5 Reasons to Consider Pumping the Brakes on Google AMP for Your Website

Google’s new AMP (accelerated mobile pages) feature has been marketed as a revolutionary tool for increasing the loading speed of your web pages on mobile devices and possibly even offer SEO benefits.

Google AMP is supposed to solve this common website problem: About 40 percent of people abandon websites if they don’t load in three seconds or less.

On the positive side, Google AMP does do what it’s supposed to do. It makes pages load more quickly on mobile devices, and pretty much all websites that use AMP are seeing an increase in traffic on their AMP pages. It also seems as though all websites are going to have to start using a program to accelerate mobile loading times, in order to stay competitive and maintain good rankings.

However, many people in the tech and publishing industries are speculating that AMP is not a worthwhile service, despite the increase in traffic. Here are five reasons to proceed with caution with Google AMP:

1. AMP pages are generating less revenue


This is a big alarm bell. Many big online publications who have adopted AMP have noticed their advertising revenue on AMP pages has dropped significantly, often by as much as 50 percent. Media outlets experiencing this drop include The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, CNN, the New York Times, Guardian, and Vox Media.

So why are AMP pages getting less revenue when they are increasing traffic?

The answer is in the ads. Google AMP restricts the types of ads that can be displayed on mobile pages. News outlets using AMP now have to rely heavily on banner ads, foregoing the custom ads and pop-ups that bring in so much revenue on their non-AMP pages.

Richard Gingras, Google’s VP of news, said publishers are experiencing this drop in revenue not because AMP is flawed, but because the publishers are not taking advantage of all the ad tools AMP offers.

But Gingras also admitted Google AMP has not yet reached its full potential.

Gingras said Google is still working to improve the program so AMP pages will eventually drive even more revenue than non-AMP pages, but there is no guarantee this will actually happen, as I’ll discuss in the next point.

2. Google has abandoned numerous platforms in the past


In the past, Google has rolled out new platforms and programs that were supposed to be revolutionary and permanent, and then abandoned them because they were ineffective or not profitable.

One example is Google Checkout. In case you don’t remember, Google Checkout was a service similar to PayPal which was supposed to streamline online shopping. It was discontinued after 7 years because it was no longer profitable for Google.

Websites that spent the money to incorporate Google Checkout into their interface had to spend even more money remove it, and the benefits they got from the program while it was running were minimal.

Google also gave up on Google Reader because it wasn’t profitable, and all but destroyed FeedBurner just four years after buying it.

The point is: Google will ultimately make decisions that are profitable for Google, not for its partners. And when Google shuts things down, they leave partners who depended on those programs – or jumped through hoops to accommodate them – hanging out to dry. Given Google’s history, you have to tread cautiously when adopting one of their new platforms.

3. Positive reviews should be taken with a grain of salt


After spending so much money on developing AMP, Google is not going to openly admit that the program is flawed and perhaps unnecessary (I’ll get to that next). So you need to do your research and trust your own instincts about whether it’s worthwhile.

But you also need to be prepared to read between the lines. Is this a genuinely positive review, or a company trying to stay on Google’s good side?

The Wall Street Journal reported that many publishers who had concerns about AMP hesitated to speak on the record, or even to discontinue the program, for fear of what Google might do to them. One exec refused to give a public comment because he was afraid Google might “turn some knob that hurts the company.”

Google is extremely powerful – certainly powerful enough to exert a heavy influence on what their partner companies say about them.

Read critically, and don’t be afraid to question authority, in order to avoid being taken advantage of.

4. You don’t need AMP if you’re already using a content delivery network


Using a content delivery network (CDN) is an alternative method of speeding up your mobile page loading times. A CDN is, essentially, a system of servers located around the world, designed to accelerate loading speeds.

The network will automatically route an individual visitor’s query through the server he or she is closest to, making the page load faster.

Many CDNs will also automatically compress images and erase unused files. A CDN can increase your site loading speed by as much as 50 percent. If you’re already using one, also adopting Google AMP wouldn’t be beneficial.

If you’re not already using a CDN, you might want to consider it as a more valuable and less risky investment than Google AMP. Many CDN companies offer free trials, and they don’t require you to install any hardware or software, so it would be relatively easy to determine whether a CDN is a good option for you.

5. You can increase your mobile loading speeds on your own


You can take steps to increase the loading speed of you website on mobile, without using Google AMP or a CDN.

Disabling plugins

One of the functions of AMP is to disable plugins and other JavaScript programs, which you can do on your own. If you use WordPress, writing the code to disable these features is pretty easy. All you need to do is add some “dequeue” commands to your theme’s functions.php file. The code should look something like this:

if(wp_is_mobile()){
wp_dequeue_script( ‘cufon_handle’ );
}

The above example is what you would write to disable the Cufon plugin, a font replacement tool. But you can write this code to disable basically any plugin, making your pages load faster. (Keep in mind that before you can dequeue a script, it has to be enqueued first!)

Consolidating CSS files

Another step you can take to increase loading speed is to consolidate all your CSS files into a single master CSS reference. You will need to be using a CDN in order to do this, but again, this might be a better option than Google AMP.

Consolidation can help because it’s often the volume of queries, not the weight of individual files, that decelerates loading speed.

To consolidate, you need to set your website code so that it will refer to an external CSS file hosted on your CDN. Before you actually give the file to your CDN, use a tool like CSS Minify to clean it up and compress it.

Should you use Google AMP?

Whether to use or continue using Google AMP is a decision that only you, as a website owner/manager, can make. It depends on the purpose and structure of your website, your skills and/or your staff’s skills, and how much trust you want to place in Google, as a partner.

For those of you who skipped to the conclusion, here’s the TL;DR:

On the positive side, Google AMP does decrease loading times, and it has led to increases in traffic for major websites. Using Google AMP also might be necessary to maintain good rankings on Google.

But on the negative side, the increase in traffic seems to be offset by a decrease in advertising revenue. And the strongest argument against Google AMP is that it’s a redundant program, especially if you are already using other methods of accelerating mobile loading speeds, or have the knowledge and experience necessary to use those methods.

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.

Author: Eric Brantner

Eric Brantner is a blog entrepreneur with numerous high-traffic, thriving websites in various niches. You can find more of his musings on SEO and internet marketing at Scribblrs.com.

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1 thought on “5 Reasons to Consider Pumping the Brakes on Google AMP for Your Website”

  1. Hi Eric,

    I wish AMP would jump in a lake somewhere. I think it’s a ridiculous system. I vowed never to adopt it.

    That is, until I started seeing how well AMP pages are doing in my phone’s browser.

    So I implemented AMP.

    Unfortunately, as much as I think it’s one of Google’s worst moves yet, it seems they give preference to sites using it. I’m thinking they’d give preference to an AMP site, even if it’s not as fast as a non-AMP competitor.

    Hopefully this creature of theirs dies a quick death in a corner somewhere.

    In terms of monetisation, perhaps people should look at alternative ways of advertising, in order to make the most of AMP traffic.

    Thanks for the article and for further fuelling my hatred for this backwards-thinking necessary evil.

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