Does AMP help SEO? Well, let’s start with a quick explainer on what AMP actually means. Then I’ll show you whether AMP for SEO is the right move for you, based on what we did.
What is AMP?
For many small businesses, AMP may be news to you. It means ‘Accelerated Mobile Pages’ and it’s Google’s way of speeding up the web. But, more than that, it’s all about improving the user experience.
AMP requires a stripped-back reduced script loading page that loads in lightning-fast time. Do you know those little lightning bolts by google results? Well, that means its an accelerated mobile page.
This means the page will load quickly but will generally be stripped back of all but essentials.
What got our attention and likely yours was, could AMP help SEO rankings?
What features do Accelerated Mobile Pages Lack?
As an accelerated mobile page can only have limited code size on the page it limits what you can do. In short these are the rules:
- 50 Kilobytes of CSS inline code
- 150KB maximum of all assets and code
This means, if you run webchat, have pop ups, fancy scripts and other widgets, prepare to say goodbye to them. That doesn’t mean you can’t have zero functionality, just you are going to have to compromise.
Our own Shopify site Vapeandjuice.co.uk uses Shop Sheriff, on an enterprise package.
This means we were able to get a little more functionality in, but the page experience is never going to be as hot as a custom theme.
If you haven’t already read it, you may also want to check out our e-commerce start-up guide:
What did AMP do to our functionality?
- We lost our product page – add gift widget
- Our fancy mega-menu with its view all buttons – canned
- We lost our predictive search box
- We lost our delivery countdown timer
- Meta fields that made our product pages unique, they got binned
- Oh, and our read more read less button that secreted reams of SEO friendly text; they went too.
This means our AMP version of the site is not just less visually appealing, it’s also losing some very valuable shop drivers.
Our delivery timer highlighted how long before the dispatch window for the day was still open. While our ‘Add gift widget’ made first time shopping a breeze.
All in all, it is a far stripped back version of our best selves.
Why would you use AMP for your website?
Great question and it came down to one thing only. Page speed and therefore better rankings. We immediately googled ‘Could amp help SEO’, the moment we cam across it. But ultimately we would only know if we tested it ourselves.
And it is true to say some pages definitely ranked well on AMP. In fact in recent weeks, product pages we had never optimised were at number 1 in Google. This led to a host of new customers and more sales.
But the real question is, is whether we may have naturally ranked for those positions without AMP and would our conversion rate have been higher?
The truth is we can’t be sure. But we do know from using Google Search Console, our conversion rate IS higher on non-AMP pages.
You need to work out your AMP SEO compromise
Well you can compromise, or you can decide to go ‘all in’, or ‘all-out’.
Google ranks sites on a number of opaque signals. Hundreds in fact and one of those that is said to be a high scorer is page speed. This is part of their new core vitals update that is coming in 2021.
So our thought, like millions of others, was a faster page speed would lead to better ranking. And that probably is true to a point.
BUT – this is the clincher, Google also ranks bounce rate and time on sight. Bounce rate is the number of people who bounce right off your site and time on site, aka dwell time, is how long they linger.
The thought being, that a low bounce rate and a high dwell time, means more satisfied visitors, therefore better ranking.
This is of course, if the time on site, isn’t them being confused. To clear that up, it’s thought Google looks at conversions too. Essentially, did they buy.
Which makes the question of ‘Does AMP help SEO?’ a little harder to nail down.
A lot of AMP for SEO chat to digest there
For us, we found AMP meant higher bounce rate, lower time on site and subsequently decreased rankings. This means we are now revisiting our site and optimising it for speed without AMP and leaving accelerated mobile pages where there is normally less functionality.
Essentially, can amp help SEO? Yes, can it kill UX on great experiential sites? Yes also. So you need to be strategic.
Some pages that work well for this, certainly from a shopify perspective are:
- Blog lists
I used to have collections on there, but now I only set collections to AMP if they aren’t high level ones. Ie: those that have a well set out filtering system. The ones I can care less about, I have left as AMP.
What to look out for if using AMP on an e-commere site
So a few points to beware of:
- If you’re making use of blogs for content marketing, make sure you only use the native Shopify blog system. Page editors make use of a lot of code and script that won’t appear on AMP.
- Expect to lose the use of a lot of your apps on an AMP page, this means, if you go ‘all-in’, you’re going to be paying those you won’t be using and it means less functionality for visiotrs.
- Ensure you have an option for using your ‘normal page’ on the footer or somewhere visible just to avoid annoying regular shoppers.
- You will have less produt page info options than before, so try adding descriptive icons to your product pictures. Otherwise you may fail to address a browser’s needs.
- Use an AMP app or plug-in with support that is both responsive and can communicate in your own language. AMP devs are hard to find and you will need the support of the plugin or app team more than you think.
Should I use AMP for my site for Better Rankings?
Well that is down to your own needs and where you are in your jounrye. Is AMP necessary long term? Possibly not, especially in areas where 5G mobile will come online. Page speeds will be much faster and at a certain point, 0.1 seconds will not make a sufficicent difference compared to the loss of on page optimisation that leads to sales.
Nice websites make people happy, basic ones look, well, basic.
Our Verdict on AMP for your small business
So did AMP help SEO for us? It’s hard to not conflate things. We have pages that rank great with AMP and others that were high anyway and merely got replaced by less fun versions.
That doesn’t mean it can’t be good though. Our advice, give it a shot, but start small.
Set it to individual pages and monitor those keywords in a rank tracking software. We use RankTrackr, they are the cheapest SEO keyword monitor tool we have found that can do the job.
For $19 you can monitor up to 20 sites and 200 keywords, regionally and by device type. The results you see when you are in the top 100 will show the specific page you’re ranking with too. They do a free trial too.
Check them out, i’ve tried them all, this one is now my go-to:
How do I track my page rankings?
So, say you have 5 blogs that you think is great content but the search engines aren’t agreeing just yet.
Maybe it’s the page load.
Each page should have a target keyword or phrase you have been trying to rank for. Write them down and whack them into RankTrackr and see where they score now.
Now, if you’re on Shopify, we recommend Shop Sheriff, so do Google. (They are Google’s top-ranked AMP platform) Add the plugin and set it to only AMP certain pages.
They have great live support also if you get stuck. This will enable you over the next week to monitor if your pages move up in the search rankings.
Maybe you just stick with blog posts, or perhaps you move to do collections too. Ultimately different platforms have their own user type. Shopify is more geared toward social media ad spenders, while WordPress has historically been home for content marketers.
But if you’re like us who are purely content marketing based but stuck on Shopify, start small.
Thanks for reading, don’t forget to add a comment about your own experience. What worked, what didn’t.Author | David @Deathground
If you want advice on boosting your own business’s online marketing efforts, such as AMP help SEO advice etc, get in touch, here or over at SEO Fairy.