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The Complete Small Business Guide To Accelerated Mobile Pages Technology

Published: August 19, 2019
Author: Martin William Harvey

Chapter 1: What is Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)?
Chapter 2: What Companies Are Currently Using AMP?
Chapter 3: What does AMP mean to Small Businesses?
Chapter 4: Benefits of having Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
Chapter 5: Pitfalls of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
Chapter 6: How We Track Analytics in AMP
Chapter 7: Why We Build All Websites in Custom AMP
Chapter 8: Can I Transfer My Current Website to AMP?
Chapter 9: Can I Just Use The AMP Plugin in WordPress?
Chapter 10: The Future of AMP

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What is Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)?

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is the product of a Google-backed team who created a new standard of code that enables websites to load almost instantaneously. As the mobile interface grew significantly starting in 2013, Google started hinting to the internet world that user experience on mobile devices was going to become a requirement rather than just a suggestion in years to come. In 2015, AMP was introduced to the world as the first code-structure developed with “user-first technology”.

All websites are made with the same coding fundamentals: Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and JavaScript (JS). HTML is responsible for displaying language such as content, titles, images, etc., CSS is responsible for styling the HTML into a work of art and JS is designed to import data and produce animated effects. AMP is what we call a subset of HTML; that means that all AMP code can revert back to regular HTML if needed.

The magic behind is AMP is how it is rendered. Rendering occurs every time a web page is loaded onto a screen whether it is your desktop, tablet or mobile device; rendering is essentially the process of a website loading or buffering so it can be seen and interacted with by the end user. Below is what a normal rendering of a website would look like if it were loaded onto your screen right now.

The main obstacle that comes with reducing the amount of time it takes for a webpage to load is the number of files your browser must open. In the first rendering process, the browser must go through each step individually, not moving on until the file is completely uploaded.

The AMP team saw this process as fundamentally flawed. The browser was unable to multi-task when uploading files, so the more files that needed to be uploaded, the longer it took for the webpage to load.

The image above shows a simple rendering process map, but in the real world each web page can contain over 10 files and if you are using the WordPress platform, then you could be looking at over 80 files, depending on how many plug-ins your website has integrated into it.

The AMP team set out to create a solution to this issue and they did it by simply changing the way files are rendered. Below we can see the same set of files as before but rendered through AMP.

The first thing you probably noticed is that all the JS files are loading simultaneously. In a typical non-AMP website, the developer creates all the files (whether they are custom or a plug-in). The problem with that is each file could be coded a little bit differently (or a lot different if you’re using plugins) making the rendering process take substantially longer. The AMP solution to this is simple, developers are not allowed to use their custom-coded JS files. By changing this simple process, the AMP Js files can be built by the AMP team and render simultaneously eliminating a majority of the load time.

The other difference between the normal rendering process and the AMP process is that the AMP process does not contain CSS files. A typical website, if built with a CMS like WordPress or Wix, can have several CSS files compared to custom static websites that only contain one. However, even loading CSS files slows down the rendering process, so the AMP team eliminated them completely. So how does your website get styled if a CSS file doesn’t exist? Well, with AMP, you just put the code that would have been in the CSS file into the actual HTML file, thus eliminating the time it takes for the browser to load a separate file.

At a high-level this is what AMP technology is. Now let’s see some of the companies that are utilizing this technology to grow their businesses.

What Companies Are Currently Using AMP?

Since its creation, AMP has been widely used by forward-thinking publishing and news-related companies including The Washington Post, Wired, CNBC, Times of India, and Guardian.

These are obviously large internationally recognized companies, but all of them are using AMP technology for a single purpose – to expand their business through creating a better user experience.

Smaller medium-sized companies are also adopting AMP technology.

Renovation Brands is a top 500 e-retailer and is the parent company of several home improvement brands such as American Tin Ceilings, Baseboarders, ElectricFireplaces, Direct.com and RTA Cabinet Store. Renovation Brands switched to AMP to improve the overall customer experience of their websites and the results were real and significant.

  • Traffic coming to the website browsed for 27% longer than previously.
  • This led to 24% more-page views and 30% lower bounce rates.
  • In addition to these statistics average page load times fell from 6.5 to 3.5 seconds and conversion rate rose by 79%.

In 2011, John Webber founded his company Carved in Elkhart, Indiana. Carved is a small company that uses computer-controlled machine tooling to make best-in-class phone cases. Increasing mobile speed became a focus for John when he realized that people were purchasing phone cases from their phones far less often than on their desktops. After Carved changed over to AMP, the results were impressive.

