AMP won’t be required for Google’s Top Stories, so should you drop it?
According to a new Page Experience Update, Google will no longer require AMP for the mobile version of its Top Stories section in search.
Even though the change won’t happen until 2021, it signifies the importance of page experience when determining which content is shown in the Top Stories section.
So, if it’s no longer a requirement for publishers, should you continue using AMP? Let’s find out.
What is AMP?
AMP is an open-source HTML framework that is used to create fast-loading mobile web pages. Originally created by Google, it can also be used to serve ads and send dynamic emails.
Despite the fact AMP itself is not a ranking factor, it makes web pages much quicker for a better user experience, which Google rewards with higher rankings.
One of the main reasons why publishers continue to use AMP is for the ability to appear in the mobile version of Google’s Top Stories carousel, which can provide content with more visibility than standard search results.
Having said that, implementing AMP means you must maintain a second version of your site, which can be a drain of resources.
For this reason, many publishers are breathing a sigh of relief that AMP will no longer be a requirement to appear in the Top Stories section. Instead, page experience will be one of the new factors that Google prioritises for highlighted content.
What does the Page Experience Update mean for AMP?
AMP can and will still be displayed in the Google Top Stories section after the update comes into force. Google’s Rudy Galfi even said that the majority of AMP pages already perform very well across all page experience factors.
Google wrote “when we roll out the page experience ranking update, we will also update the eligibility criteria for the Top Stories experience. AMP will no longer be necessary for stories to be featured in Top Stories on mobile; it will be open to any page.
“Alongside this change, page experience will become a ranking factor in Top Stories, in addition to the many factors assessed. As before, pages must meet the Google News content policies to be eligible. Site owners who currently publish pages as AMP, or with an AMP version, will see no change in behavior – the AMP version will be what’s linked from Top Stories.”
With one of the biggest incentives for using AMP now gone, SEOs are wondering whether it’s worthwhile anymore. Here’s what to consider:
AMP is still valuable for user experience
The user experience that AMP affords is almost instantaneous, which mobile optimised sites could struggle to compete with. This will remain a driving force for AMP, regardless of its SEO strength.
“For some news publishers, the Top Stories requirement on mobile was an important factor in the decision, while others wanted to move to AMP for the performance increase,” said Glenn Gabe, President of G-Squared Interactive.
Maintain a second site or double-down on mobile experience?
“A lot of the engineering and design teams I’ve worked with have been unhappy having to implement the AMP framework solely for the SEO benefit,” noted Matthew Brown, Managing Director at MJBLabs.
“Given the time and money involved when you’re simultaneously improving your mobile site, I understand the frustration.”
Wait and see what the change actually looks like
No matter your opinion on AMP, it might be wise to wait and see what the SERP changes look like after Google’s update goes live.
“It’ll be a lot of testing, seeing our competitors visibility and how fast their sites are and measuring the cost/benefit of maintaining what is essentially another website,” said Matt Dorville, SEO Manager at BuzzFeed.
So, should you drop AMP?
“For publishers that are already up and running on AMP, I think the decision point will be when the site goes through any major overhaul, like a redesign or CMS change,” Matthew Brown said, “Then the costs of updating everything to AMP starts to look less favourable given it’s no longer a requirement for Top Stories on mobile.”
Before making any decision to drop AMP, webmasters and SEOs should look to see what Top Stories are showing up in their sector. A mix of AMP and non-AMP sites could provide the reassurance required to stick or twist.
The majority of AMP pages already perform well when it comes to page experience metrics. However, some of the requirements for non-AMP pages to appear in Top Stories may be more stringent than maintaining AMP. Therefore, sites that can’t get their mobile performance to a point where it exceeds those requirements should probably stick with AMP.