Last year, Google revealed that in 10 countries worldwide, including the U.S. and Japan, more searches take place on mobile devices than on desktop computers. And when it comes to local search for “near me” queries, 88 percent take place on mobile. Mobile searches are then expected to increase 146 percent year over year.
This past February, Google introduced a new programming tool called Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP, to help mobile pages load quicker and perform better. Part of Google’s motive is to protect its own ad revenue. After all, when mobile pages containing ads load quickly and scroll without getting stuck, consumers are less likely to download ad blockers, which can hurt AdWords revenue.
But AMP is more than a way to outfox ad blockers. It’s also great for customers because it gives them a better experience. If it improves your user experience, there’s a good chance it could also improve your search rankings.
Let’s start with an overview of Accelerated Mobile Pages and how it could boost your website’s mobile performance. If you think an amp sounds like something only for stereos or guitars as far as you’re concerned, don’t worry. We’ll help you understand AMPs and give you other hints for making your website mobile-friendly.
What Is AMP?
AMP is a mix of AMP HTML, AMP JS, and Google AMP Cache. This alphabet soup is designed to improve the load speed and performance of mobile pages.
- AMP HTML: adds certain AMP-specific tags to HTML code. You get tools to implement certain page functions even if the visitor’s mobile browser doesn’t yet support it.
- AMP JS: makes every element on your page that comes from an external source asynchronous. Put simply, one ad that’s loading slowly can’t bring every other page element to a grinding halt.
- Google AMP Cache: automatically caches all AMP pages and makes sure they load quickly in mobile browsers. In a sense, this creates a super mobile web of pages that are guaranteed to work and load quickly.
Google originally created Accelerated Mobile Pages to serve publishers, which depend on ad revenue to provide readers with free content. However, many brands, most notably eBay, are now deploying AMP code on millions of their pages.
How Can It Boost Sales and Rankings?
Jim Yu of BrightEdge, a company that offers platforms for measuring content performance, says domains that implement Accelerated Media Pages could score a big advantage when it comes to connecting with customers at four critical micro-moments and should be an integral part of mobile SEO. For example:
- I want to know. When visitors want to learn something while they’re standing in line at Starbucks, their Google search could lead them to your mobile site, which loads fast even with ads.
- I want to go. If visitors want to find a business like yours while they’re out and about, your speedy mobile page could make you their first choice.
- I want to do. Customers often get the urge to grab a bite to eat or do something fun while they’re out. An AMPed mobile page could give a restaurant or other gathering place a competitive edge.
- I want to buy. eBay is a business that lives on those “I want to buy” moments. Their fast mobile pages could be the difference between a shopper buying from them or clicking over to Amazon.
Additionally, by increasing traffic, time on page, and other positive engagement signals for your website, and by making your pages load faster, AMP could dish up an incremental improvement for your search rankings, giving you one more way to get the sale.
I Don’t Have a Mobile Developer. What Improvements Can I Make on My Own?
You can still boost your website’s mobile performance and improve its mobile-friendliness without AMP. These relatively simple changes can make your site better on mobile and better in the rankings.
Make It Readable
If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, your mobile website has a readability problem:
- Do visitors have to zoom in to read text on your site?
- Is it hard for even the skinniest fingers to click links or buttons on a smartphone screen?
- Is your page so wide on a smartphone screen that users have to scroll back and forth just to read the text?
- Are your online forms so tiny on mobile that they’re impossible to fill out?
Start making your site easier to read on mobile screens by switching to a template or theme that incorporates responsive design. Responsive design customizes the appearance of your web pages based on the device visitors are using, preserving important elements while making them usable on mobile.
Improve Load Speed
As far back as 2009, Forrester noted that 40 percent of shoppers leave web pages that don’t load in three seconds or less. High-resolution images, old Flash elements, pop-ups, or excessive ads can slow your mobile web pages to a crawl, causing visitors to click away.
- Get rid of Adobe Flash Player. If your website uses Adobe Flash Player to render videos or animations, it’s time to move on to something else. Flash doesn’t work at all on Apple devices, and while it does work on other devices, it’s slow, buggy, and annoying.
- Compress high-res images. Unless your website relies heavily on high-resolution photography, compress your images before you upload them. Upload high-res photos to a site like TinyPNG to make them smaller before adding them to your web pages. If you use WordPress, try a plug-in called EWWW Image Optimizer to compress new images before you upload them as well as compressing images already on your website.
- Add a caching plug-in. Plug-ins like W3 Total Cache can cache your pages in visitor browsers, which means the browser doesn’t have to reload every bit of code every time the visitor comes back. Pages load more quickly, making visitors less likely to click away.
- Rethink your ads and pop-ups. If your website relies on ads for revenue, consider only showing ads on desktop browsers and not on mobile browsers. You can also choose mobile as your device preference for AdWords to automatically calibrate your ads for great mobile performance. Also, go easy on the pop-up opt-in forms.
Take the Mobile-Friendly Test
Paste your URL into Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test site to get a report of possible issues affecting your site’s mobile performance. For more insights, you can also check your URL on Google Search Console. On the left, click Search Traffic > Mobile Usability.
Now Is the Time to Get Mobile-Friendly
Google unleashed its big Mobilegeddon update in 2015. It followed up with another update in May 2016 designed to increase the effect of the mobile-friendly ranking signal.
If your domain isn’t ready for mobile, it could already be hurting your search rankings. To assess your mobile-readiness and come up with a plan for improving your mobile pages, including finding out whether accelerated mobile pages is right for you, get a complimentary one-on-one consultation with one of our SEO advisors.