  • Every page on the website experienced an on average 37% faster load time.
  • This led to a 33% lower bounce rate.
  • Which in turn produced a 75% higher conversion rate than previously.

These are just two real-life examples of how switching to AMP boosted two growing businesses – and all by just speeding the website up!

Check your websites average load speed here.

What Does AMP Mean For Small Businesses?

Up until now, we have looked at how AMP makes web pages load faster and we have seen the impact AMP has on several international companies and two medium-sized American based retailors but, what about small businesses?

Small business owners are often shielded from marketing innovations by the amount of interaction they have with companies that offer innovative marketing technology – which is pretty low interaction.

As a small business owner, the marketing budget is pretty limited and implementing AMP can be a costly upgrade, especially because smaller marketing agencies tend to stay away from adopting these types of innovations and larger companies charge an arm and a leg to recode your website. However, we believe there is finally a way for small business owners to have their cake and eat it to (but more on that later).

As of January 2019, 31 million domains have adopted AMP technology, however that is still only 1.5% of the total website population globally. Although we don’t have direct data as to how many of those websites are owned by small business owners, we can assume since access to this technology is limited and generally comes with a higher price tag the number is small.

So, what does AMP mean for small businesses? It means that there is a gold mine of opportunity!

Let’s break this down further.

If there are 31 million websites that are using AMP, that means there are 1.9 billion websites not utilizing AMP and in a world where Search Engine Optimization rules the organic traffic realm, AMP is a way for small business owners to capture more traffic before their competitors realize that the new technology even exists!

Benefits of AMP

AMP Technology comes with many benefits, especially for small businesses. However, some website designers are skeptical about adopting the technology as a wholistic way of developing websites. Later in the article, we will talk about some of the reasons why some of the marketing community have doubts on adopting AMP, but first we want to highlight the benefits AMP technology can bring to your business.

Instantaneous Page Loading

The AMP team has truly mastered the process of making web pages load at an incredibly fast rate. If you didn’t read how the AMP team did this, we recommend going back to chapter one and learning about how AMP works. With that said, instantaneous page loading is not only great for the consumer, it also provides a nice boost to your websites Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

In January of 2019, Google unveiled their newest algorithm adjustment called: Mobile-First Indexing. In short, Google uses over 200 signals from each individual website to determine where each webpage in the website should be ranked on Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERP). In the past, Google used the desktop version of websites to determine how each page would rank, however as of January 2019, Google will now use the mobile version of the website instead.

What is the difference between the desktop and mobile version of a website? Not a whole lot. With that said, key differences include how large the font appears on the mobile version of the website, how large the images are, how user-friendly the mobile version is and of course, how fast each web page loads.

As a rule of thumb, considering the “remote” aspects of mobile devices such as internet connection (wifi, 3G, 4G, etc.), mobile browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.) and service provider (AT&T, Version, T-Mobile, etc.), we generally anticipate that web pages load 3x slower on mobile devices than their desktop counterparts. Using this assumption, a website must load in less than a second on desktop for the web page to load in less than 3 seconds on mobile devices.

Normal non-AMP websites on platforms like WordPress, Wix and Square Space load in 5 to 22 seconds depending on how many plug-ins are used in the functionality of the website. Static custom-coded websites that do not use AMP generally load in 2 to 4 seconds depending on how much code is used on each web page. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but if we use our previous assumption, that means that platform-based websites load in 15 to 66 seconds and static websites load in 6 to 12 seconds respectively on mobile phones.

This is the main and greatest benefit of AMP Technology. Having a website that loads almost instantaneously has a huge advantage over the websites that load in 5 seconds or more.

Lower Bounce Rates

As phones get faster and society’s demand for instant information increases, people expect websites to load faster than ever before. In fact, whether you want to admit it or not, you are probably guilty of this as well.

For example, let’s say you need to find an answer to a question, most likely you would quickly enter in a Google search and start clicking on links in search of your answer. However, the first website you click on takes forever to load, and since your question demands a quick answer, you quickly backout and try the next link and the next one until your answer is found.

Your demand for quick information is not your fault, societies influences have made it possible to achieve instant gratification and now your business growth demands fulfilling the needs of other equally demanding answer seekers.

Fortunately, AMP is your slow websites saving grace. Websites that switch to AMP see on average a drop of 20% or greater in bounce rates, meaning more people are staying on AMP websites longer than those without AMP.

Lower Bounce Rates = More Conversion Opportunities

Happier Customers

Have you ever called a company with an issue or called a customer service hotline to ask a question? Have you ever called the company then been put in a 30-minute holding pattern? How did it effect your attitude towards the company you were calling? If I had to guess, I would say you were slightly irritated, to put it lightly.

