It is Time to Retire Your AMP Templates

In 2015, Google recognized the rise of mobile searches with a new content delivery solution. AMP began as a framework and a set of hosted services that would allow some websites to provide lightning-fast mobile content compared to non-AMP sites. For approaching a decade, Google has given SERP ranking preference to AMP-enabled websites, marking them with a little lightning bolt and favoring AMP’d sites with featured spots and better page rankings.

However, everyone knows that Google changes the rules from time to time. While AMP was the best way for content providers like news sites to stay on top for more than five years, it looks like AMP’s time has finally come.

Do AMP templates still provide the benefits they did when Google first released them? With new standards in the works, sites that have been maintaining AMP versions can finally relax, redesign, and optimize for the most effective web/content design that is relevant today.

Understanding Google AMP

AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages.

Google AMP is a hosted template service targeted specifically at providing instant access to news articles and similar content. Google’s aim was to compete with Facebook’s Instant Articles and iOS Apple News feed, each uniquely optimized for the growing mobile audience of article readers. Google knew it would lose traffic if news articles loaded too much slower on mobile devices than these hosted options. Thus, it formed a hosted option of its own.

AMP is, essentially, a second version of your content and landing pages that is built into an AMP template. The templated content is then hosted by Google so that it can be served as fast as the platform itself. But times change, and Google’s AMP design is no longer the fastest content loader on the internet. In fact, it’s your own local mobile optimization. 

The Original Benefits of Google AMP

From 2015 to 2020, the Google AMP program offered a fairly wide range of benefits for content providers like news websites that shared a large number of articles and landing pages typically accessed through Google, particularly through the Google News aggregate. These benefits were the most profound early in the arc. Unsurprisingly, they lost their power over time as better solutions to mobile web performance became available.

Better Mobile Performance Than Early Mobile-Ready Web Design

Originally, AMP provided one of the best toolkits to enable rapid web performance for large-scale content pages. Long news articles and big, high-resolution images benefitted greatly from AMP templates by making use of the streamlined CSS and limited JavaScript features. AMP also provided a quick and easy way to make sure that content was presentable on phone and tablet screens before this skill was a widespread part of responsive web design.

Google Hosting and Caching

Google also offered some amount of hosting and content-caching for any site that used AMP templates. In order to reduce load delays when sending content to mobile devices, Google would cache things like images and content blocks to host faster for on-demand mobile readers.

Lighting Fast Content Delivery

As a result, websites that used AMP enjoyed faster mobile performance than their competition, as AMP was once one of the best mobile content-serving solutions on the market.

Lightning Bolt Page Endorsement

Of course, even more impactful than the fast page-loading was the endorsement lightning bolt. Phone users knew they could trust a page would be optimized and readable on their phones – and load quickly – when they saw the AMP lightning bolt next to a search result or news article link.

Preferential Search Ranking

Of course, Google didn’t stop there. In an attempt to improve their overall search experience, Google began prioritizing the page ranking of any website using an AMP template.

AMP was also designed specifically to compete with other news feeds. In fact, Google would only feature news sites that used AMP-optimized articles. In return, Google would regularly feature AMP articles in the Top Stories section of Google News, massively increasing readership exposure for companies that complied.

AMP Analytics Tools

Of course, in Google’s classic style, AMP users also gained the benefit of the AMP analytics toolkit. This provided advanced insights into clicks, conversions, and exposure as a result of using the mobile-ready templates.

The Downsides of Using AMP Templates

Of course, AMP has not been all high-speed and preferential treatment. There have always been downsides for sites that chose to use AMP, along with disadvantages for those who chose not to. AMP has been effectively enacting a monopoly on Google news hosting and as mobile responsive website technology evolved, its limited features become ever more limiting.

Disables or Suppresses Advanced Site Features

AMP templates are extremely simple, using simplified CSS and JS combined. This allows AMP content to be delivered without clutter or background features loading in. However, it also severely limits the features that content providers can include in their page design. This includes both experience-enhancing features for readers and site-improvement features like internal analytics for provider sites.

AMP May Interfere with Lead-Capturing Services

AMP also interferes with third-party services integrated into website design. Most prominently, lead capturing, which requires some amount of background observation from reader traffic is often blocked or suppressed by AMP’s template structure.

Google Excluded Non-AMP Content Sites

Google’s monopoly over hosted news and content sites has also been a point of serious contention. Only sites that integrated the AMP template were likely to be hosted in Top Stories or get search result preferential treatment. Others, including providers with sites not well-suited to AMP page design, got the short end of the stick when it came to exposure and traffic.

FREE PERFORMANCE CHECKLIST Your site performance checklist to help you assess your website health   

One Advertisement Per Page

AMP’s streamlined design also limits content to one advertisement per page. This can seriously interfere with a content provider’s business model. It particularly decreases the value of long-form content in which multiple non-intrusive advertisements could easily have been embedded along the length of the text.

