AMP for e-commerce: everything you need to know

Any initiative emerging from the Google headquarters has to be taken into serious account nowadays. You never know how far can go the ideas of the tech giant. In fact, this could very well be the case of this acronym, the importance of which has been increasing in various professional circles related to web development, SEO, and digital marketing in general. We are, of course, talking about AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages).

What is AMP?

Before we get into the into the nitty gritty of what AMP could contribute to your e-commerce, let’s first see what it means: check out this post on AMP written by Jose E. Vicente (Human Level’s Head of Search Marketing). In addition to the article, I think it’s interesting to highlight some of the most important aspects of why and how AMP came to be.

A design adapted to mobile devices and tablets is no longer enough, it must also have a very fast download speed.

AMP was born as a result of the current circumstances, in which Google is betting hard on its mobile-first philosophy. In summary: given that we, as users, are using our mobile devices more and more to browse the Internet, the websites should provide the best possible experience and conditions for mobile navigation, in all respects. Now, seeing how things are developing, it seems responsive design is not enough for Google anymore. It’s no longer enough for the design to adapt to smartphones and tablets, now the download time must be much shorter as opposed to the desktop version of the same site.

In that sense, it was around the beginning of 2016 when Google set the gears in motion, leading a series of changes in parameters set for web development, which initially were to favour media outlets. As a matter of fact, they are accompanied by large European media publishers in this interesting journey, and this great group effort is encompassed in the so-called Digital News Initiative (DNI).

It’s also important to note that AMP is an open-source project, meaning that any web developer can make a contribution in order to help this initiative to keep growing.

AMP is an open-source project, meaning that any web developer can make a contribution in order to help this initiative to keep growing 🖥⌨Click To Tweet

All the work done up until now has resulted in a series of new development conventions, focussed on achieving a significantly speedier download time on mobile devices. And thus the AMP (or accelerated mobile pages) concept was born, and it’s the name we now use to call this type of programming.

What advantages can AMP bring to an e-commerce website?

While AMP was born as a project focussed primarily on media publishers and blogs, allowing users to access information much faster, the truth is, its potential didn’t take long to be exploited in other areas as well. This would be the case of online shopping.

Here are the main advantages of using AMP on an e-commerce website:

Better rankings as a result of a shorter download time

While AMP is not one of the more than 200 ranking factors Google takes into account to establish the position of a website, the truth is, it does indirectly help to get better results. By applying the AMP technology we’ll be optimising our download speed in mobile devices, which does count as an optimisation criterion.

➡️By applying the #AMP⚡technology we'll be optimising our download speed in mobile devices, which does count as an optimisation criterion.Click To Tweet

Increase in conversions and decrease in bounce rate

At the same time, we see an increase in the possibility of reducing our bounce rate, as a lower download time favours user experience and satisfaction, which can serve as an incentive for them to continue browsing our website, going on to enjoy the content of other pages besides the initial target, at a higher speed. In the end, as we always say, taking good care of Google is also taking good care of our users.

This better user satisfaction as a result of a speedy website can well affect the probability of the visitor also becoming a customer of our online shop.

Use of AMP landings in Google Ads campaigns

Many owners and managers of e-commerce stores have assumed the growing need of promoting their shop for obtaining better results. In that sense, using any of the Google Ads variants plays a very important part.

When we use AMP to generate landings linked from our ads in the Ads network we are attracting the prospective visitor with a page optimised for mobile devices, with a much faster download speed for users who access the website from their smartphones, resulting in a much satisfying experience.

In other words, AMP would help our campaigns to be more optimised, making our investment in Ads much more profitable.

Better visibility in search results

AMP icon in Google's Top Stories

In the case of media publishers, news articles using the AMP technology are displayed in Google’s “Top Stories” carrousel in the SERPs (whenever the it makes sense to display such results for the entered search query), and the meta-description includes a small distinctive lightning icon. This helps these results to become more visible, which in turn increases the possibility of attracting traffic.

Same thing applies to e-commerce. If any of our product pages is identified with this distinctive icon, we will see our chances of attracting the attention of a possible customer being increased, as opposed to the remaining results provided by the search engine.

So, is it all pros and no cons?

No, the truth is that AMP applied to e-commerce websites also has certain disadvantages, which we must keep in consideration, before embarking on applying the AMP technology to our online shop.

Design limitations

Using AMP implies being ready to deal with certain design restrictions in favour of better download speed from mobile devices. In fact, this technology implies many limitations in terms of HTML tags, as we can only use those available and known as AMP HTML. This special markup notably restricts many aspects of the code, which affect structure and design.

On the other hand, there’s an order of priority for the elements loaded on the page, with texts appearing first, while images and other graphic elements are moved to a second degree of priority.

This means that the implementation of AMP involves giving up on our content being visually rich, while information in text format is given much more importance. This can be considered a negative aspect by website owners, who are completely turned-off by the idea of giving up an attractive look and feel in favour of having a much faster website.

Early stages (but fast development)

In spite of the AMP project being highly supported at a global level, and there are many businesses and developers who have adhered to this initiative (to a higher or lesser degree), this technique is still in its rather early stages. This means that not all professional developers are very familiar with AMP, and it might prove to be a little difficult to locate sufficiently qualified staff for its implementation.

Nevertheless, the tech world is advancing at great strides. And we can find proof of this in how it’s becoming increasingly easier to create website with e-commerce features, thanks to open-source content management systems (CMS), such as WordPress, PrestaShop or Magento. Now AMP can be implemented using plug-ins in a quite simple way using WordPress, and it’s likely that more similar extensions are in order, in other similar platforms as well.

Added costs

Undoubtedly, the investment we are going to make should be another aspect to consider. Adapting our website to serve AMP will imply using hours of work. Whether it’s in-house or we have to count on the help of external developers, going AMP should involve having a clear idea of the investment we’ll need to make into its implementation.

In the scenario of an e-commerce website being custom-made and built from the ground up, the question will be whether we should invest in AMP technology from the get-go, or leave it for later. Certainly, when we request a technical budget proposal for the development of a new website, it would be advisable to ask the agencies for a full price break-down with regard to the added cost of implementing AMP, as opposed to the investment on a website following more common parameters that do not include AMP.

As I’ve mentioned in the previous point, we can considerably reduce our costs if our website has been created using an open-source CMS, which uses plug-ins, instead of a custom-made solution.

Collateral damage in terms of online advertising

AMP can have a detrimental effect on our website, if we look at it from a perspective of us being advertisers. Imagine that it is our intention to run Google Ads campaigns to promote our shop through the display network, or other affiliate program, on websites or blogs of our interest. If the websites on which we want to place an advertisement are using AMP, the first thing the user will be shown when they enter the website will be the news or blog, and then the ads (amongst which we hope to have ours). This order of content priority established by the AMP technology will make our advertising message less visible.

Should I apply the AMP technology to my online shop?

It’s really up to the e-commerce manager to weigh the pros and cons of AMP, but as I’ve said at the beginning of this post, when Google leads the way with any new initiative, we should give it proper consideration for what the future may bring.

We should also ask ourselves whether it’s possible Google could introduce a change in its algorithm that will make AMP a ranking factor in and of itself. Such a measure, of course, would have to be accompanied by a such a high degree of standardisation, where most of the disadvantages we explore here have been overcome, and this technology has become much more accessible.

On the other hand, it’s always hard to make predictions of such magnitude, of what the future holds for any technology, given the world we live in. It could also mean the evolution of mobile technology might follow a completely different path, enhancing loading time, to the point of AMP becoming unnecessary.

Miguel Ángel Culiáñez
Autor: Miguel Ángel Culiáñez

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