This is the same irritating feeling customers get when your website doesn’t load instantaneously.

In short, websites that load fast make customers happy, even if the experience with the company isn’t always sunshine and daisies. Now, speeding up your website is no excuse for lacking in your customer service department however, by increasing the speed of your website you will reduce one more barrier that frustrates your potential customers.

Pitfalls of AMP

Implementing AMP technology doesn’t come without its challenges and the extent of these challenges can make standard marketing companies and WordPress focused freelancers feel uneasy.

It’s important to note that AMP is not a plug-and-play development process. Unless the website is completely custom designed without templates, you will not see AMP offered by companies who don’t specialize in code or custom website development. With that said, this concept is something we whole-heartedly believe in. From countless hours of research, we know that custom developed websites, made in clean code, have the ability to grow far faster than their plug-and-play counterparts.

To prove this point, below we discuss some of AMP’s “pitfalls” through the eyes of the standard marketing company. In addition, we have also included our solution to each pitfall and how we turn each pitfall into an actual benefit for both the business and the customer.

Restrictions in Website Features

Faster websites, lower bounce rates and increased conversions don’t come without a trade-off. In order for a website to load almost instantaneously, each webpage has to be created in clean AMP code with no plug-ins, other than those approved by the AMP team. This also means that styling code (CSS) is limited to 50KB per webpage which can place a hindrance on a designer’s branding style.

With that said, a great number of websites created are not made efficiently. Marketing companies boast about the advantages WordPress plug-ins bring to their clients by allowing businesses to have integrated technology that wouldn’t be already available to them. However, what this actually means is WordPress plug-ins bring advantages to the standard marketing company because although most plug-ins can be built directly into the website with clean (and most of the time, simple) code, marketing companies with little knowledge of code rely on plug-ins to keep them in business knowing that those plug-ins are not in the best interest of their clients long-term.

To some, a 50KB limit on CSS can seem like a rather harsh limiting factor considering that some websites link to CSS files that amount to over 300MB. However, 50KB is more than enough code to create a single webpage (most of ours are 30KB or less). What this limit actually means, is web developers are forced to code websites with the knowledge of how to use code efficiently and most of the time with a strategy; this keeps code usage low without compromising the actual design of the website. It’s not easy and it requires skill, but we are an example that it can be done and with little compromise in branding.

Cost

Cost will always be a limiting factor to businesses small or big and in today’s market AMP websites do not come cheap. With that said, good luck finding pricing information for AMP on the internet and those that do market their AMP specialties, most will only work with large corporations leaving only articles about how developers are resisting AMP because its “hard” to implement.

We know we are among a very small number of businesses that believe in the advantages of AMP technology and the benefits of cleaner, more efficient and user-friendly websites, in contrast to the multitude of “easy-to-make” websites with enormous margins added into their base costs. However, we have seen the impact AMP websites have on the consumer and the businesses that implement the technology, which is why we continue to believe that it is the best solution for building websites with sustainable growth.

Our solution to the cost pitfall is simple, reduce the margins, limit the overhead, and benefit the consumer. First, we adopted a model that reduced margins on the websites we develop opting for a model that is sustainable through long-term relationships with our clients. Second, we limit our overhead by working out of home-offices, continuously striving for a 100% paperless business model and specializing in what we are good at and not attempting to be a catch-all marketing company who does everything and specializes in nothing. We believe in specializing in the few services we offer, because we believe those services are the most impactful for small businesses. Finally, we do this to benefit our clients and their customers. When we keep our pricing at a reasonable level, our clients are not forced to pass along the prices to their customers, which makes everyone happy.

To put it simple, we keep our AMP websites in the same price range as other standard marketing companies that develop custom websites, typically $5,000 - $7,000. This keeps us well below the competitors charging $15,000 - $25,000 for similar services.

Almost Impossible to Implement Yourself

This pitfall of AMP is not a pitfall of developers but that of businesses who built and/or operate their own websites through dashboards and widgets. However, it is true, AMP is almost impossible to implement yourself unless you have a staff on hand that can handle the process, or you have a website with extremely limited content and functionality.

If you have a WordPress website, you may have heard of the AMP plug-in for WordPress. This may be an option for you, however it’s not as easy as the other plug-ins and if not implemented correctly, can break your entire website.

With that said, our solution to this pitfall is again, simple. Although, all our websites are custom coded, free of content management systems or dashboards, we have made managing your content easier and more efficient than the dashboard approach.

With the internet becoming more of a complicated space and search engines demanding fast and more efficient websites, we developed a website management model that both contributes to maintaining your website and ensures your website will be updated, and just like with our AMP websites, we use the same model to keep our website management prices at a reasonable monthly rate.

