Google announces the Inclusion of AMP Sites on SERPS

If there is one thing digital marketers have learned over the years, it’s that Google loves fast websites. Users love them too. So it’s no surprise that Accelerated Mobile Web Pages (or AMPs), are rapidly becoming a favorite of the search giant. AMPs are super-sleek, stripped down, lighter versions of mobile web pages. If they were airplanes, they’d be breaking the sound barrier. The average user doesn’t really know what AMPs are, even though they’d probably like them if they saw them. Nevertheless, these sites are now appearing on mobile SERPs, along with a special designation which clues users in to the fact that they’re about to click on an AMP-enabled site.

Understanding AMP

All AMP sites are mobile sites, but not all mobile sites are AMP sites. Responsive sites must either be enabled with an AMP plug-in or programmed, specifically, with AMP HTML in order to be considered an accelerated site. AMP effortlessly removes anything which might slow down a website’s load time. Java plug-ins? Gone. Cookies? Ads? They’re gone too. As a result, they load almost instantly. When AMP sites show up on mobile phone SERPs, they show up on a “Top Stories” carousel along with a small lightning bolt icon and a notation that says AMP. You’ll also find some AMP sites in the primary mobile search results. AMP results do not show up on desktop searches. Those who know what to look for will understand this means they’ll be clicking on a search result which will never force them to wait on the content they want.

How does this change impact search rankings?

As of right now, it doesn’t, at least not officially. One could argue that the carousel results are far more visible than their traditional organic search counterparts, of course, but Google says AMP sites aren’t receiving any special ranking preference. You will continue to get whatever boost you got from offering a responsive or mobile site in the first place. However, this is an issue to watch very closely. We foresee Google turning AMP-compatibility into a ranking factor at some later date. It may be a good idea to start evaluating how your company can hop on board this trend.

How will this change impact CTRs?

Experts are of two minds on this. Some people are enthusiastically crowing that CTRs on AMPs will shoot way up because customers prefer the speediest site they can get. Eventually, this may even be true. However, Search Engine Watch reports CTR rates which are actually lower than average. The journal attributes this behavior to the fact that most users don’t have the foggiest idea what an AMP is. Thus, the helpful “AMP” icon may even be scaring some users away. They may see it as a warning that the result isn’t compatible with their device, or think that the result has been flagged as a hacked site. Either way, fear of the unknown keeps them away. Sooner or later, the problem should correct itself as people come to understand what an AMP result is and why they’d want to click on one.

How should businesses respond to this change?

The best way is to make existing pages AMP-ready without performing drastic changes. If you have not done so already, it’s also past time to work on getting your static pages converted to a more mobile-friendly responsive format. Keep in mind that not everyone agrees on the type of content that works well for an AMP. Some say e-commerce stores can make use of the format with ease, while others say the format is primarily useful for showcasing news stories. If you’re one of our clients, your Fair Strategist will evaluate your site and work with you to determine some next steps. The truth is, every site is different. Some will benefit from AMP readiness, while others may want to sit tight. As of right now, there’s no penalty for failing to adopt an AMP-ready site. We’ll watch trends closely and alert our clients if that changes. Either way, slow loading sites may want to submit to a complete overhaul, since they now have even faster sites to compete with. Loading speed will continue to be an important ranking signal that cannot be ignored.