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Are AMP Landing Pages All They’re Cracked up to Be? A Look Into Page Speed

AMP landing pages worth the fuss?

For a while now you may have heard the buzz surrounding Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), and—if you haven’t already done some research—you might be wondering what all the fuss is about (or wondering why a landing page and conversion platform like us hasn’t mentioned this trendy topic yet).

Well, we’ll get to all of that! Today we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about AMP as a marketer and why your Google rep has likely been singing its praises.

First up: What is AMP?

AMP is a project that was first announced by Google back in 2015 as a means to serve up mobile pages faster. Accelerated mobile pages use a restrictive HTML format to serve up web pages almost instantly to your visitors, with the added benefit of pages being cached and pre-rendered by third parties (like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Bing News, and Cloudflare).

This is a stark change from waiting for every single element on your page to load and, at its core, it’s a way of developing simple web pages that meet strict guidelines for preventing slow load times. It’s helping bring the internet back to basics.

AMP pages on mobile
How AMP pages look in mobile search results.

Early adopters of AMP included publishers like The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Wall Street Journal. Much like Facebook’s Instant Articles, AMP gave these publishers a way to reach audiences in an almost-instant way (ultimately important for decreasing bounce rate, and signalling to Google your content is satisfying visitors). Since publishers run their business on page views, this was a natural place to start and great fit for AMP.

Google then created extra incentive for publishers by prioritizing AMP articles in their “top stories” carousel. You can currently spot AMP articles in your own mobile search results by looking for the AMP thunderbolt symbol.

Some AMP myths, debunked

The AMP Project has come a long way since 2015, but it’s still having a hard time shaking some of its roots. Here are a few of the myths floating around:

Myth 1: AMP is only for online publishers
AMP landing pages are a perfect match for publishers, but serving up news faster is not its only use case. Believe it or not, even eCommerce brands are increasing their revenue with the same traffic by converting their product pages to AMP.

While this giant conversion over to AMP may sound like a massive undertaking, remember: You don’t need to create an entire AMP mobile website like Aliexpress. You can start with a single landing page that lots of customers reach from organic or paid search. Simply decreasing your bounce rate on the visitor’s first entry and speeding load time up can have a big impact on first impressions, and ultimately your conversion rate.

Myth 2: AMP is owned by Google
We can’t deny that Google has been the driving force behind the AMP technology and its adoption around the world. But despite its massive role in driving AMP forward, the team is insistent that AMP is not a Google project, but rather an open-source project. Although the lion’s share of the more than 500 contributors on GitHub are Googlers, they’re not the only ones.

Myth 3: AMP is only for mobile
It’s true mobile is a huge part of Accelerated Mobile Pages (it’s in the name, after all), but that can be a little bit misleading. As Paul Bakaus from Google explains, AMP HTML is mobile first but not mobile only. He believes you’ll see better gains from AMP on mobile pages, but recommends trying AMP on desktop as well.

What are AMP landing pages good for?

We know that fast-loading pages equal lower bounce rates and higher conversions, and AMP provides an almost foolproof way of achieving fast mobile landing pages. Its strict guidelines for what can be included have speed best practices built in, which is why AMP landing pages have a medium load time in under one second. And let’s be honest: We could all use some extra conversions on our landing pages via speed increases.

So what does AMP mean for SEO?
While an AMP landing page does not necessarily equal a higher search ranking, Google recently announced that, starting this summer, page speed will finally become a ranking factor in its mobile search algorithm.

While Google has always favored content with a positive user experience (speed being a part of that) speed did not previously have a direct effect on the ranking algorithm. Before July 2018, it might be a good idea to do some spring cleaning of your mobile landing pages (swapping out massive images and keeping things small)—whether these pages are accelerated or not.

What do AMP landing pages mean for PPC?
For a long time now, “landing page experience” has played into your Ad Rank on AdWords, and we know that page speed factors into this experience. One of AdWords’ five tips for improving landing page experience is to “decrease your landing page load time,” for which they suggest to “consider turning your landing page into an Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP).”