So, although AMP is difficult for you to implement by yourself, we can help you not only build a fast website, but also manage it and maintain it, so you can focus on growing your business and satisfying your customer’s needs.

How We Track Analytics in AMP

Tracking data is essential to the growth of any website. For instance, how do you know if an article you spent 3 hours writing is driving conversions and producing an ROI if you’re not tracking who viewed the article, converted by signing up for an email campaign, a consultation, or a product? How do you know if the design of your website is engaging if you’re not tracking your bounce rates? How do you know that your social media marketing is driving traffic to your website if you are not tracking traffic sources?

The short answer is, you’re not. Analytics is a powerful tool for all websites not just ones with AMP pages and there are a multitude of third-party platforms that can assist you in your effort of obtaining data.

The most notable and the most used is Google Analytics. It’s easy to implement (a single line of pre-made copy-and-paste code) and looking at the data is intuitive on both desktop and the mobile app.

Thankfully, Google created a solution for AMP and is available to use on all AMP and non-AMP website pages with seamless integration. You can track page views, demographics, traffic sources, events, set goals, link to Google Search Console, Google Ads, Google Data Studio and much more.

Google Analytics is just one of the analytics tools you can use to grow your website, but others exist as well. However, with so much variety out there, we can’t say what works and what doesn’t because we only use Google Analytics as our data source. With that said, any tool or plug-in that requires you to add JavaScript (symbolized in code as "script") is a no-go for AMP pages. Google Analytics gets around this rule by implementing their tracking code with JSON code.

Why We Build All of Our Websites in Custom AMP

In addition to the variety of benefits AMP technology brings to both business owners and their customers, we build all our websites in custom AMP simply because we believe it is the best technology that satisfies a number of important website growth factors. Some of our reasons for choosing AMP are discussed below.

Fast Loading = More Engagement = Increased Conversion Opportunities

First, we have to state the obvious. We have talked immensely about speed in this article but it’s the effects of speed that drive us to use it more and more with our clients.

According to a 2018 study, 53% of users abandon websites if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. That same study discovered that the average website takes 3.21 seconds or longer to fully load.

With this data in mind, that means that no matter how beautiful your website is, how clear the font is, or the quality of your images are, you lose the ability to reach over 53% of your potential customers just because your website doesn’t load fast enough.

This is just simply unacceptable to us. The whole goal of getting a website developed professionally is to increase the profit not reduce it! We take speed very seriously, focusing on driving as much traffic as possible to the website without the high abandonment rate.

Supported By Google

As much as we may hate it as business owners, Google simply owns the internet; well at least 95% of it anyway. Google is the most used search engine in the world averaging over a billion searches a day and making up a majority of small business organic traffic. Sure Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo and others are out there, but they mainly look to Google to decide how they should rank web pages, simply because Google has done it right for so many years.

With that said, AMP is a code-child of Google. Google supported and Google funded, which means that AMP must play a big part in how Google decides to rank websites in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP). This is something that has been verified by Google as well, so using AMP could give you a healthy SEO boost!

Development Efficiency

Creating websites in AMP requires us to continue to find ways to create websites more efficiently. As we discussed in the previous section, developing in AMP means adhering to several strict guidelines including no custom JavaScript development, only 50KB of CSS per page and no external plug-ins that are not AMP approved.

This style of development can seem too big of a challenge for some, but we see it as an opportunity. An opportunity to make more streamlined websites that deliver the same user experience but with less code, and more ingenuity.

Developing in AMP helps us stay on top of our game and ahead of the market for the sake of our clients, their families and their customers.

Continuous Improvement

Since its development in 2015, AMP has made leaps and bounds in the way of functionality and user ability. In 2015, AMP was raw, basic and almost difficult to adapt to; that is in stark contrast to the AMP that over 30 million websites use today.

The AMP team is committed to improving the ability of AMP, which tells us that Google sees a difference in how customers interact with AMP websites and are investing for the long haul. Any product that is continuously being perfected into something that helps our clients get ahead earns our attention.

Increases Quality Score on Paid Advertisements

Up until now, we discussed the benefits of AMP mainly in the realm of organic search engine growth (search engine optimization), however AMP also benefits those who have paid ads through Google Ads as well. Let’s discuss how this works…

Google Ads is an advertising system in which advertisers can bid on certain keywords in order for their clickable ads to appear on the Google results pages or on the Google Display Network (GDN).

