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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 Art Of Crafting More Powerful Content: 5 Top Tactics from the Experts

Craftsperson working and creating.

Welcome to the second piece in our new multi-part “Collective Wisdom” series of content marketing strategy articles, where you’ll learn proven methods taking you from the beginning of the content planning cycle to its final post-publication conclusion, and featuring insight from some of the world’s most respected and successful digital marketers.

Previously in “How to Boost Your Content Marketing Efforts By Planning Ahead,” we looked at implementing a smart and robust content planning strategy. Now it’s time to take a look at the intrinsically important content creation stage of any successful content marketing campaign.

Crafting Powerful Content

As we’ll explore, skillfully crafting content is one of the most important steps on a successful content marketing journey. After all, content is the centerpiece you present to the digital world — so let’s examine some of the strongest tactics to incorporate in your next campaign.

[bctt tweet="“Crafting content is a mélange in which you wear the varied hats of artist, air traffic controller, plumber, magician, statistician, salesman, marketer, and librarian.” — Lane R. Ellis @lanerellis" username="toprank"]

Tactic 1: Incorporate Appropriate, Effective, and Engaging Visuals

Cinematographe Lumiere Monoco Postal Stamp

Should you use visual elements in your content? Here’s a hint: Yes!

Today’s marketing draws heavily on the use of interesting and compelling images and other visual content to both draw people in and clearly illustrate messages.

It’s no surprise that marketers use more visuals of all types — images, animated GIFs, videos, in-content playable games, and others — than ever before. Over time, a barrage of studies have shown their superior ability for us to remember them. Compared to plain text copy, which by some calculations has only about 10% recall after three days, some 65% of visual content stays in our memories after the same period of time, according to Dr. John Medina’s “Brain Rules” and other studies.

Furthermore, according to HubSpot research, visual content is over 40 times more likely to be shared on social platforms, and brands have become increasingly creative in using techniques including animated GIFs, such as the good examples shown in “10 brands using beautifully creative GIFs right now.”

Videos, graphic presentations, charts and other data visualizations, animated GIFs, stock photos, fine art photos, screenshots, scans, and experimental imagery should all be considered and used to fill your specific content needs. The trick is knowing what to use and where to incorporate it, and understanding your audience helps narrow down the most appropriate and effective visuals for any particular piece of content.

[bctt tweet="“You've got seconds to grab your audience's attention and only minutes to keep it.” — Dr. John Medina @BrainRulesBooks" username="toprank"]

TopRank Marketing Senior Content Marketing Manager Joshua Nite has looked into the importance of choosing dynamic and compelling images to include in written content campaigns, as he deftly explains in “How to Choose Dynamic Images for Your Blog Posts.”

[bctt tweet="“The right visual does more than take up space. It captures attention, creates a little mystery, invites the reader to dig into your carefully-crafted text.” — Josh Nite @NiteWrites" username="toprank"]

Aside from its use in blog posts, great imagery’s power of engagement carries over into the realm of content promotion.

Josh Nite

“Good visuals are doubly important for amplification, too: Your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn shares will all include an image,” Josh noted.

Knowing your intended audience and where they’re most likely to encounter a link to the shiny new content on your website is an important factor in choosing which visual elements will have the greatest pull and engagement.

For example, if your audience is clicking on a link to your new blog post or other content primarily on Reddit, the imagery and overall experience those people expect and find engaging is usually quite different than what someone finding your content on LinkedIn in looking for.

Use authoritative research on user experience to guide the visual imagery you choose, including the latest statistics on these elements, such as those Jeff Bullas has compiled in his “15 Visual Content Marketing Statistics That’ll Blow Your Mind.”

[bctt tweet="“People will forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” — Jeff Bullas @jeffbullas" username="toprank"]

Tactic 2: Make it Easy For Readers to Share Your Content in the Ways They Prefer

Share Scrabble Tiles Image

You can have plenty of winning content in place, but without intuitive and expected methods in place to share your carefully-crafted work, it will likely remain largely a content island unto itself — a phenomena Lee Odden calls Invisible Content Syndrome.

Every audience has their own preferred means of sharing the things they find and love online. So, part of your content creation process should be to see that these methods are fully implemented, whether its as simple as having easily-found social sharing buttons and functionality, offering click-to-tweet messaging, or as advanced as using automatic copying of shortened and trackable URLs.

Heidi Cohen, Chief Content Officer at Actionable Marketing Guide, has gathered together some of her favorite ways of giving readers a variety of ways to share content, in “7 Ways to Get Extra Mileage From Your Blog Posts.”

[bctt tweet="“It’s eye candy that attracts readers by making it easy for them to get the meaning of your post quickly.” — Heidi Cohen @heidicohen" username="toprank"]

Heidi Cohen

More content than ever is including click-to-tweet functionality, as it provides a useful way for readers to quickly and easily share key takeaways or especially insightful quotes, however, it may not be right for your content if your audience is not generally using Twitter.

Tactic 3: Harness the Power of Gamification

Gamification Blueprint Image

Interactive content and entertaining game-based or game-like content, including elements such as quizzes, polls, and surveys, are a proven way to boost engagement and content stickiness, raising time-on-page rates as fast as racking up a high score.

