Jon Fletcher 2020-08-05

Is AMP important for SEO?

Many people think AMP is a Google product and therefore Google will promote it higher than non-AMP results in SERPs. This is not strictly true. While AMP is highly recommended and actively promoted by Google, it is an open-source project and AMP alone is not a direct ranking factor. Google’s own John Mueller has publicly said stated this:

The confusion around AMP and SEP stems from AMP being built around many of the attributes that are direct ranking factors for Google search results. AMP gives you many of the technical improvements that users respond to and Google prioritizes in search results. 

For most sites, activating AMP involves creating a stripped-down, mobile-optimized AMP copy of existing HTML5 page content. Then when the AMP version is available, users will be served the AMP version, over the canonical page. AMP pages are faster, lighter, generally have better CTRs, and higher user engagement stats—this is what pushes them up SERP rankings.

In this graph, you can see the growth in the number of unique search result pages that contain at least 1 organic AMP page. 

This means having well-optimized AMP versions of already great content will likely have a major impact on your SEO and help you get more traffic—but just being an AMP page is not going to affect your ranking.

We’re taking a look at exactly why AMP is important for SEO and seeing how publishers can use AMP to capture more search traffic.

Speed is a ranking factor, AMP is all about speed

Probably the biggest difference—for the user—with an AMP page is the page load time. AMP pages strip anything but the essential to make their pages load faster. 

We already know that page speed is a direct ranking factor and that mobile users are viciously impatient. Google has shown that 53% of mobile users leave a page after 3 seconds of loading time. 

So, if more than half the users are going to leave the page they land on from search results, it makes sense for Google to push faster pages up the rankings and sink the slow ones. The end goal is to give the user the information they wanted on the very first click from a SERP. Slow pages with high bounce rates make Google look bad, so Google tends to push lower down the results. 

In a Neil Patel analysis of 143,827 URLs, you can see the actual correlation between page speed and page rank.

The table shows that the overall load time is specifically faster for the first five positions with the sixth position an average of 20% slower than the first. 

This is why AMP pages often appear to have been promoted by Google. They are built to outperform regular web pages on speed. 

Measurement tests into AMP performance have shown that AMP pages load around 2.5 times faster than non-AMP versions without pre-rendering in Google's search result page. If pre-rendering is used, this makes the AMP version approximately nine times faster than the non-AMP version. 

The AMP framework and Google cache does this by:
  • Caching images and fonts 
  • Restricting maximum image sizes 
  • Compressing images on the fly, as well as creating additional sizes and adding srcset to serve those sizes 
  • Uses HTTP/2 and HTTPS 
  • Strips out HTML comments 
  • Automates inclusion of resource hints such as dns-prefetch and preconnect
The story is Google wants to promote is always the fastest version of the right answer for the end-users. AMP pages are inherently built to be as fast as possible and generally outperform non-AMP pages so will be pushed higher the rankings.

AMP has great core web vitals

Another reason AMP and SEO are commonly linked is because they deliver the exact experience Google is training webmasters to deliver. 

One of these strategies is to encourage sites to focus on speeding up their Core Web Vitals, which In 2021, will be direct ranking factors. Core Web Vitals are 3 simple metrics that are used across Google’s testing tools, to make it easier for webmasters to improve the most meaningful metrics. The metrics are:

  • Largest Contentful Paint 
  • First Input Delay 
  • Cumulative Layout Shift

In order to be considered fast you need to deliver the core web vitals within the following timeframes.

  • Largest Contentful Paint: To provide a good user experience, LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts loading.
  • First Input Delay (FID): For a good user experience, pages should have a FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Pages should maintain a CLS of less than 0.1.

Now, knowingly or not, AMP is designed around shining on each of these metrics. AMP is built from the ground up to avoid traps that would lead to poor Core Web Vital scores.

Take a look at these major ranking factors—each one is a core element of AMP, as well as Core Web Vitals. AMP pages have very defined ad standards, they are HTTPS by default, designed for mobile, and optimized to deliver each core web vital in faster than average time. 

AMP’s layout system is built to infer the size of resources before it downloads them. This helps stops layouts shifting. Images and ads are only initially downloaded when they are above the fold, or if the user is likely to quickly scroll to them, making the first input delay far faster. And finally, AMP only allows asynchronous JavaScript, allowing the main thread to focus on delivering the largest contentful paint. 

Core Web Vitals is another example of Google making it clear that the search algorithm rewards what the AMP project is already doing, making it chime so well with successful SEO strategies.

Faster pages = longer dwell time

Another factor that AMP can help improve is your dwell time. This is the total amount of time a user spends on your site, across all the pages they click on before they go back to the SERP.

Short dwell time makes Google think that the user didn’t find the content they needed, or the experience was an instant turn off. 

How engaging your content is will be the biggest factor in dwell time, but technical failings will push a proportion of your readers away before they read the first word of your actual content. 

By having an AMP version it strips away other technical possibilities for high bounce rates and lets you see the value of the content for the user. Using AMP can be a good way to isolate places in your content strategy that can be optimized for higher audience relevance, and the SEO benefits that come with that.

AMP pages with structured data are more likely to feature in rich results

As we know, structured data helps crawlers understand the content and purpose of web sites by putting information in recognizable tags. As well as helping Google crawl pages faster, this also enables it to pull bits of information from web pages and display them as ‘featured snippets’.

A Searchmetrics report showed that when just 0.3% of sites were using structured data schemas, these sites accounted for 36.6% of Google’s search results and ranked on average four positions higher than those that did not. A Backlinkio study shows that 8.6% of search clicks go to the featured snippet.

Just having a page with AMP structured data doesn’t increase domain or page authority or user experience, but it means that these pages can be featured in the ‘Rich Results’. Though not available for every query, this can give your page a substantial boost in organic search results. 

Furthermore, by adding structured data to AMP pages makes your content much more likely to be featured in rich results like news blocks. Only 28% of this rich content is taken from non-AMP content. 72% of the content in the news or rich results in Google’s SERP are AMP.

But, AMP still needs quality content

AMP helps publishers improve their results that are direct search signals for page experience. But, page experience is only one component of what helps content rank. 

The quality and relevance of the content is still the integral component of high-ranking content. If you are following the other guidelines for YMYL content, writing long, informative and useful content, AMP will help deliver more mobile readers to your pages. If your content is failing to reach people, AMP will not act as a cure-all to these issues. 

But aside from the work and knowledge required to implement AMP correctly, there are no reasons why publishers should avoid using AMP as a way to capture more search traffic. 

If you'd like to see Marfeel's AMP platform that will generate optimized and monetized AMP pages, click here to speak to our team: 

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