advertising Bureau reported that users primarily blame slow loading advertisements for poor page performance, and evidence shows that tracking scripts are also to blame.*
Origins of AMP
To date, web pages continue to grow larger while user experience (especially related to speed) suffers. Since Google’s Site Speed algorithm update in 2010, the size of the average mobile web page increased over 725% (from 200KB to nearly 1700KB). Similarly, the average number of assets requested per page increased by over 140% (from 29 to 70).
In response to larger and slower webpages, Google began announcing penalties and incentives related to performance. Nevertheless, these changes were ineffective in restraining the ever-increasing size of web pages. While data shows that better performance leads to increased conversion rates, most organizations have not established a performance budget to protect site speed and user experience.
By ignoring performance, publishers created an environment that allowed tech giants to introduce their own solutions which redistribute content with improved performance. Facebook started with “Instant Articles”, Apple with the “News App”, and Google/Twitter created “Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)”.
These solutions, like AMP, take visitors away from publishers and enable the distributor, such as Google, to keep users on their platforms longer—allowing them to capitalize on their own advertising.
AMP evolved because publishers were careless about performance.
Advantages of AMP
While the AMP format is technically an open source initiative, separate from Google’s AMP cache implementation, Google effectively controls both. Google has attempted to drive adoption of the technology by offering benefits which prioritize the display of AMP content over non-AMP content. For example:
- A special lightning bolt iconis displayed next to mobile search results.
- AMP content may be promoted into AMP carousels within mobile search results (including the “Top Stories” carousel which is prominently displayed).
- AMP content is cached by Google, served through it’s CDN, and preloaded within search results, allowing content to load “instantly”.
Disadvantages of AMP
Just as new solutions bring benefits, there are also drawbacks. The primary disadvantage of AMP is the required responsibility of maintaining a second version or theme for the website. Technically two versions of the website is not a requirement of AMP—it is possible to make a single site AMP compatible. However, that would require site owners to rebuild their existing websites and remove any functionality not supported by AMP—which in turn takes time and money.
Want to improve site speed?
Our team can audit your website and develop a solid plan to improve your site’s performance.
Is AMP Really Helpful?
AMP is not always the answer to going fast. It is possible to build a mobile site that is even faster and lighter than the equivalent AMP version, as the AMP format itself has dependencies which add some marginal weight to the page. By conflating site speed with marketing benefits, Google has effectively created another marketing tool rather than a performance-optimizing format, at least in the eyes of site owners. While publishers may or may not see a conversion increase, Google is continuing to feed their marketing algorithm at the expense of the publisher.
Yes, having a variety of content shown on your site is important, but at the cost of your customer’s attention, speed is pivotal. Rather than pushing publishers to build a second AMP site, we encourage investing the time in building your main website to be as fast as possible and easy to use. Your main site is your foundation and maintaining that foundation’s strength is imperative in your success.