We live and breathe website optimisation at This Side Up, so we are always keeping an eye on trends that could benefit our clients. One that we have been monitoring for a while and we believe will become a significant rankings factor in the near future is the Accelerated Mobile Project by Google. You can already see it has been given real estate within Google Search Console which says a lot about it’s importance.
Although smartphones and tablets haven’t been around for as long as computers, they have revolutionised our societies by allowing us to access information on the go. Reflecting the busy lifestyle we have all adopted, they account for over half of all searches on the web and a flock of well-devised Apps makes it even easier to do whatever you want on those devices, from banking, shopping, reading the news, watching videos, playing music and so much more.
So far, however, user experience hasn’t quite kept up, mostly due to the unsatisfactory load speed of pages on mobile devices. The internet culture has made us very impatient. Why would you want to call a contact centre and wait in a queue for 10 minutes when you can fill in a form online in a minute? The same applies to accessing the web over smartphones and tablets: if it takes too long for a page to load, you’ve lost us, and studies show that websites with a poor load speed can experience a bounce rate of up to 58%.
The issue of speediness is a crucial one for content publishers, but even more so for advertisers who can lose the opportunity to convert a visitor into a customer and generate revenue – he or she will simply go somewhere else if the signing-up or registration process is slowed down by content loading.
After intense discussions with publishers and technology companies, Google have announced that they are backing a new initiative called “Accelerated Mobile Pages” (AMP). An open-source project, it aims to improve the performance of the mobile web so that content-rich webpages such as videos, animations and smart ads load almost instantaneously. According to Google, AMP pages load almost four times faster and use about ten times less data than non-AMP pages – this is great news for users who will be consuming less of their data allowance, and pay less in roaming charges when they surf the internet abroad.
Due to the multitude of portable devices and size screens, the code will need to be compatible across most platforms and devices and will rely on a new framework, AMP HTML, which will produce lightweight websites and fast mobile load times.
Almost 30 publishers globally have already decided to take part. News websites New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and the BBC are already publishing AMP content. Website platform WordPress, social media sites Twitter and Pinterest, networking site LinkedIn and Adobe Analytics are but a few of the early adopters of AMP HTML pages. They will be concentrating on key areas such as ensuring that graphics, videos, maps, plug-ins, etc, which make content so much more engaging, are loaded promptly.
Ensuring that the distribution of such content is not hampered by slow loading, the Accelerated Mobile Pages project will also focus on a new way to cache which allows publishers to continue hosting their content while taking advantage of Google’s high-performance global cache: saving copies of the content on its own system enables Google to deliver it more quickly. Google have also confirmed its commitment to supporting a wide range of advertising formats and ensure that they work with advertisers to develop a technology that works for them too.
How does it work, technically?
Accelerated Mobile Pages are HTML pages with a limited number of technical functionalities allowed, which are defined by the AMP specifications and whose files simply use various technical and architectural tricks to prioritise speed.
Another method at the heart of AMP is the extensive using of cloud caching.
When you first visit a website, your browser needs to load every single element to display it: images, styles, content, and any script (programme) that governs the way the website behaves. Caching is the process of temporarily storing this data in the browser’s memory. This way, in subsequent visits, or when you hit the ‘Back’ button, the browser doesn’t have to retrieve all the data from the website again as it can use what it has stored, thus increasing the load speed.
With the AMP format, producers are allowing their AMP content to be available for caching by third parties. They will still control their content, but platforms will be able to cache or mirror it to ensure optimal delivery speed. Google has announced that it will provide a cache usable by anyone for free to facilitate the technology, but using it is not mandatory and any company can build or own their cache systems.
Although the focus on mobile pages is fairly recent, the emphasis put on load speed in general is not new. Since 2010, Google have been using it as one of the parameters to rank websites, and in 2013, they went one step further by announcing that slow-performing sites would be penalised in search rankings. You can see in the image below how AMP enabled we pages will be displayed in SERPs using a thunderbolt indicator.
Having a fast-loading website isn’t the one single factor that will propel your site to the top of the first page of search results, but it is one that it is important to get right, not only from a ranking point of view, but also to provide a good user experience, which could make all the difference between a healthy conversion rate and an ailing website.
Improving a website’s load speed is a rather technical affair best left to professional geeks like us! This Side Up can perform a technical audit of your site and recommend measures to improve its performance. It is well worth the investment, so please contact us on 09 360 2299 or firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how we can help you achieve your goals.