Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) – What You Need To Know & Do ASAP!

Before we dive into AMP, let’s have a quick recap on Penguin 4.0 that recently launched.

By now, you’ve most likely heard Penguin 4.0 now runs in real time and is part of Google’s core algorithm.

Some readers may still be thinking to themselves, “great, so what does that mean exactly?” and that’s a fair question since Penguin no longer “behaves” the way it used to.

In the past, if you had a bunch of spammy links pointing to your site, Google would demote the site (translation: drop its rankings) with a Penguin penalty.

In today’s Penguin environment, though, those links are now DEVALUED and sites are no longer demoted for their past link indiscretions.

This really is the big news here, folks.

That means SEO’s can be MUCH more confident in their link building efforts.

What you may not be as familiar with, but is arguably of similar magnitude for 2016 and beyond, is Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (“AMP”) program and the up-coming “mobile-first” index.

Let’s break this down one at a time and talk about how they fit together in the big picture:

“Mobile-First” Indexing

Google is rolling out what they call their “mobile-first” index.  This means that search results, and rankings, will be based on a site’s mobile version of its content first (and not “Desktop-first” which it has been since Day 1!)

Let that one sink in for a second…

By now, most sites are either responsive or have a mobile counterpart and that’s the good news.  If your site ranks for any phrases now, your mobile version of the same content should – emphasizing the word “should” – rank similarly in the mobile-first index.

But, here’s where things start to get a little more intricate….

Having a mobile-friendly label on your site is one thing (check your site for mobile friendliness using this tool) but do you have the same amount of content on your mobile pages as your desktop version?

Should you even care?

Since Google has said:

“…that it will look at the mobile version of your site. If that has less content on page A than the desktop version of page A, then Google will probably just see the mobile version with less content.”
Source

Most likely, the answer is: Yes, you should care about the amount of content on your mobile pages and whether or not they share the same on-page optimization techniques as your desktop version.

This is exactly why so many people take the responsive design approach vs separate mobile sites.  The content and linking remain the same no matter which version you look at.

If this isn’t the case for you though, you may find your rankings shift if you have less content on your mobile page vs the desktop page that already ranks well.

But beyond responsiveness, what may make an even bigger impact is AMP.  Is your mobile site AMP powered?

What is “AMP”?

AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages.

This is a Google launched open-source project to assist developers in creating mobile pages that load instantly.  Essentially, they want to speed up the mobile web and this is done by having far “leaner” pages which therefore load faster.

If you speak “developer” you can read more about the implementation technicalities here.

But more importantly…

Why Should You Care About AMP?

Google’s Gary Illyes has been quoted saying that Google will give ranking preference to AMP powered pages.

While that alone is enough to use AMP, beyond just that…

“the page speed of your mobile site will determine the rankings of your mobile site and desktop site in Google. Google will also likely look at your title, H1s, structured data and other tags and content generated from your mobile site, and use them over your desktop site.”
Source

As you can see, Google has laid out a pretty straight forward path to ranking well in a “mobile-first” index.

Make sure your mobile site contains the same content and optimization as their desktop counterparts AND make sure you’re using AMP so they load fast.  Done.

Here’s How To Get Started With AMP

If you’re on WordPress, integration is a breeze because using AMP is made extremely simple through just a couple of plugins.

Step #1 – AMP Plugins

There are a lot of AMP plugins to choose from.  Here are a couple we’ve been using.

AMP for WP: https://wordpress.org/plugins/accelerated-mobile-pages/

AMP: https://wordpress.org/plugins/amp/ (Our preferred option!)

By using either of these plugins, you can create dynamically generated AMP-compatible versions of your pages.

That being said, there are a couple of important notes regarding the AMP plugin:

  1. WP Pages and archives are NOT currently supported.  This means they will not have AMP compatible versions for Pages or Archives. (This will likely be fixed soon when the plugins update and evolve)
  2. Your AMP content is not automatically displayed to mobile visitors. What we’re doing here is preparing for future AMP updates from Google (AKA including more and more of these pages into the SERP’s). Therefore, by setting it up today you’ll be perfectly optimized as AMP expands.

    We’ve seen some steady traffic from AMP pages across our datasets, but it’s still very new. However, it’s expanding very quickly so get prepared bnow!

Step #2 – Enable YOAST SEO On All of Your AMP Pages

Since you don’t want to lose all of your YOAST data in the shuffle, you’ll want to be sure AMP uses all your YOAST meta data as intended.

While there are a number of ways to do that, the Glue for YOAST SEO & AMP plugin makes it as simple as possible: https://wordpress.org/plugins/glue-for-yoast-seo-amp/

Step #3 – Test Your AMP Powered Mobile Site

Google has released an AMP testing tool, which you can access here after your pages have been properly AMP-enabled:

https://validator.ampproject.org/

It’s simple to use, just type in the URL of the site/page you want to test, click the “Validate” button and the AMP validator tool will let you know if there are any issues to be aware of.

It will even highlight code issues by showing you the exact line of code that contains the problem – it’s a great tool for your developers to troubleshoot issues.

Final Thoughts

With great change comes great opportunity and that doesn’t ring more true than it does with these recent Google announcements regarding Penguin 4.0, as well as their preference for mobile optimized and AMP-powered websites.

Today’s SEO isn’t just optimizing and building links to your site, it’s not just about content, or on-page optimization, or fast loading, responsive websites.

As it’s always has been, today’s SEO is nothing like yesterday’s, which will look nothing like the picture tomorrow.  SEO is always evolving, always changing.

The key is to be in front of the shifts as they happen and today, that means you need to make sure your mobile site contains the same amount of content and optimization as your desktop version, and without a doubt, is powered by Google’s AMP standards.

Not only will it help you to rank better whenever someone searches for your target terms using a mobile device, but it will also help your desktop rankings too, both now and into the future as more and more of the competition upgrade their sites to AMP standards.

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