According to data from DemandGen, 91% of B2B buyers prefer interactive and visual content, which should come as no great surprise considering that such content stands out and is often a sign of well-thought-out content strategy.

Caitlin Burgess

Live-streaming platform Twitch has grown to become the twelfth most-visited site in the U.S. according to Alexa data, and its 15-million-plus daily users have helped bring active audience participation into the mainstream, as our own content strategist Nick Nelson detailed recently in his fascinating “How Twitch is Breaking New Ground In Audience Engagement #CMWorld.”

Our own Caitlin Burgess recently examined the power of interactive content in “Interactive Content Marketing: Why B2B Marketers Should Take Their Content from Boring to Bold,” a helpful deep-dive into not only why this form of content creates such strong engagement, but how to best use it in your content marketing campaigns.

[bctt tweet="“The real opportunity with #interactivecontent doesn’t lay in the interactivity itself. The real value creation is in the excitement or connection that you can make with your audience.” — Caitlin Burgess @CaitlinMBurgess" username="toprank"]

Or, as Liraz Rahmin Postan noted in her look at gamification for Outbrain: “As content marketers, it’s so important to keep your audience engaged and motivated to keep going. Fun, game-based and interactive content does this really well.”

Gamification can include video, as our team did ahead of this year’s Content Marketing World conference, with retro 8-bit videos featuring event speakers:

TopRank Marketing digital strategy director Ashley Zeckman shows the entire series of video in “Ready Player One: Top CMWorld Speakers Dish Go-To Classic Content Marketing Combos.”

Tactic 4: Run With Traditional On-Page SEO Tactics

Colorful SEO Dartboard Image

Crafting content wouldn’t be complete without using longstanding, tried-and-true SEO tactics such as basic metadata, some of which are so fundamental that they should always be used. Some of the same metadata elements I first used in 1993 during the pre-Google days are still wise to incorporate, including the ubiquitous-but-important HTML title and description tags.

Eighty-two percent of marketing influencers say that the effectiveness of SEO is generally increasing, according to MarketingProfs and Octos statistics.

Our own CEO, Lee Odden, explores some of these fundamental SEO questions in his “Power Pages and Best Answer Content: Should You Go Long or Short Form?” In addition, SparkToro’s Rand Fishkin, co-founder of Moz, also takes a look at just what SEO means today in his helpful piece “What Does It Mean to "Write for SEO" in 2018?

[bctt tweet="“There's no reason you have to use this old-school junk methodology that became like pseudoscience in the SEO world and had a recent revival. You should be using words & phrases that Google has related to a particular keyword.” — @randfish" username="toprank"]

Rand Fishkin Image

SEO is so ingrained in the structure of the web that it’s been surprising to hear it being given the last rites by some in the industry.

However, from our perspective, SEO is not only still a viable tactic, but also necessary — you just need to put the time into thoughtfully analyzing the data so you can pull actionable insights.

[bctt tweet="“Every marketer has access to this data. It’s time to analyze it and use it to inform your content strategy to create customized, relevant, and insightful content that is more valuable to your target audience.” — @annieleuman" username="toprank"]

Tactic 5: Creativity Is Key For Making Best-Answer Content That Stands Out

Paul Klee Image

No matter how many technical tricks or contraptions you use in a content marketing campaign, the road will be a long uphill one if you don’t present creative and useful information that fills a need for your audience.

Being the best answer is the key tenet of Lee’s “Be the Best Answer: 5 Steps to Grow Influence for Your Brand,” which shows how creating or co-creating relevant and credible content is a vitally important step in a successful digital marketing campaign.

[bctt tweet="“Influence plays an important role in a ‘Best Answer’ marketing strategy.” — Lee Odden @leeodden" username="toprank"]

The best content creation involves both art and creativity, as comic author Scott Adams once summed up by pointing out that, “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep,” or as artist Paul Klee said, “One eye sees, the other feels.”

The greater the creativity you and your team have, the more of an an edge you can have on the competition, and creative content draws audiences in, entertains, and when done well, enlightens. It’s one of the main ways to differentiate your content.

Tying It All Together — What Next?

Tying The Strings Together Image

By incorporating appropriate, effective, and engaging visuals, making sharing easy, harnessing the power of gamification, using fundamental SEO tactics, and offering best-answer content, your content marketing will include the elements that give your strategy a much better chance at success.

These aren’t the only elements you’ll want to include in your content crafting tool bag, however, and next up we’ll take a close look at another group of important content creation tactics as we continue our “Collective Wisdom” series.

In the meantime learn more by catching us at an upcoming conference or webinar, including these four:

  • Pubcon Las Vegas 2018 on October 17 in Las Vegas — “5 Secrets to Growing Influence in Marketing”
  • ITSMA Marketing Vision 2018 on November 7 in Cambridge, MA. — “Influence the Influencers – How B2B technology companies can build brand awareness with content and influence ”
  • MarketingProfs 2018 Marketing B2B Forum on November 15 in San Francisco — “The Confluence Equation: How Content & Influencers Drive B2B Marketing Success”

The post The Art Of Crafting More Powerful Content: 5 Top Tactics from the Experts appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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