Why are SEOs slow to implement Accelerated Mobile Pages?

A simple blue and white graphic of a speedometer.

It’s been just over two months since Google launched Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), its super-fast brand of mobile webpages running on an amped-up version of HTML.

Accelerated Mobile Pages are designed to speed up the experience of browsing the mobile web, providing page load times which are anywhere from 15 to 85% faster than regular mobile pages. We know that site speed has been a signal in Google’s search ranking algorithms since 2010, and that Google has repeatedly given ranking preference to sites which are optimised for mobile.

Given these two facts, together with the fact that AMP is Google’s own initiative, and it isn’t much of a stretch to conclude that AMP websites are likely to rank much better in search than sites with ordinary mobile webpages.

Yet the first survey conducted since the advent of AMP has found that uptake of AMP among professional SEOs is still relatively low. The survey, carried out by SEO PowerSuite, looked at awareness and uptake of AMP among a pool of 385 SEO professionals in North America and Europe.

Of the respondents surveyed who had control over the decision to implement AMP, less than a quarter (23%) had taken concrete steps to do so on their mobile sites.

Overall awareness of Accelerated Mobile Pages among respondents was high: 75% of the SEO professionals surveyed were aware of AMP. But of these, 21% said they were only aware of the existence of AMP “in passing”, meaning that altogether, nearly half of SEOs (46%) were either unaware of AMP or had only a passing awareness of the feature.

A column graph showing awareness of AMP among SEOs surveyed, with 21% of SEOs aware of AMP "in passing", 35% "have done SOME research" into AMP, 18% "have done A LOT of research" into AMP, while 25% are "not aware" of AMP.

Of those SEOs who hadn’t yet begun to implement AMP on their mobile sites, a high proportion (42%) intended to do more research before making definitive plans. 29% said they had plans to implement AMP in the next six months, and only 5% of respondents said they had no intention of supporting AMP on their mobile sites whatsoever.

The evidence suggests that AMP is fertile ground for getting ahead in search, and a full 80% of survey respondents believed that AMP would have a significant (49%) or moderate (31%) effect on search rankings. So why have SEOs mostly held back from implementing AMP on their mobile sites so far?

A column graph showing the implementation plans for AMP among SEOs. 23% of SEOs are "currently implementing" AMP, 29% are planning to implement AMP in the next 6 months, 42% are "researching" AMP and 5% "have no plans to support" AMP.

Creating an AMP version of your mobile site sounds like a concrete and straightforward way to get ahead in search results, but in practical terms it’s easier said than done. As Damon Kiesow, Head of Product at publishing company McClatchy, told Neiman Lab:

“Everything we know about building a webpage we have to relearn. But we’re relearning it from the premise of converting a current product over, not creating a product from scratch. It’s a fairly complex process!”

Because AMP strips out a lot of the dynamic elements that slow down page loading time, embracing AMP might also mean that SEOs and search marketers have to do away with features that they depend on for business, such as comment systems, lead capture forms and other types of pop-up.

There’s also the very obvious fact that Google’s roll-out of AMP isn’t all that widespread yet. Accelerated Mobile Pages still don’t show up in search results outside of Google.com, meaning that many of the non-US respondents to SEO Powersuite’s survey may be deliberately holding fire until AMP will make a difference to search results in their country.

A screenshot of Google.com mobile results for "EU referendum", showing AMP-ified BBC News stories in the "top stories" carousel at the top of search results.Accelerated Mobile Pages still have yet to make an appearance in search results outside of Google.com

And of course, there is the occasionally-forgotten fact that the world of search consists of more than just Google. In a situation where implementing AMP would take a lot of time and resources, SEOs may be hesitant to go all-in on a feature that will only affect the standing of their mobile site on Google, especially if they market to a country which favours another major search engine, such as China or Russia.

Ultimately, SEOs have to weigh up the potential benefits of getting in on AMP ahead of their competitors and possibly securing a better spot on the Google SERP versus the drawbacks and costs of implementing the new protocol. SEO Powersuite noted in their published results of the survey that, “the delay in quick adoption [of AMP] offers an opportunity for agile marketers to get ahead of their competition in mobile search by implementing AMP immediately.”

They pointed out that getting in early with AMP has the potential to be beneficial for a long time thereafter, because “As any SEO professional working to overtake competitors knows, Google’s institutional memory is long. It can be difficult to get the search behemoth to “forget” (i.e. to stop ranking) brands it has mentally defined as industry leaders and therefore deserving of higher ranking because of AMP support.”

Therefore, investing resources in AMP at this stage could allow SEOs and search marketers to reap the rewards further down the line. It’s still early days, and with relatively few SEOs apparently having staked their claim with AMP so far, the field is wide open for others to make a move if they judge it to be worthwhile.

Part 1 of our DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site series will help you to prove and ensure that your m-commerce project will be a success. It is imperative with every m-commerce site and app that companies carefully consider the strategy and feasibility of the project, before embarking on design and development.

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