Marketing | 03.04.2016

Does Google Prefer AMPlified Listings Over Organic?

Recent research data from Google has revealed that 40% of users abandon a website after just three seconds if it doesn’t load quickly enough. The impact of such decreasing user engagement has pushed the tech giant to undertake their latest project – the Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP) – where they collaborate with online publishers such as Twitter and Pinterest to make content quickly and easily consumable.

The purpose of an AMP is to optimize mobile content and enable websites to load instantly in order to keep up with the expectations of mobile web users. According to Google, AMPs will improve load time by 15-85% and with one-tenth of the data consumption. It’s been only four months since its release and AMPs have already enriched the information available on SERPs by providing a seamless search experience.

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How does it work exactly? Basically, an AMP streamlines online content by stripping away HTML, CSS and JavaScript elements to leave behind only the key consumables – text, images, video and ad banners. It is essentially an open-source, non-technical framework called AMP HTML, which is used to optimize mobile templates.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

Google announced that AMPs would be integrated into search engines by February 2016. While AMPs have been in the news since October of last year, Google recently gave an indication that this could become a ranking signal on mobile and could significantly impact the way search engines handle content for the medium.

THE IMPLICATIONS

So what does exactly this mean for brands? We’ve broken them down below.

  • Rankings: To start, ignoring the switch to AMP templates could affect your website rankings. This hasn’t been officially stated but the increasing focus on load time and a recent boost in search rankings for mobile-friendly sites imply that further amends have been made to the ranking algorithms after the Mobileggedon update.
  • Development: This poses an additional layer of maintenance for developers to migrate towards AMP HTML templates. Designs and styling will have to be reconsidered to preserve the overall branding and appeal. Furthermore, since AMPs are steering away from JavaScript, the collection of data for analytics and site ads have to be done through tracking pixels and ‘no-script’ versions of tracking code. Also, ads cannot be directly embedded onto the AMP and will need to rest within iframes on the site. Google has also made it clear that ads will hold a low priority over all other content on the page.
  • Organic results: The update will also start to affect organic results. AMPs cause a disruption in the search experience by gaining preference from being placed at the top of search results, forcing other organic results further down the page. With the inclusion of a fourth paid listing and then the AMPs, organic results get pushed down up to almost three scrolls of the page.
  • Paid search: As of now, the consequences for paid ads are unclear. To start, AMPs might only have an impact on more general terms. There might be opportunities to acquire higher clicks and impressions as a result of users clicking into the ads and then going back to the SERP – the usual behavior of most users.
  • Publishers: Content publishers are likely to face larger consequences. The roll-out places user experience at the center of the mobile search experience but is likely to limit the way in which content is presented. Marketers will have to conceptualize how to position themselves differently on web and mobile websites, taking into account the restrictions they will face.

On paper, an AMP focuses on improving the user experience, but in execution it prioritizes speed over content by removing designs and styling that may resonate with the brand or its web interface. As well, in an effort to further refine the filtering process and devalue spam sites, the websites with useful and relevant content to a search query might get pushed down in the SERPs, simply because they don’t use AMP templates.

These are just the early days of the update and we are still not sure how AMPs will impact local results or e-commerce websites. At present, the AMP carousels only consider long-form content, which is primarily news and editorial. E-commerce and other websites will not be able to compete for the carousel space just yet.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on any changes, so watch this space for further developments.

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