The Pros and Cons of AMPs for SEO

By Tony Park | Oct 19, 2017
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In February 2016, the first Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs) were ranked in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Since then, many developers and digital marketers have struggled with the decision to create the faster, stripped-down AMP versions of web pages. At first glance, it appears to be a no-brainer optimization tactic that every site would be clamoring to implement. A faster, more user-friendly site that’s backed and promoted by Google? Sign me up!amps-for-seo-2

However, the more that developers and marketers considered creating AMPs, the more they realized that the cons may outweigh the pros. Although the pages would load faster and have the potential to rank higher in SERPs, the developmental restrictions and potential of lost ad revenue were too much for several organizations. This, however, was not the case for everyone. Blogs and news sites jumped on board immediately, as article pages don’t typically need heavy JavaScript, intensive styling or other resources that Accelerated Mobile Pages are attempting to limit for the sake of speed.

With the approach of mobile-first indexing in the coming months, SEOs are circling back to the topic – to AMP or not to AMP? This is a question that can only be answered by your organization. Today we will discuss a few of the critical pros and cons of AMPs for SEO. From an overall development perspective, there are many other factors to consider. This post will specifically focus on how Accelerated Mobile Pages can influence your organic traffic.

Pros of AMPs for SEO

Faster Page Load Time

Delivering content that doesn’t take a long time to load is one of the main reason that Google decided to launch Accelerated Mobile Pages. Simply put, AMPs strip the elements that make pages load slowly: lines of JavaScript, heavy styling, and other resources that slow a page down. Instead, pages are left with a limited set of HTML tags, in-line styling, and a tiny JavaScript library. How could pages not load fast? On top of that, pages are not loaded from your server but rather from Google’s cache, which makes pages appear to load almost instantaneously and take some of the load off your server. This means abandonment rate could go way down while user experience improves drastically.

Higher Ranking Potential

Almost by default,  implementing AMPs will influence several ranking factors, but there is one goal which is always at the top of SEOs lists – ranking higher in SERPs. This really is the catch-all positive aspect of AMPs and it correlates strongly with the previous point (page speed). It is important to note that implementing AMPs will not influence rankings directly, but the better your page speed, click-through rate, and user experience, the more likely your pages are to rank higher. If the site loads incredibly quickly and contains valuable content, users are less likely to abandon and are more likely to click-through to the site.

For publishing sites, the news carousel that’s featured above the fold in Google SERPs can be transformative for boosting visibility, thus potentially boosting click volume. In theory, the more clicks you receive, the more links from interested readers you receive, and the higher your pages rank. As mentioned, this pro includes several SEO improvements AMPs can provide, but they all contribute to potentially seeing higher rankings.

Cons of AMPs For SEO

I’m not going to lie, there are several negatives of AMPs for developers and other internal teams, so let’s pretend that you have all of the resources in the world to implement AMPs from your development team. What AMP problems would still exist for SEO?

Difficult to Develop

As mentioned previously, the user gets the benefit of quick load times due to the limited use of JavaScript and CSS, but for the development team, these limitations can be an absolute nightmare. Web developers, like many other professionals, want to streamline as much of their process as possible. Using third party JavaScript and linking external CSS files on webpages makes the process of creating unique, functional pages easy.

These days, developers heavily rely on several third party resources to make the development process easier and more streamlined. For AMPs, developers are forced to hand-code each page, using inline CSS and JavaScript. This practice is simply not the norm and would make any developer shutter. In a world that is driven by creative web design and brand guidelines, getting your AMPs to match the style and feel of your regular webpages is no easy task and could suck up several development man-hours. If you or the individual that runs your website is not using WordPress and is not a developer, you might want to get the thought of using AMPs out of your head.

Lose Internal Links

One of our pros was how much shorter load times can be due to Google’s cache loading pages instead of the site’s server. There is also a huge drawback to this that can cause sites to lose precious inbound links. Whenever an AMP page is loaded on a mobile device from Google’s cache, the original domain in the browser is replaced by https://google.com/amp/yourpageURL. The example below shows the URL of an AMP article from my mobile device:

amps for seo

To put it plainly, this just isn’t ideal. If I share this link from my mobile device, the original page is not getting the value of the inbound link, Google is! The last thing SEOs want is to miss out on capturing more inbound links, which we know is a primary ranking factor.

Limited Analytics Functionality

If you’re like me, Analytics is your go-to tool when analyzing organic traffic data to develop new SEO strategies. The functionality of Analytics extends far beyond this purpose and into several other aspects of analyzing your site’s performance. Needless to say, having accurate Analytics data in one property is a must-have, and AMPs definitely get in the way of that.

I don’t want to get too technical in this post, but due to the aforementioned con of pages being loaded through Google’s cache, and the various ways client IDs are stored in AMP Analytics, sessions data can look very weird. Here are a few of the metrics that are most commonly affected: unique visitors, sessions, bounce rate, pageviews-per-session and traffic sources. This post dives extremely deep into the issues of Analytics data for AMPs and is worth a read.

On top of all this, setting up Analytics properly for AMPs is a bit of headache with its own unique set of obstacles depending on the site. Due to the fact that AMPs are highly restrictive when it comes to the use of JavaScript, the tracking codes that you have on all of your pages become obsolete. There are some workarounds, but that’s just one more thing you have to worry about with AMPs.

My Conclusions

So, to AMP or not to AMP? It simply depends on several unique factors, from the development/SEO side all the way to the organization’s overhead/profit side. I can say that the cons section of AMPs for SEO appears to be quite a bit longer than the pros section, but moving forward, many of the issues could be resolved. If you do not want to struggle with the decision, the best thing you can do is follow SEO best practices from the beginning. If you would like to know where you stand from an SEO standpoint, check out our SEO audit services, as well as other services we offer to ensure that valuable content, user experience and proper tracking are the cornerstones of your SEO philosophy.

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