Slow sites are bad for business. But accelerated mobile pages (AMP) may be a way to speed things up. Understanding AMP can help your WordPress site load faster, rank higher, and convert better.
Chris Lema, the VP of Products at Liquid Web, offered a webinar to explore Accelerated mobile pages. Here’s a summary below.
Web pages load slowly, especially on mobile devices. 70% of mobile pages took more than five seconds to load visual content above the fold, and more than seven seconds to fully load all visual content on the page.
That’s bad. 53% of mobile visitors leave a site if it takes longer than three seconds to load.
As page load goes from one second to five seconds, the bounce rate increases 90%.
The slower a site loads, the quicker people leave.
It’s a widespread problem. 79% of web pages are over 1 MB, and best practice is half that.
How big is your site? If you’re wondering where your site falls, you can use GTMetrix on any page on your site to see how well it loads and how to optimize it.
Mobile First Is Here
Google understands the widespread use of mobile and how slow load times make for bad mobile experiences. Since time is money, they’re motivated to make the internet faster.
In 2016, Google announced they were going to do mobile first indexing. They’re listing the mobile version of your site before the regular version. They’re paying attention to load times.
Starting now, speed is a major ranking factor.
So if your site is slow, you’re going to have some problems. And you need to consider Accelerated mobile pages.
What is Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)?
Accelerated mobile pages (AMP) are Google’s solution for helping the web get faster.
AMP is a set of standards that introduce constraints in order to deliver reduced load times. It’s an open-source project launched in 2015 by Google—and later joined by others—to focus on mobile and speed things up.
The Makeup of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
Accelerated Mobile Pages is composed of three main things:
- AMP HTML: It’s a lot like regular HTML, but it comes with some code restraints and additional AMP properties. It’s more basic, which maybe doesn’t sound great—but basic is fast.
- AMP JS: The AMP JS library loads everything from external sources asynchronously. It also restricts CSS files to 50 KB. It’s all about speed.
- AMP cache: A proximity-based CDN that delivers JS files and images using HTTP 2.0. This is the magic that makes AMP so much faster.
Accelerated Mobile Pages Results
AMP is more than just something to worry about down the road. 31 million domains are using AMP and there are currently more than 5 billion AMP pages. The project has more than 500 non-Google contributors, so this isn’t some pet project. It’s getting widespread attention and you need to be aware of it.
Also, AMP can seriously work:
- The Washington Post reduced page load times by 88% and saw repeat visitors increase by 23%.
- CNBC reduced load times to 1.2 seconds, a 387% reduction.
Benefits of Accelerated Mobile Pages
AMP has a number of pros that make it worth considering:
- Free and open source: That’s always a great place to start any project. If something doesn’t work the way you want it to, you can get involved in making it better.
- Improve load times: Most of us don’t realize how slowly our sites load. Our sites are cached and come up quickly for us, but that’s not the experience the average user has. You may need this more than you think you do.
- Improve click-thru rates: Fast sites mean more engaged visitors. They find what they’re looking for quickly and are more willing to stick around.
- Enforces a focus on site performance: Sometimes we need to be forced to pay attention to site performance. Everything about AMP is focused on making sites load faster.
- Optimize images: AMP cache will optimize your images for you, literally putting them on their server.
- Optimize font calls: AMP cache also optimizes font calls by making sure a visitor never waits for fonts to load.
- AMP plugins keep getting better: This is a new technology and while there will be hiccups (see below), those issues are being addressed and fixed.
- Only one site: Early AMP implementation meant having two versions of your site. That can cause all kinds of headaches, but thankfully a new version of the main AMP plugin fixes that problem.
However, what most people have heard about AMP isn’t good. The early rollout has generated some negative stories that may turn people off.
- Drop in conversion rates: Since sites are limited in what HTML and scripts they can use, a lot of common forms used for calls to action are lost. So people saw a drop in conversions.
- Lower pageviews by mobile users: Converting to AMP often means dropping sidebars or menus, which means site visitors don’t have as many discovery options. There’s not as much to see, so they don’t click around as much.
- Loss of branding: Some early AMP implementation resulted in WordPress AMP sites that all looked the same. Branding was minimized or dropped entirely. In some cases, when posts were shared on social media they appeared to come from Google and not the original source.
We’re early in the life of AMP and there are bound to be some issues. The good news is that they’re being fixed.
AMP Plugins Getting Better
There are currently two main AMP plugins for WordPress:
- AMP for WordPress: This is the official plugin created by Google, Automattic, XWP, and others. They’re getting really close to rolling out the major 1.0 update, and when they do it will be a major step forward.
- AMP for WP: This is another approach that works really well out of the gate right now. It offers a clean look and maintains your site’s current appearance. There are also a ton of settings and extensions to cover everything you want.
You can get overwhelmed by looking through all the settings and options. There’s a lot going on. But the real bonus is you can implement AMP without writing any code.
Moving Your WordPress Site to Accelerated Mobile Pages
We’re early in the life of AMP. There’s still a lot to figure out. But it’s getting better. In the past, primarily developers were involved. But now it’s shifting to be more owner-centric. AMP is getting easier and better.
The bottom line is that AMP will make your site load quickly. When your site loads quickly, great things happen.
Watch the Adding AMP to Your WordPress Sites webinar with Chris Lema to see Accelerated mobile pages in action.
Kevin D. Hendricks
Kevin runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. He's been blogging since 1998 and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading.
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