From time to time, the world’s biggest classified ads company changes the way it shows content to its users. When Google updates its results algorithms, the impact on content publishers, and your strategy for promoting content online, can be pretty big. The end of January saw the arrival of the latest of this kind of update.
Search engine software firm Rank Ranger released a report last Monday showed how a relatively new project named Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages), which was first put into play during February 2016, has now ‘hit the mainstream’. Rank Ranger’s study shows that fast-loading AMP-optimized web pages have made a huge leap from making up about 25% of Google’s top-ranked news stories in the previous weeks, to now appearing as ‘top stories’ around 75% of the time.
This suggests that pages which have been AMP-optimised are being prioritised by Google. For content publishers, this change indicates that your content will be less likely to appear at the top of Google’s search results if it’s not AMP-optimised.
Remind me, what is Google AMP?
A detailed summary of AMP, plus guidance on how to create AMP pages can be found at the AMP Project website. But in sum:
- Google has worked in partnership with developers, the main social media platforms and major publishers to implement a new protocol for how good mobile web pages should be designed.
- This project was inspired by figures which suggest that mobile consumption of content is now greater than traditional desktop-based content consumption. Up to 60% of searches online are performed from a mobile device and also more than 50% of digital media consumption happens on a smartphone or tablet.
- As a result, Google and others have gone about designing a new kind of web page which is more lightweight and loads faster on mobile devices. The main feature of AMP-optimised pages is that they load the content that is ‘above the fold’ of the user’s screen first, before subsequently loading content that comes further down the article. This means that for the user, it feels like the page loads instantaneously, with no clunky load time at all.
In many ways, AMP-optimised content is great. As Google themselves explain, AMP is, in theory, good for everyone:
Consumers can read the content they want to read faster, without having to wait while clumsy pages load slowly.
Publishers: reduce the risk of the reader leaving their website (and not seeing those revenue-driving ads) because of a slow-loading page.
Platforms: social media firms can be confident that AMP-optimised pages will also load faster for their users, meaning they will be more likely to visit pages and, similarly, drive ad-revenue.
So, everyone wins, right? Well, yes, in theory—as long as you play along. For firms that don’t have someone in-house who can optimise their web pages for AMP (admittedly, it shouldn’t be incredibly difficult to do for most publishers), it will bring about some short-term costs.
Besides that, Rank Ranger’s report shows, Google are making a drive to push AMP-optimised pages to the top of the results lists in Google News. Some might criticise Google for apparently prioritising large publishers who have the means to AMP-optimise their content.
And for anyone who’s not a traditional publisher, AMP will also affect you. To begin with, AMP was mainly adopted by big news outlets like the BBC, The Guardian or The Wall Street Journal, although non-news websites did begin to embrace it a few years ago. The signs were that Google would not actually place AMP-optimised pages higher than any other content (although, bear in mind that Google does take website mobile speed into account during its ranking process in any case). However, the sudden boost in Google News results reported by Rank Ranger does seem to suggest that, for news at least, being AMP-optimised helps a lot.
The writing’s on the wall?
For smaller publishers, Google’s apparent pushing of AMP should come as a clear signal about what you need to do for your content strategy in the coming years.
For major publishers, AMP obviously makes a lot of sense, especially for those that depend on ad-revenue. For businesses which use content marketing as part of their SEO and marketing strategy, the AMP update could be a bit of a pain. Regardless of the pros and cons, the fact of the matter is that AMP has hit the mainstream, and you better play along if you want to keep appearing high up in their search results.
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