AdWords expert and ex-Googler Frederick Vallaeys has even called AMP landing pages “the best kept AdWords secret” due to the opportunity for improving conversion rates.

It’s really all about page speed

At the end of the day, the reason you’d create an AMP landing page is to improve your page speed. By creating these pages, you ensure fast load time, but this doesn’t guarantee your content is good enough to keep people around. Page speed is only one factor in a positive landing page experience, and won’t solve the problem of bad content.

Moreover, if page speed is what you’re after, AMP is only one way of achieving it. Even the AMP Project’s website admits that the format puts user experience above the developer experience. Simply put, it’s not the easy way to do things. So before jumping straight into AMP, consider whether or not you can reduce page speed in simpler ways, like cutting back on scripts and image sizes.

Not sure where to start, try running your landing page through our free Landing Page Analyzer for some actionable tips.

What are the limitations?

AMP can do wonders for your page speed, but it doesn’t come without a few caveats. In fact, the reason the AMP framework creates a fast page is because it is so restrictive. AMP is constantly being improved, but it’s still far from perfect. Here are a few limitations to consider before going all in on AMP:

Scripts are often not supported

landing pages built with AMP sacrafice scripts
Photo by Henri L. on Unsplash.

Scripts are a speed killer, period. Support for JavaScript is incredibly restricted in the AMP framework, so if you build an AMP landing page, you won’t be able to add all the scripts you currently use. As an example, if you want to connect your page with your CRM (a pretty common integration via a script), you’d need an AMP version of this script to be supported. Scripts are supported currently on a case-by-case basis and more often than not they’re unsupported at this time.

Analytics aren’t straightforward

Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash.

One of the best features of AMP is also one of its biggest drawbacks. Since the AMP pages are pre-cached, they are served from a different domain than your own. That means that your website visitor might click an ad, then visit your AMP landing page served up pre-loaded from Google.com, and then click through to your website.

This can really throw off your site’s analytics, splitting up your user sessions between your domain and third-party domains. If you’re not comfortable giving up perfect analytics for gains in load time, AMP might not be for you.

Worried about your website visitors seeing inconsistent domains? As of last month, AMP released an update that will keep the display URL as your own domain even if the page is being served from another domain such as Google.com.

Even though AMP Analytics are available, there are a limited amount of options available. Here’s what you’ll be able to track:

  • Page data: Domain, path, page title
  • User data: client ID, timezone
  • Browsing data: referrer, unique page view ID
  • Browser data: screen height, screen width, user agent
  • Interaction data: page height and page width
  • Event data

Setup isn’t super quick
Just because AMPs format is restrictive doesn’t mean it’s a walk in the park to implement. Developing AMP pages could take your developers significantly longer to create than a non-AMP page. They’ll then need to validate that their code ticks all of the boxes of the AMP format and also upkeep the pages to make sure they continue to comply with these restrictions.

Browser versions are limited
A smaller restriction (but one nonetheless) is that AMP only supports the most recent two versions of major web browsers. This means if your visitors are hanging onto a circa 2014 version of Chrome, they won’t see your AMP page.

What naysayers are saying

Like anything, there are two sides to the AMP story. Because of its close ties to Google, some think the company has too much control, using its power to shift the internet to a new way of developing web pages altogether. Some think it’s unfair for Google to pressure companies to adopt the framework in order to reach the top stories carousel or maintain their organic rankings. Others worry that Google could abandon AMP at any moment, after more than 1.5 billion web pages have already been published using the format.

On the other side of the argument, web users are speaking for themselves by abandoning slow pages at a faster rate. They’re also choosing Google more than any other search engine. Although there are alternatives, Google holds 90% of mobile market share. There must be a reason for this, and I’d hazard a guess that it’s because Google gives a better user experience than its alternatives.

From the AMP Project’s website:

“The companies involved in the project want to make the mobile web work better for all — not just for one platform, one set of technologies, or one set of publishers, or one set of advertisers. Making the project open source enables people to share and contribute their ideas and code for making the mobile web fast. We are just at the beginning of that journey and we look forward to other publishers, advertisers and technology companies joining along the way.”

