Jon Fletcher 2020-10-09

Google AMP: 10 Things every publishers should know about Google AMP

Google AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Pages. A glorious boost to the reader experience on mobile, but another platform to build on for publishers. 

If you’re slightly in the dark about exactly what AMP is, how it works, why publishers bother learning it, and a few myths about it upturned. 

1. AMP is not a Google product 

Despite commonly being called ‘Google AMP’, AMP is an open-source framework that is just heavily promoted by Google. AMP came under a lot of criticism because people saw it as Google forcing publishers onto the platform by overly promoting AMP results in SERPs. But AMP has remained an open-source framework, not owned by Google but administered by a committee that aims to maintain the close but clear division between AMP and Google. 

2. AMP pages are made up of three main parts 

The AMP framework is based on three main parts, each designed to optimize mobile web browsing and help pages load faster. The three parts of the AMP offering are:

AMP HTML has custom tags and properties, and a lot of restrictions and it is used to markup existing pages into AMP versions 

This is the Javascript framework for mobile pages that handles resources and asynchronous loading. To keep it light, 3rd-party JS is not allowed on AMP. 

The content delivery network is optional but it can cache pages and optimize performance even further.

3. AMP CSS is restricted to 75kb 

That is part of what it makes it so fast, and part of why it can be a challenge to work with. Fast loading comes at the cost of stripping away anything fancy from the page and delivering a very lean and basic experience. 

For written content, this can be exactly what a reader wants, simple content with no distractions. A study into the performance of AMP showed that AMP content was around 2.5 times faster than regular mobile pages.

4. AMP Connections are limited to 5 ports 

Monetization on AMP is considered tricky because rather than having header bidding JS tags block the page for 2-5 seconds, AMP suggests that publishers use the amp-ad component— a custom ad extension to the AMP library. 

This uses Google's own Real-Time Config (RTC) but limits this to five different endpoints, with a maximum time of a second.

There 5 endpoints are the maximum, and five endpoints being called does not mean five bidders. Other vendors for things like viewability measurement or tracking take a connection space and reduce the amount of demand-side bidders you can call.

5. Server side is the best way to monetize AMP 

But, if you connect server-to-server header bidding, it enables the page to call multiple bidders to compete, without adding latency that will slow the page down. This gives the bidding pool to drive up CPMs, with no page slowdown. 

Client-side implementations take longer to process bids and have a greater likelihood of being blocked by AMP during runtime. Publishers can define the AMP ad element to send a single call to the wrapper's server (for instance, Marfeel's MBid server) using RTC.

6. AMP uses a Google URL rather than your own 

A major surprise for publishers using AMP for the first time is that, despite seeing your content, you won’t see your URL. To make the pages ultra-fast, Google caches content from it’s AMP CDN which means that a Google URL displays in the top bar.

7. AMP has some limitations 

You will hear a lot of good things about using AMP, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t challenging to use. When generating AMP pages you will find that there are limitations:

  • With AMP you must use a simplified version of CSS
  • You can only use the JavaScript library provided by Google AMP.
  • For AMP sites to work, they must be properly validated.
  • Forms are not allowed in AMP pages
  • Any special fonts need to be uploaded.
  • To prevent images from looking strange, height and widths need to be specified.
  • Monetization is limited to 5 connections

8. Structured data in AMP is crucial for displaying in rich results 

One of the joys of AMP is that you can get some real traffic from getting top billing in Google’s rich results. But in order to do so, publishers need to include structured data and follow the Google webmasters quality guidelines: 
  • Provide up-to-date information. Google won’t show a rich result for time-sensitive content that is no longer relevant. 
  • Don't mark up content that is not visible to readers of the page 
  • Don't mark up irrelevant or misleading content, such as fake reviews or content unrelated to the focus of a page. 

You can then check if your structured data has worked correctly for rich results in this validator:

9. You can create visual stories with AMP 

Despite being known more for limitations than possibilities, AMP does offer a very visual medium for publishers to use. The formats of AMP web stories are the same as social media stories. They can contain Text, image, audio, animated gifs, and video. The biggest difference is the potential audience. 

AMP web stories are public on the open web, rather than limited to a network of followers. And, in addition to displaying in Google search results, AMP web stories can also be embedded in websites and optimized for full-screen desktop mode.

10. You need a signed exchanged to display your own URL 

As mentioned earlier, AMP pages display a Google URL rather than the publisher’s. But, it is possible to get your own URL to display. In order to do this, you need to use a signed exchange. This is commonly a complicated procedure so many publishers get around this by using a CDN or platform (such as Marfeel) that has a signed exchange.

To use a signed exchange you need to: 
  • Acquire a supported TLS certificate 
  • Determine which URLs will be signed 
  • Deploy packager to a staging server 
  • Deploy packager to production 

This list may have included more hurdles than benefits, but despite any limitations, the benefits of adding AMP outweigh the work multiple times over. More traffic, better user experiences, and in many cases, higher revenue can all come from creating a well-made AMP process. 

If you would like to generate ready to go, monetized premium AMP pages, click here to get a revenue estimation.

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