This Spring, Google announced it was making seismic changes in the way it ranks sites in its search engine results pages (SERPs). For five years, the technology leader once preferred the use of its Accelerated Mobile Pages for inclusion in its top positions, but this advice has changed.
Any changes in Google’s algorithm can dramatically impact the order of businesses in SERPs and the effectiveness of their marketing efforts.
In this article, we’ll tell you about these changes, and you’ll learn several things that are no longer true about Google’s AMP.
What is Google’s AMP?
Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is a simple, robust platform that helps web designers create fast, user-friendly websites. The technological giant initially created the format in October 2015 as a competitor to Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News. The project moved to an open-source governance model in 2018.
The platform encouraged web publishers to design lightweight pages made a stripped-down source code called AMP HTML. It also encouraged developers to create quality, mobile-optimized content that would load instantly on every device.
Google’s engineers believed that AMP would ensure that sites with rich story content, including videos, graphics, and animated GIFs, could work well with their Smart Ads. Although AMP helped web designers craft better web pages, there was still controversy surrounding the use of this technology.
AMP’s developers addressed the criticism they received in a June 2020 blog.
“While we made a ton of progress in our first few years working on AMP, that progress was not without criticism,” AMP developers admitted. “The criticism largely fell into two camps: concerns about the AMP URL and its potential impact on publisher traffic and the AMP requirement for publishers to be eligible to appear in the Top Stories feature in Google Search.”
Its creators claimed that although they didn’t get AMP perfect on the first try, they aimed to do what was best for the web with the tools they had available.
Changes to Google’s AMP
The community developers made several changes to the technology to make it better. Here are some things that are no longer true about Google AMP.
Outdated Tip 1: AMP uses deprecated URLs, so people don’t know if they’re visiting sites on the open web or cached copies on Google’s servers.
The largest benefit of AMP pages is that they instantly load when users click on them in Google’s search engine. Its near-instant loading worked by requesting content ahead of time. It balanced users’ clicks on results with the constraints of devices and networks. Unfortunately, many said that AMP only showed pages cached on Google’s servers instead of actual visits to the source domain.
These creators built sites based on the platforms that were available to them at the time that incorporated iframe-based loading, which led to URLS they called “suboptimal” in their community blog. These included ones like google.com/amp/www.website.com/. They said even though they had a great UX, they still had an undesirable URL format.
AMP developers acknowledged this criticism and made some changes. They said it was challenging to fix the URL issue. Their engineers wanted pages that instantly loaded on the web while preserving privacy on the platform available.
“We believe that privacy-preserving instant loading web content is a transformative user experience, but in order to accomplish this, we had to make trade-offs; namely, the URLs displayed in browser address bars begin with google.com/amp, as a consequence of being shown in the Google AMP Viewer, rather than display the domain of the publisher,” Google’s engineers said in a statement.
AMP engineers spoke with browser vendors, users, and publishers to ensure that sharing URLs from their technology would be canonical versions from the website, rather than the cached copies.
In April 2019, the company rolled out Google Search AMP results, known as “blue links.” They linked to signed exchanges, which displayed the publisher’s domain when content instantly loaded through Google Search. It became available in browsers that support this web-enabled platform feature. Google’s Chrome hosted it first, and it later expanded to the new version of Microsoft’s Edge.
Outdated Tip 2: Developers Must Use AMP for Pages to Rank in Google’s Top Stories Carousel
Google officially launched its Mobile-first index in 2018, when it learned that the majority of users accessed its website from smartphones and other devices. So, the company switched its platform to spider the mobile version first, instead of the traditional desktop one.
For almost five years, the tech company used AMP technology in its Mobile-first rankings. It also favored its AMP to build mobile-friendly webpages.
Some content creators criticized Google for requiring Amp technology to participate in the Top Stories Carousel feature in its search engine.
“Top Stories was designed to provide users with an equally compelling news experience as other quick-consumption, UX-focused formats. We expected users would engage with more news articles, and they did,” AMP developers explained in a blog post. “Over time, we heard from developers that they’d rather have choices beyond AMP to participate in this feature.”
In 2018, Google started using lessons they learned from their AMP project and applied them to other websites. This year, the company announced a new Search ranking signal that no longer requires AMP for inclusion in their Top Stories Carousel.
The company will also release an updated algorithm, called Page Experience, to determine rankings. It will assign placements based on several metrics that impact the quality of visitors’ experiences on sites. Webpages that offer a superior user experience will grab higher spots in Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs). They will bump sites that provide poor interaction to lower slots. The Page Experience algorithm goes live in 2021.
In a recent blog, Google outlined key Page Experience Signals that will deliver quality experiences for visitors and potentially higher rankings. These include:
- Core Web Vitals – These are the subset of web vitals that should apply to all sites. The page provides a good user experience by focusing on loading, interaction, and visual stability. Google says there are three Core Web Vitals that provide a good user experience. The first is Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), which assesses loading performance. Webmasters should strive for pages to load within the first 2.5 seconds. First Input Delay, which (FID) measures interactivity, must be less than 100 milliseconds. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) is the final CWV. It evaluates visual stability, and sites should have a score of less than 0.1.
- Mobile-Friendly and Safe Browsing– Next, they require sites to be mobile friendly and ensure safe-browsing. It must work well with mobile devices and not contain any malicious code, malware, or deceptive social engineering content.
- Secure HTTPs Sites with no Intrusive Interstitials – Websites should be secure, served over HTTPS, easily accessible to users, and contain no intrusive interstitials. These are pop-up ads that cover most of the page and make for a poor experience for the end-user.
- Good interaction and stable content during load times – Users should be able to quickly and easily interact with the content on your website. It should also maintain optimal load times.
These changes will officially begin in 2021, but web engineers should take this into account when coding websites.
Google’s Rudy Galfi told Search Engine Land that most AMP websites already perform well across the new page experience metrics. Non-AMP mobile sites that meet or exceed the page experience metrics should also rank well in their Top Stories section.
Adjusting for the Upcoming Changes
Developers should optimize their non-AMP pages before the Page Experience launches next year. Although they are no longer required to use AMP to rank in Google’s Top Stories, sites will still need to adhere to its News Content Policy.
It ensures that web providers offer a positive experience for their users and publishing partners. They ask producers to offer original content, offer transparency, and adhere to other requirements. If you’re considering switching from AMP, here are several tips from Search Engine Land to keep in mind.
- Test how your non-AMP pages perform – During an interview with the site, BuzzFeed’s Matt Dorville urged web designers to take a wait-and-see approach before they completely drop Google’s AMP. This process would allow content producers to learn how well their non-AMP sites performed. They should test their pages to see if the amount of web traffic declines when using non-AMP ones. Web publishers that don’t see a drop in visits can make the switch.
- Consider your bandwidth before switching – If your company plans to migrate to a new Content Management System, take into consideration how much time you’ll need to move over AMP. If you don’t have enough internal bandwidth to improve your users’ experience, your company should maintain AMP until you get additional resources.
- AMP vs. Ad Revenues – If your website decides to stop using AMP, it could allow you to explore other options to increase your Ad Revenues; however, it may affect your ranking on Google’s search engine if your site doesn’t meet Google’s Page Experience metrics. For example, if your page loads slowly or uses pop up ads, it could impact your ranking.
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