Loses Individual Brand Identity in Site Design

If your brand specializes in a unique appearance or content arrangement, that is removed when using the AMP template. The AMP version of your content site will be the same bland banner-and-column as every other content page hosted through AMP. Unique site experiences like interactive navigation bars, embedded tools, calculators, or just an immersive color scheme are all removed in favor of the streamlined CSS template design.

AMP Templates Can’t Include Forms

Another big downside to AMP is that it does not support forms. Many content sites rely on surveys for a wide range of purposes. This includes lead conversion, learning about readership, and collecting valuable data that may become the subject of future data-driven content. Lack of access to forms also reduces the overall value of a site’s content when hosted through AMP, even when reaching that important spot in Top Stories featured on Google News.

Limited Amp-Approved Extensions and Feature Options

AMP also severely limits your options for even typical extensions and features like embedded video. In fact, there are only a few approved extensions available through AMP templates. This limits both creative and experiential options available between content providers and their readers.

Why AMP is Aging Out

As time has passed, AMP’s list of downsides has begun to outweigh its upsides, with the final straw being Google’s own internal preference for AMP-configured pages. What really decided Google on retiring support and preferential treatment for AMP sites have been these three factors:

  1. AMP is No Longer the Best Mobile Content Strategy
    • AMP was designed when mobile content strategies were at their most basic. The most important thing was a narrow, simplified column that would load quickly and appear clearly on phone screens. Today, however, we know that mobile-responsive web design has come a long way. Companies are able to provide a superior mobile on-site experience without relying on simplified AMP templates.
  2. The Most Speed-Optimized Sites are Now Faster than AMP Templates
    • Speed optimization has also outpaced the original AMP technology. In the past, only the most speed-optimized sites could rival AMP’s page load speeds. However, now, many optimization methods allow websites to achieve and surpass AMP’s load times in both PC and mobile performance.
  3. Google Has Better Performance Metrics
    • Lastly, AMP was always a somewhat clumsy cludge that Google used to prioritize mobile-capable content pages before real metrics were developed. Prioritizing AMP pages allowed Google to know that it was hosting speedy, optimized content for the growing mobile market. Today, however, Google has developed a much better set of performance metrics that can provide a more accurate and diverse mobile experience ranking compared to the simple AMP-only strategy.

Google’s New Performance Metrics: Introducing the Core Web Vitals

In 2022, Google quietly – and then more prominently – introduced a new set of metrics as a part of its push toward optimizing user experience. The new metrics are called the Core Web Vitals. These measure how a site performs on three basic axes instead of relying on a pre-optimized template. This allows websites to use a wide range of their own optimization methods and experience-creation tools.

Core Web Vitals

  • CLS
  • LCP
  • FID

Cumulative Layout Shift – CLS

The first of the web vitals is CLS or Cumulative Layout Shift. When you load a web page, the elements rarely all load at the same time. The CLS measures how much the layout “jumps” or shifts as each element loads in. The most common example is when you start reading a blog, then the images load in, and the text is suddenly in a completely different place. Readers hate this, so Google penalizes it.

Sites with a stable layout have low to minimum CLS. According to the Core Web Vitals, it’s better to have empty frames than for your content to jump around as the page loads.

Largest Contentful Paint – LCP

The LCP or Largest Contentful Paint measures how fast the largest image or text block is visible in the visitor’s view-port relative to when the page first started loading. LCP is the first effective way to measure the load time based on what the user sees on the screen. It also prioritizes usefulness, not just presentability. For example, an empty template would not count, while the bulk text of a blog or the banner picture might.

This determines how quickly users will be able to enjoy the content that they clicked through to see. An LCP of 2.5 seconds or less is ideal.

First Input Delay – FID

FID or First Input Delay also determines how quickly a page is useful. To be specific, it measures the delay from the first time a user tries to control the web page to the time the web page responds. It does not measure response time from when the page started loading.

For example, let’s say the bulk of your blog article loads quickly and stably so you achieve a good CLS and LCP. While your page is still loading, users want to scroll down – but they can’t yet. FID measures how long until the scroll responds, or how quickly they can click a link on your site.

Comparing AMP Templates to New Web Design Standards

When it comes to old AMP template standards compared to the new Core Vitals and web design methods, AMP is clearly an older and less effective technology. The streamlined CSS and JS experience does provide less room for heavy and sluggish web designs. However, the latest in high-speed web design and optimization methods now outstrip the performance once offered by AMP template design.

With Core Web Vitals to rely on, AMP is no longer necessary. Google can identify a brand’s typical page loading and response feeds independently.

Let Ndevr Audit Your Site for Google-Ready Performance

If you are trying to improve your website performance and rank higher in Google search results, you’ve come to the right place. The Ndevr team understands the full evolution chain of site performance and Google SERP preference. If you are thinking about removing AMP from an older content configuration, we’re here to help. Contact us today to schedule an evaluation and get your website ready for modern-day Google-ready performance.

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