What Unbounce is doing about AMP

This info’s all well and good, but you’re probably wondering: what’s Unbounce—best known as a conversion and landing page platform—going to do about AMP?

I’m glad you asked.

We’re happy to share that we’re currently building AMP capabilities into the Unbounce builder.

We’re premiering this functionality with a tight-knit group of customers in an alpha test before we open up to a wider closed beta of additional customers. The reason we’re working with a small group first is to ensure that we are able to get early feedback while we work on adding more capabilities. We’ll be closely monitoring conversion data from the alpha participants to ensure customers are seeing the value that we think they’ll see with AMP.

Here’s a taste of what it might look like in the Unbounce builder:

What took us so long?

By now you’re likely convinced that fast pages are critical to your conversion rates, and AMP can help, so you may be wondering, what took Unbounce so long to build (let alone talk about) it?

Well, we began investigating AMP and how it would work in the Unbounce builder back in 2017, and our friends at Google have been supporting us along the way. We made the decision not to publicly share our progress on AMP until we officially kicked off the development of our alpha program last month.

Trust us, page speed is something that’s been on our mind for quite some time. Last summer, our team became one of the first to complete Google’s Mobile Site Certification, and in September we returned to Google’s Canadian HQ in Toronto to join the search giant in co-hosting a mobile speed hackathon. Most recently, Google mentioned our alpha at their annual developer conference, and in a few months, they’ll be hosting the very first Canadian West Coast date of the AMP Roadshow right here in our Vancouver office.

Sign up for the AMP Roadshow at Unbounce HQ hosted by Google, on September 5, 2018.

We had hoped to bring you AMP a little bit earlier, but our team has been heads down for the past several months focused on the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Keeping your data safe and secure is our top priority, and we believe it is important to provide you a landing page solution that is GDPR compliant as this sets a critical foundation.

We are proud to say after months of hard work, Unbounce is GDPR compliant. Less than a month ago, AMP also released an update designed to help AMP pages become GDPR compliant as well.

Not sure what we’re talking about? Learn all about GDPR and how it affects your business here. (It’s a big deal).

Our next steps with AMP

Now that we’ve got your data safe and secure via GDPR compliance, our team is full steam ahead experimenting and developing AMP capabilities in the Unbounce builder. We’ve made some great progress and it’s looking pretty darn cool if I do say so myself (seriously, we can’t wait to show you). Once we’ve completed our alpha test, we’ll be widening the scope to a closed beta test.

The progress will look something like this:

  • Alpha >> Closed Beta >> Open Beta >> General Availability >> Public Launch

We’ll be sharing our progress right here on the Unbounce blog, and—if you’re a current customer (or about to create landing pages with us)—we invite you to sign up for early access to the beta once it’s launched.

Not sure whether AMP is for you? You can still achieve faster pages without this markup. Try running your landing page through our free Landing Page Analyzer to get some quick tips on how to improve your landing page today.

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About Daniel Rodgers

A lot of news that you will not see in the paper. A lot of technology that is coming out that will not see in the paper.

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The Latest Evolution of Facebook: The Marketing Low-Down on 5 Recent Changes

Latest Facebook Updates 2018

Latest Facebook Updates 2018

From the Russian ad debacle to the Cambridge Analytica scandal to suffering a major stock price blow just a few short weeks ago, Facebook has been making less-than-stellar headlines the past few months. Users are concerned about their privacy and how their data is being used—and brands and marketers are wondering whether the platform will continue to be a viable advertising and engagement platform.

In an attempt to rebuild trust, ensure better data protection and transparency, the social network is doubling down, again, on their commitment to improving the user experience and creating a fun, respectful community.

As all marketers will remember, the quest to improve user experience started way back in 2015, with the announcement it would be making refinements to its News Feed to strike a better balance between friends, public figures, publishers, businesses, and community organizations. That continued in the summer 2016 with more updates favoring friends and family content—and was still on the move when the first scandal broke later that year.

