You have already heard “Mobile-Friendly” and “Mobile First” but it gets way better: welcome to AMP!

“Way better” is sarcasm. Say it like this “waaaay better”.

Last fall, Google announced a pending change – which is a bit of a surprise because Google doesn’t often let us know much about changes ahead of time. The big change was a new initiative called “AMP” or Accelerated Mobile Pages. Google pulled the switch on AMP in the spring. We talked a little about this in a prior Vende Buzz post.

It is all about speed. It’s called Accelerated Mobile Pages for a reason – and it is complicated. Complicated enough that a lot of people don’t get what it is or how to make it work. The lack of understanding goes way beyond the small guys, even some big-time publishers have had a hard time with it – like major media outlets and even the top-5 social media platforms.

It is soooo complicated that AMP has already been “tweaked” with over 100 updates…in 3 months. So if you don’t get it or even know what it is, you aren’t alone. The issue has been enough of a problem that Google has created a whole working group called “Accelerated Mobile Pages Platform”.   It is an open-source project which includes all of those big publishers (and small ones) who contribute ideas, solve problems and share all that knowledge with each other…and you if you want.

AMP is…what?

To understand AMP, we have to walk back a bit. Back to the days where websites were “written” rather than “designed”. It was more about functionality and display of information…with some thought to appearance – but not much. Times have changed.

By now, you should know that 80% of U.S. adults have a mobile device and about one-third of everyone who uses the internet, only accesses it from a smartphone. For everyone, this means that your website has to look good and be easy to navigate from smart devices – that is called “mobile-friendly”. If it isn’t mobile-friendly…well, it looks like junk. Webpages may be the wrong size, buttons are in the wrong place, image files are too large and take forever to load… If you have a website that isn’t mobile-friendly, most people will just stop using it on their phones.

Even mobile-friendly websites were traditionally designed for desktop – and streamlined for mobile. Good enough for some, but to really make it work, your website should be “mobile-first” – designed for a mobile device…and then modified for a desktop.

Mobile-first designs are designed to look good and load fast right from the start – which is important for all those people walking around while using the internet. “Those people” start with the millennials, because way more than half of the under-34 set don’t ever use a computer…and they are really impatient. Statistics show that if a website doesn’t load within a three seconds, nearly 40% will “walk away” and go somewhere else on the internet.

Clunky website pages and short attention spans can mean loss for your business and even though the millennials are the biggest culprits – the impatience has spread. Your website simply has too look good and load fast.

The need for speed

Google is obsessed with speed for good reason and like everything else, it comes down to money. They know that the longer it takes for them to give search responses; the less time people spend on Google and we know what that means to the internet giant….loss of ad revenue.

That speed obsession extended to individual websites too. A while back, Google started including your website speed into search rankings. No longer could you rely on keywords (still important though), websites that load faster are ranked better. Oldy-moldy websites just wouldn’t rank as high as competitors that have faster sites. Not much of a problem if you are the only business in town – but if you have any business competition, you have to compete for website speed as well.

Google is also very “taken with itself” and assumes that everyone has Google ad displays on their sites. So, if Google sends a searcher somewhere and they get irritated and leave, Google’s ads never load. Google loses revenue (so do you if you display Google ads) and – OMG, they might wander off to Facebook.

Do I need to AMP?

To be fair, AMP is optional right now. It was rolled out with publishers in mind – that is the big publishers with content heavy sites. Google wants to have all the attention and being the source of news – is part of the attention. Facebook introduced Instant Articles so people can get their news over there, but Google doesn’t want people on Facebook because Facebook competes for ad revenue.

Google displays news, user navigates to news site which load fast, Google gets ad revenue, people stay on Google and spend less time on Facebook…Google gets more ad revenue. Yep, revenue is most everything, but fear of Facebook is also part of why Google is obsessed.

Google’s AMP will go further than dinging you in search rank. It can actually force your website to be fast. Either you can make sure your site is AMP “compliant” or if you don’t have a mobile-friendly website, Google will simply make it fast for you by taking all the “slow parts” out of it. That may mean that images don’t load, videos don’t appear, fonts revert to “Times New Roman”, banners disappear…buttons don’t work etc. That could leave you with something that looks like Craigslist. Nice.

…and the AMP Project is?

The AMP Project is an “open-source” collaboration about AMP – which means that anyone can contribute and benefit from AMP-related solutions, answers, improvements, discussions, etc. The big publishers – like The New York Times, Vox Media, and…well, just about everyone are participating and business owners are welcome. In addition to technical stuff, the AMP Project will also let users “cache” documents, images, videos and other miscellaneous website “things”. Website owners can upload these things to Google and since Google already has it, the website just refers back to Google’s copy…and it appears, instantly. This is different than having your stuff actually embedded in your website files. All of this happens without the user seeing it – all they see is fast action.

Conspiracy alert: Notice that Google now has control of your stuff. Just say’n.

AMP also has a bunch of tools and tricky gadgets to increase the speed of ads…

Hah, there it is again. Ad revenue.

Check out the AMP Project at…AMP Project.

What’s the point?

AMP is pretty complicated. Scratch that. AMP is really complicated.

We’ll say it again. AMP is complicated. Naturally, Google created a nifty bit of code which you can insert into your website to “help” you make it AMP compliant – meaning super fast. Though Google will tell you that they are being altruistic and simply helping you out….it is Google so…you know, about revenue and Google is pretty ruthless. This will actually be a disaster if you use it. This is what strips all of your clunky stuff out. Don’t use it.

AMP is also “optional” and “designed” for publishers. Frankly, it is way over the heads of all but the best website designers…and they are all working on the AMP Project – for free. If you decide to AMP and decide to do it on your own….well, don’t. Just don’t. This is one place that you really, really, need to hire a qualified designer.

You don’t have to do AMP right now – but you do have to be mobile-friendly, ideally mobile-first. Seriously, you are losing business if customers and potential customers find your website difficult (or even just irritating) on smartphones. Basically, you have THREE seconds or you lose 40% of them. Imagine how many you are losing if a webpage takes 20 seconds…or even just 10?

Mobile-first then AMP, but right now – MOBILE-FIRST.