AMP Accelerated Mobile Pages

What is AMP Accelerated Mobile Pages?

Google’s framework for better performance is called AMP, accelerated mobile pages. It’s kind of like a very stripped-down HTML for maximum performance, consisting of text and images only. Everything else is limited; you can not use external CSS, external JS (except for asynchronous JS) and of course no flash, or java.

It’s generally optimized for lower CPU and memory usage, also consuming less bandwidth and as a result, it’s less aggressive in terms of battery lifetime. It is ultimately supposed to lead to better user experience because of its almost instant loading.

In comparison to regular HTML, it’s also important to understand that CSS can only be inlined as non-blocking and that there are limitations in terms of its size. Further, there are different requirements for standard attributes – for example with images you need to specify width and height, which is not the case with regular HTML markup. These attributes were optional.

How to setup AMP?

From a setup perspective, there are two general ways to build it. Either you create a copy of your regular article/webpage and build an additional AMP version. In this case, you need to add rel-amphtml and rel-canonical to create a connection between the two URLs. Another way would be to go full AMP, that means you have only one individual URL. But in that case, you’d need to roll out AMP as your stand-alone framework – so there’d be no URL duplication, but you would be fully dependant on Google’s standard and framework.

In both cases, you have to rewrite your HTML, as default HTML tags are not supported anymore. The AMP Javascript library, for example, transforms them into a regular image in the background.

How to validate AMP?

Whenever you build Accelerated Mobile Pages, make sure you dump those URLs into Google’s AMP validation tool to make sure that your pages are validating properly. Otherwise, there is no chance for an AMP page to be shown in search results, the news box carousel, etc.

At the moment AMP is available mainly for publishing and in the recipe space. It also has been extended to e-commerce. It’s important to realize that Google is not only using AMP in regular and news search but also, in image search and recipe carrousels. On a global level AMP is being used more and more recognized – for example in China, Baidu uses MIP (which is essentially AMP with different caching and some minor changes to it).

Important points to remember about AMP

  • AMP drives discussion and innovation, making people take the need for fast loading sites more seriously. So it essentially becomes an “agenda topic”.
  • It enables collaboration. Different teams/stakeholders (have to) carefully consider performance metrics, because of the limitations and restrictions that come with AMP.
  • It is going to create additional work – converting existing sites to AMP is not a like-for-like copy, you need to rewrite HTML and build a new CSS. You can’t rely on JS; that leads to the fact that the amount of testing that needs to be done on AMP converted sites is very demanding, and it is not easy to match the regular site and the AMP site.
  • It can also increase maintenance costs for you. Extending CMS capabilities to manage AMP content is expensive, and additional maintenance and development work (IT, editorial, etc.) will increase costs even further.
  • It can have an impact on crawling depending on which kind of setup you choose. If you add an AMP URL, it is essentially another URL for every URL you already have. Google now needs to crawl way more and eventually your very important pages will get crawled less often.
  • From a performance perspective, the magic with AMP is pre-fetching and pre-rendering. There is ~ 1-second avg. the difference from the pre-rendering vs. direct load of any AMP. That’s speed you can’t make up and the perceived loading time for a user is even greater.
  • However, if you look at the regular performance metrics, and you exclude the preloading mechanism, then a regular website can easily be as fast as an AMP version. Responsive sites like the GUARDIAN in the UK do it quite nicely, ZEIT in Germany does it as well. Their responsive offerings – if you take out the preloading effect – are faster than their respective Accelerated Mobile Pages versions.
  • Using AMP must not be an excuse for having a slow loading website. Invest in your property to become best-in-class, before even considering using the Accelerated Mobile Pages.
  • If you are into publishing, you need to be in Carousel – no question about it. This is where almost all the publishing traffic is. Right now you can only get into Carousel if you have AMP. So I’m not saying don’t use AMP, just be sure to look at the bigger picture.

Remember that AMP ( Accelerated Mobile Pages ) is not the only solution, you can easily build fast loading sites without AMP.

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