For example, let’s imagine you’re a dentist. As a dentist, your services include cleaning teeth, fixing cavities and performing root canals. So, you bid for a number of keywords that include “teeth cleaning”, “cavities” and “root canals” since those searching for these keywords are most likely looking for a dentist.

Once your account is set up and running, every time someone searches in Google for one of your keywords, your ad goes into a Google Auction. The Google Auction ranks the ads competing for that keyword based several factors including:

  • Keyword Quality and Relevance
  • Ad Quality and Relevance
  • Landing Page Quality and Relevance

Together these factors are combined to produce your Quality Score. Google then uses your Quality Score and the bid (cost-per-click budget) you put into the auction and compares them to the others you are competing against for that keyword.

Below is an example of the average Google Auction. As you can see a low bid (max CPC bid) with a high-Quality Score can still rank higher than everyone else competing for the same keywords with much higher bids.

This is where AMP can save you money in your advertising long-term. An important factor in the creation of the Quality Score is landing page quality and relevance. By increasing the speed of your landing pages, in turn you increase your quality score which means reducing the amount you have to spend on Google Ads but still achieving the same or even better results.

It's Flexible

The best part about AMP that separates it from some of the more “bulkier” structures is that it is completely flexible to the needs of your business. AMP can be used on just some of your pages (like landing pages for Google Ads discussed above) or the whole website, if you are looking to boost overall SEO. Bloggers can use it just for their articles to achieve more visibility while small business owners can use it to rank higher than their local competitors.

AMP has many qualities, but with flexibility being an essential part of our business, this quality is one we especially enjoy.

Can I Transfer My Curent Website To AMP?

You love your design, but you want to implement AMP on your website? Transferring your current website to AMP doesn’t have to be a tedious process but depending on what platform you currently use and what functionalities your website requires can require you to make some compromises if you want your website to be lightning fast.

Most service-based (non-eCommerce) websites can be transferred to AMP with little compromise because service-based websites typically require less advanced functionality than an eCommerce website. However, both types of websites can be fully or partially AMPlified.

When transferring your website to AMP, we adhere to the three main guidelines discussed above:

  1. No Custom JavaScript
  2. Only AMP Approved Plug-Ins
  3. 50KB of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) per Webpage

These guidelines require us to build websites efficiently, so they can be both fast and meet our high-quality guidelines. This may require us to adjust your design slightly as we rebuild your website on a pure custom-coded platform, however specializing in the process has enabled us to get websites into the AMP structure with little to no design adjustments.

Can I Just Use The AMP Plug-In For WordPress?

Technically, if you have a WordPress website you can download and use the AMP Plug-In on WordPress to convert your website to AMP by yourself, however we don’t recommend it and here is why…

WordPress partnered with Google on the AMP project back in 2015 as a way to retain users when AMP debuted. WordPress wanted to create a solution that users simply downloaded once and converted the entire website to AMP almost instantaneously without recoding or restructuring.

To the average business owner, this plug-in sounds like a Godsend, almost too good to be true! Well, that’s because it is. The AMP Plug-In doesn’t convert your website to AMP, it only gives you the ability to convert your website to AMP, meaning you still have to basically rebuild your website from the ground-up if you want your website to be an AMP website.

With over 50,000 plug-ins on the WordPress store, WordPress websites whether built by agencies or business owners practically live and die on the ability to use plug-ins to support them. Not only do the use of plug-ins make your website more susceptible to security breaches as shown below, plug-ins also drastically increase the time it takes for your website to load.

Every time a WordPress plug-in is downloaded to a WordPress website it brings its own custom JavaScript, its own CSS files and sometimes multiples of each slowing the website down by seconds for each plug-in. With our AMP guidelines in mind, WordPress plug-ins are simply not meant to be used on an AMP website and are probably the reason why AMP was created in the first place.

The second reason we don’t suggest using the AMP plug-in for WordPress is the conflicting code can either break part or all of your website, sometimes leaving it unusable and only fixable by a WordPress specialist.

In summary, if you are wanting your website to be AMPlified, call an AMP professional and have it done right the first time with little chance of it disrupting the functionality of your current website.

The Future of AMP

AMP has come a long way since its creation in 2015 and all signs are pointing to continuous improvement, growth and business adoption. With over 30 million websites large and small using AMP, it is inevitable that AMP is going to continue to grow.

With AMP being a complete open-source software funded by several companies in the web community, the AMP team has taken a transparent approach to how they convey their Roadmap to the public. Visit the AMP Community to see what they are revealing next, what is currently in development and what improvements they are exploring.

AMP is growing and improving, and we believe it is the future of innovative website development that not only benefits our clients but also benefits the customers who rely on the services our clients have to offer.

Are you ready to be AMPlified?