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Introducing accelerated mobile pages (AMPs)

We all know the mobile web is continuing to rise in importance all the time, bringing new opportunities in local SEO and in better ranking for
mobile-friendly websites.

But if you use the internet via a mobile device regularly, you’ll know that a large part of what’s already out there is far from mobile-friendly, whether you use Google’s definition or one of your own.

Sites that won’t scroll, won’t zoom or just won’t load at all are rife, and cross-platform support is thin on the ground too, meaning your experience of the mobile web will change substantially depending on the device you use to access it.

Now an industry-wide initiative with the support of big names like Google and Twitter is seeking to overcome that problem by introducing accelerated mobile pages, or AMPs.

How does it work?

AMP is actually pretty simple – it has been developed using existing technology from the HTML web, so that publishers don’t face too steep of a learning curve to start publishing AMPs too.

It’s still in its relative infancy, but already WordPress have said they will incorporate support for AMPs into their website and blog publishing software, so it may soon be a core component of your content management system anyway.

The theory behind it is to use code that loads quickly, but unlike early mobile web formats like WAP, that doesn’t mean paring back the content itself – plain text is supported of course, but AMP also aims to optimise loading speeds of images, videos, audio and so on.

It also supports caching, so that an image of the page can be stored in the cloud, and this means it will load much faster when somebody visits it via a mobile device.

Optimising user experience

This is just the latest in the industry’s attempts to optimise user experiences on both the desktop and mobile web, many of which are spearheaded by Google.

Already Google have made very clear their commitment to responsive web design, with preferential ranking given to mobile-friendly websites – more on that below.

Google have also adopted microdata and microformats, hidden snippets of code that allow publishers to provide a plain text description of everything from multimedia files to opening hours and recipes, so that pages containing structured data can be included in the search index better.

Where Google gives people the ability to directly influence the interpretation of their website by the search robots, there is always a risk of abuse by unscrupulous web marketers – but AMPs simply speed up the loading time, and it’s hard to see how that could be deemed a bad thing.

Will it affect my ranking?

The million-dollar SEO question is, of course, whether AMPs will move you up, down, or have no effect on your Google rank – and the answer comes in two parts.

AMPs are irrelevant in desktop search, so rankings should be unaffected; like mobile-friendly websites, AMPs only come into play when you carry out your search from a mobile device.

Within the main search results, rankings should be unchanged – but there is a huge advantage for AMPs.

Google say that, when there are relevant AMPs for a particular search query, these will be listed in a new section up top, entitled Top Stories.

Tap on any of these and the page should load instantly, and you can swipe across from left to right to move on to the next result, too.

With a grid of results complete with images, this pushes the organic search results down the page – and potentially off the screen – and this makes AMPs the only way to get first-page screen time in real terms for the relevant queries, which are only likely to increase in number over the coming months.