Of course, these changes didn’t do marketers and brands any favors in the organic reach department. Organic reach had already been declining, and these moves have nearly eliminated its potential. And now, more changes have arrived, presenting new challenges as well as some opportunities.

Below we share the low-down on five of such recent or rolling out changes, what they mean for social media marketers, and some potential next steps to take.

1. A New News Feed

Once again, the News Feed is getting a facelift—a big one. While Mark Zuckerberg announced back in January 2018 that changes would be rolling out throughout the year, a “major update” was announced in April, which Director of Product Management, Mark Hull, details in the video below:

Essentially, meaningful person-to-person interaction is what will carry the News Feed ranking weight, and person-to-page interactions will continue to be second tier. Oh, and Facebook expects people to spend less time on the platform.

This sounds pretty scary for marketers. Most have adapted their strategies to zero-in on fostering engaging discussion, as well as throwing spend behind Facebook’s ad platform (which is also changing and we’ll get to that later).

But before you eliminate Facebook from your marketing mix, there are a few opportunities to consider:

Working with influencers: With Facebook continuing to elevate content from individuals, there may be no better time to start building relationships with industry influencers and thought leaders that you can collaborate with on content.

Read: Death of Organic Reach = New Opportunities for Influencer Marketing

Facebook Groups: As my colleague, Nick Nelson, reported not too long ago, while groups have long been available as a feature on Facebook, the brand-driven “Facebook Groups for Pages” were just rolled out last year. And some brands are seeing traction with them, but this isn’t something you leap into without being thoughtful.

Read: The Question on Many Marketers’ Minds: Should My Brand Start a Facebook Group?

Facebook Stories: Very recently, Facebook insiders asserted that Facebook Stories may very well be the future of connection on Facebook. Once again, as Nick Nelson pointed out: “Facebook Stories are intriguing because they offer a real chance to capture part of a user’s attention — maybe even more than the minimum amount.” And early adopters may secure an advantage.

Read: The Future of Connection on Facebook: How Stories May Change the Marketing Game

2. Stricter Ad Targeting

As of late, most of Facebook’s critiques are a result of their advertising products and practices. By increasing the targeting capabilities of their advertising products, Facebook arguably put users’ privacy at risk. To help correct that perception and protect user privacy, Facebook is making several changes to their advertising platform.

One such update was released in early July, requiring advertisers to state where they acquired people’s information for their custom audiences. Instead of simply uploading a list of emails you want to target as a custom audience, Facebook wants advertisers to take extra steps to ensure those emails came from a reputable source and that the audience has consented to those ads. With this change, Facebook hopes to improve transparency with users about why they see ads from certain brands and how they received their information.

New Facebook Ad Disclaimer

(Credit: Facebook)

In addition, Facebook has also disabled their Partner Categories product, which provided targeting capabilities from third-party data providers to advertisers. This limits advertiser insight into user behavior outside of Facebook (e.g. purchasing activity), making ads appear more natural to users and less “big brother.”

From our perspective, this is good news. Consumers are increasingly wary of marketing and advertising messages and this move can help strengthen the credibility and relevance of your ads and brand. Of course, this is all assuming you can and do confirm your custom audience lists and sources fall within the new guides.

So, if you haven’t already, take the steps to review your custom audience lists and their sources. You need to be able to state if you received the information directly from your audience, a partner, or a combination. If you used a data provider like an advertising or marketing agency, double check that they’ve acquired the data honestly and they agree to Facebook’s Terms of Use.

3. New Data History Tools

Now more than ever, people want control over their data. They want to know what information is stored, who has access to it, and they want to be able to delete it.

Recognizing this need, Facebook announced a new feature called Clear History that will be released “soon.”With this new feature, Facebook is giving users the ability to see the websites and apps that store information with Facebook, and delete that information from their account.

However, Facebook will still retain aggregated analytics, but no personally identifying information will be contained.

