What is AMP and Should You Run it?

female food blogger photographing fresh produce on a gray napkin in her kitchen

Realizing that content creators and consumers are increasingly living in a mobile-first world, Google launched its AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) project over four years ago now.

With a goal of speeding up mobile pages and improving the experience for publishers and readers, AMP is great in concept.

A library of components allowing you to construct an ultra-fast site, combined with Google’s lightning-speed content delivery network (CDN) and cache, enables you to serve pages to users almost instantly.

It’s an awesome project in theory. So what’s the problem?

AMP is essentially a new programming language, or framework, for the entire web. It’s no longer just HTML, CSS and JavaScript. You’re now programming your website as an AMP site.

It’s not unlike the dark ages of the Internet before responsive websites, when a mobile-friendly, responsive experience required an entirely new version of your website – and significant resources to maintain those two versions.

Alternatively, you could build an AMP only site, for both desktop and mobile, but given how much work that is, it’s not necessarily worth the time and effort to do.

Should Publishers Run AMP?

AMP was originally conceptualized as landing pages of websites for users coming via Google search; effectively, you’d convert your posts to AMP and continue to run both versions.

But as AMP has evolved, so has its framework. Entire sites can now be built for AMP. Should yours be one of them?

The short answer is that we don’t believe most publishers should run AMP.

We fully support AMP and its cause. We’re pagespeed-obsessed freaks as you know. But in our view, there are better, easier strategies to speed up your site than running AMP. Strategies that leave you with more control.

For example, AMP does not allow standard, full-party JavaScript access, even via the recently announced <amp-script> tag. That means ads, including Mediavine’s Script Wrapper, are limited to running inside <amp-ad> units.

What ends up happening is that your ads suffer as a result.

We can’t run our dynamic in-content ad logic, instead relying on manually placing amp-ad units throughout your content. Even the recent amp-auto-ads functionality is limited relative to what our script wrapper can do on mobile.

Plus, there’s the issue of how cookies, programmatic and canonical URLs work in general, since this is all hosted on Google’s own domain.

Combine that with the fact that AMP somewhat de-prioritizes ads, leading to lower viewability, and we end up seeing significantly lower RPMs with AMP than mobile web.

A man using a smart phone.

Will not using AMP hurt Google search traffic?

Four years after its launch, Google still only has one AMP-only “carousel” for search results, and only Google News-approved publishers are eligible for inclusion. If you produce news articles, or celebrity gossip articles like The Hollywood Gossip, and are an approved Google News publisher? Then yes, there may be a lot of traffic to be had from AMP, making it worth your while.

For the majority of our publishers?

You won’t get extra traffic, and the only Google ranking signal AMP may help with is pagespeed. And as we said, there are likely better ways to improve pagespeed than by using AMP. In fact, we’ve found with Mediavine’s own Trellis theme, we’re able to outperform AMP pages using Google’s own pagespeed tools.

A woman using a smart phone.

But, I’m seeing so much AMP traffic lately …

That’s your regular web traffic, now going toward AMP.

Google is “diverting” regular search traffic and sending visitors to AMP. You aren’t getting MORE traffic; existing search traffic will now be diverted to your AMP pages. Pinterest and other sites that also support AMP will do the same.

In effect, by going all-in on AMP, you may be taking your existing traffic, converting it to AMP pages and seeing lower RPMs as a result. You didn’t improve your overall traffic or revenue.

How do I roll back AMP?

We recommend NOT 301-ing AMP pages over to your regular pages; 301s are permanent. Instead, consider doing a slower walk back.

AMP pages work via your regular web pages, or canonical pages, having a link over to your AMP page. Just remove that link.

Over time, Google, Pinterest and others will simply stop sending traffic to your AMP pages and you’ll cause no long-term damage to your site.

Best of all, if you run WordPress and the Mediavine Control Panel, we actually offer this feature built-in.

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