AMP, Mobile-First Index, SEO?

By the Editor In SEO 2 Comments

It’s a reality:

AMP pages are starting to appear more and more in the search results.

With mobile-first index being spoken about more and more, tying these mobile changes together are essential.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  1. What are AMP & do they influence search rankings?
  2. What is mobile-first index?
  3. What are we seeing in the search results?

What Are AMP & Do They Influence Search Rankings?

During October 2015, Google introduced their Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project. This project has the aim of creating a faster, open mobile web. AMP is a way to build web pages consisting of static content in such a way that they render fast. The idea here is being able to increase the speed in which a visitor to your website is showed the content. The video below provides a good example and break down of why AMP is important:

For a long time, people believed that load speed on a website made a big difference with search engine rankings, and this was true. However, in a recent Google Hangout, a Google representative said that page speed does not effect the rankings of a website when it comes to mobile. Here is the video confirming this (although, it’s not 100% conclusive):

So although Google is saying that they aren’t taking speed into account for mobile, there is somewhat of a question about the importance of AMP then. Sure, AMP may be all about user experience but we all know how user experience is a factor that contributes to a website’s position in the search results. We feel that there is a very good chance that once mobile-first index is rolled out, coupled with AMP, that speed does become a factor that influences a website’s search engine ranking.

Where AMP does play a role in SEO though, as an initial observation, is that Google says 40% of website visitors will abandon any website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. Now, if Google is looking at factors such as bounce rate and interactions on a website, with a slower website these factors will be worse off than a website with better bounce rates and interactions, therefore a faster loading website would lend itself to a better ranking website. As it stands though, Google have confirmed that AMP is not a ranking factor.

What Is Mobile-First Index?

On November 4, 2016, Google announced that most people are searching on Google using their mobile devices. And, as such, Google are going to be making changes to cater for this when it comes to their search results. Up until now, when you perform a search with Google, Google accesses an index of possible results, selects a handful and shows you the results as we’re so used to. When you perform a search on Google via your mobile device, Google accesses this index again, this time it shows you a handful of searches, but does its best to show results that it knows will work best on a mobile device. Therefore, a website needs to have a mobile version / responsive design if it wants to appear well in both desktop and mobile results. However, now Google have said that they’ll be changing things further, instead of having a single index, one may think of Google as having two indexes, one for desktop results and one for mobile results. This puts far more pressure on webmasters to ensure that their websites are both optimised for desktops and mobile devices, more so than ever.

Google are once again stating that if you don’t have a mobile website, you shouldn’t be worried about rankings. However, at the same time they did say that it’s potentially too early to truly make this claim. There is still a lot of information to discover about the mobile-first index, but it’s going to take time to find this information as rumours say that we shouldn’t expect the rollout in the first quarter of 2017.

At the end of the day, when it comes to mobile there really are only three scenarios:

  1. A website is either responsive,
  2. has a separate mobile site, or
  3. doesn’t have a mobile site at all.

You need to decide which of the three scenarios you want to fall in – we’d recommend scenario 1!

What Are We Seeing In The Search Results?

Google AMP Example

If you’re someone who uses your mobile phone often, you should have seen the AMP results regardless of your location in the world. We performed a number of searches on Google to see what the results looked like.

#1 “last friday of the month payday” – Question type query

Result 1: No AMP

Result 2: No AMP

Result 3: No AMP

Result 4: No AMP

Result 5: AMP Result

#2 “latest news 2017” – News type query

Result 1: No AMP (carousel)

Result 2: AMP Result

Result 3: No AMP

Result 4: AMP Result

Result 5: No AMP

Result 6: No AMP

Result 7: No AMP

Result 8: AMP Result

#3 “buy hero 5 online” – Purchase intent query

Result 1: No AMP

Result 2: No AMP

Result 3: No AMP

Result 4: No AMP

Result 5: No AMP

Result 6: No AMP

Result 7: No AMP

Result 8: No AMP

Result 9: AMP result

Evolving The Results

For each of the three query types (question, news, purchase), we then went ahead and performed 5 searches for keywords within the type. Of all the results, the only pattern that presented itself was that the number of AMP results was far more prominent when searching within the news type queries.

Wrapping It Up

In summary, we’ve noted the following:

  • Google have stated, relatively so, that AMP pages will not effect your rankings in Google.
  • Ensuring that your website is mobile-friendly is important, but not necessarily crucial.
  • We believe that these two states will change in due course.
  • There are no clear signs yet that AMP pages are receiving preference across all SERP queries

What we can tell you, though, is that if you’re going to get a website built for your business, you should make sure that it’s built to be mobile friendly, regardless of what we’ve learnt. We don’t feel that it’s crucial at this point to ensure that the website consists of AMP, although with WordPress, for example, there are plugins that assist with AMP rendering.

What is your opinion?