“We’ll still provide apps and websites with aggregated analytics – for example, we can build reports when we’re sent this information so we can tell developers if their apps are more popular with men or women in a certain age group,” Facebook says. “We can do this without storing the information in a way that’s associated with your account, and as always, we don’t tell advertisers who you are.

What exactly does this mean for marketers? If you use Facebook plugins on your website (think Facebook Pixel or “Like” buttons on websites), your audience can now see and delete the information that the plugin collects; meaning it won’t be connected to their profile any longer.

Obviously, if users take advantage of this when it rolls out, clearing their history could be problematic for marketers, and maybe even users. For marketers, it will be incredibly difficult to target these folks with ads. For users, that could mean an uptick in irrelevant ads for a time.

However, the eventual upside for advertisers could be the “re-learning” that needs to happen after a history cleanse, which can lead to a more relevant and accurate look of who your audience is.

4. Poor Customer Feedback = Ban

A poor customer experience really sours your impression of a brand. An to ensure that ads on Facebook lead to positive shopping experiences, and not negative ones, Facebook will now ban brands that have low customer satisfaction ratings from advertising on their platform.

For example, if users give you too many frowning faces shown in the rating system below, Facebook will reject your ads.

Facebook Negative Review Example

(Credit: Facebook)

Before you become too concerned, however, Facebook says it will: “Share feedback directly with businesses that receive high volumes of negative feedback and will give them a chance to improve before taking further action. If feedback does not improve over time, we will reduce the amount of ads that particular business can run.”

So, even if you receive negative ratings, you will have an opportunity to make improvements to prevent being banned.

The opportunity here is obvious. The better customer experience you provide, the more successful your marketing efforts will be. For Facebook ads, this is rooted in focusing on clarity and honesty within your ads.

At a minimum, Facebook suggests taking steps to ensure your ads aren’t misleading. In addition, use images or videos to make it very clear what you are selling and what you are selling it for. It’s also a good idea to set clear expectations for how users will receive your product or service. By setting clear guidelines, you’re more likely to meet customer expectations, leading to more positive user ratings. For more insight, read Facebook’s tips on how to improve customer feedback.

5. All of Your Ads, Exposed

Knowing the organization behind an ad is important. Otherwise, users might not trust the content of the ad. So, to increase ad and page transparency, Facebook now allows users to see all of the ads any page is running within their partner network.

This includes ads on Instagram, Messenger, and the rest of the Facebook partner network. In addition, even if pages aren’t advertising, Facebook will provide more information about a page including name history and the date the page was created. Together, these changes aim to give users more information about an organization so they can decide if an ad is credible or not.

Facebook Ad Transparency

(Credit: Facebook)

For marketers, this change isn’t a bad thing — it may even mean more eyeballs on your advertising content. However, marketers should still be thoughtful about how their ads will be perceived by individuals outside of their target audience.

For example, even if an ad isn’t specifically designed for or served to them, users can still review (and report) your ads. As a result, you need to take extra steps to make sure your ads are consistent, clear, and friendly for all.

The Life Force of Facebook

Long before the scandals and latest privacy concerns, Facebook has been rooted in evolution. Just think what the platform started as and has become. So, while the recent and coming changes seem pretty fierce, I think it’s safe to say we were already on that trajectory. And there’s probably more to come.

Since the major changes that impacted advertisers and brands began rolling out in 2015, Facebook has maintained their actions are all in the interest of creating a better user experience. And at the end of the day, that’s what the goal of any marketer is in their quest to nurture their audience and aid them on their customer journey.

So, it’s OK if you’re a panicked, disheartened, or simply irritated. But, at this point, the platform still holds marketing opportunity, marketers just need to adapt their social media marketing strategies, try new features and avenues, and work hard to ensure they’re part of providing that great user experience.

Looking for more social media marketing news, tips, and insights? Check out all of our recent social media-related blog posts.

The post The Latest Evolution of Facebook: The Marketing Low-Down on 5 Recent Changes appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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