In the early days of the mobile web, we had “m.” pages: m.yahoo.com, m.wellsfargo.com, m.ambulancechasers.com, etc.
A few years back, Google and the other major web players began to push a new standard: responsive design. Responsive design is a must today because it divides the work your web developer has to do in half — instead of two websites (one mobile, one desktop), you have one responsive website that resizes and reconfigures itself to fit comfortably on any screen size.
The drawback, of course, was speed. Images and code meant for high-speed broadband don’t load as quickly on cellular connections. If you’ve ever sat at your cell screen, shaking it angrily in hopes that the screen would magically fill in a reverse Etch-a-Sketch type of maneuver (maybe that’s just me), you understand why the move to unified responsive websites wasn’t all sunshine and roses.
AMP is the solution to that problem. AMP pages are ultra-fast mobile-optimized pages that strip out all the unnecessary bloated code and simply display the damn content — that entire article your wrote on your site about Minnesota divorces loads in .5 seconds instead of your potential client waiting for a banner image, an auto-playing video, a live chat plugin, and a slideshow of stock images to load before the text.
Sounds great for site visitors. But should lawyers seeking clients be so AMPed about AMP pages?
How is This Different Than “m.” Pages?
It’s not, really.
Mobile pages were created because crap flip phones and pre-3G smartphones couldn’t handle the full Internet. Now, those devices can — but the bandwidth isn’t there unless you’re connected to Wi-Fi or have a great LTE signal and don’t care about data usage. This is not even addressing third-world countries or rural Americans who simply get bad reception.
AMP is, in a way, a return to m. pages, but they bring yet another feature as well: hardcore caching. Basically, Google will save a copy of everything AMPed and deliver it at even more accelerated speeds. Google already caches a lot of the Internet, but this is faster and meant for one thing: delivering the content NOW.
Do We Really Need AMPed Pages?
Need? No. You need speed — and you don’t need AMP to get a fast website. A fast website requires:
- Less unnecessary bullshit add-ons installed (like my live-chat plugin below, or the flash intros of old);
- Clean, bloat-free code with a few tweaks (like minifying scripts which anybody can do on WordPress with a plugin or two);
- Image compression.
Why do you NEED speed? Conversion rate optimization, which is a fancy way of saying getting website visitors (potential clients) go call or email you. Slower sites lead to greatly increased abandonment rates — mere seconds could mean you lose as much as 87% of your traffic, per a long list of really important speed stats on some blog. And on this infographic, look at the first graph — the longer the load time, the higher the abandonment rate.
But you don’t need stats or graphs — use common sense. Do you want to wait 8 seconds for a page to load on your smartphone? How about when you click a link on that page to read more about the business: will you wait another 8 seconds?
What about domestic violence victims or car accident victims in an ambulance: speed will help impatient, panicking potential clients to reach your site, and you, faster.
But is AMP the way to get there? And are there any other benefits, like a Google Boost?
AMP and Search: No Boost Yet But…
Google was pretty clear with their announcement today:
“To clarify, this is not a ranking change for sites. As a result of the growth of AMP beyond publishers, we wanted to make it easier for people to access this faster experience. The preview shows an experience where web results that have AMP versions are labeled with the AMP logo. When you tap on these results, you will be directed to the corresponding AMP page within the AMP viewer.”
No Google rankings boost, but you do get a shiny logo! And the benefits of happy potential clients when they are served with your AMP-ed page!
Of course, that’s what Google says today. Note that they recently unleashed “Mobilegeddon,” which was a rankings algorithm tweak that was supposed to penalize sites that weren’t responsive (mobile-friendly). And their goal is to deliver the best search experience possible. It seems very likely that, down the line, there will be a boost for search results delivered to mobile devices for AMP pages (or pages similarly optimized through a competing platform: Facebook has one and since AMP is so new, there’s a chance a different standard could emerge, though it’s unlikely, as AMP is open source and backed by Google, which owns search.)
When Can Regular Websites Get Started and How?
If you want to get AMPed up, the good news is: it’s probably easy (if you’re on WordPress). Automattic, the folks behind WordPress, created a plugin that does the work for you. I haven’t yet had a chance to try it out, but will in the near future.
If you’re not on WordPress: ask your web developer. Or get on WordPress. Not being on WordPress is like choosing to run Linux over Windows or MacOS: unless you have very specialized needs, you’re doing it wrong.
The obvious one is style: if you’ve invested a lot in your website’s design as an extension of your brand, a bare bones AMP version will be far less elegant. You still can use a logo, images, and things like contact forms and video, but there are no fancy layouts or graphical effects (like fade-in elements as you scroll down a page).
Another issue might be technical hiccups, especially in regards to analytics and tracking codes. If you’re using Google Analytics, rest assured: Google’s beloved AMP friends play nice with Analytics, though some setup will be required (especially in WordPress). But where you might run into trouble, or have to put in some work, is with third-party tracking codes (Facebook pixels, any ad tracking codes, third-party analytics services, etc.) That last part is speculation — I run a lean site with WordPress, Google Analytics, and the live chat plugin that nobody ever uses and I haven’t AMPed up yet, so I don’t have any personal experience with glitches yet.