First of all, let us clarify what Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP for short) are. This is a technology which — as the name already suggests — primarily serves to accelerate surfing on mobile devices. It aims to make multimedia content and of course advertising available up to 85% faster. On the technical side, it is HTML code that immediately loads only the sections of a website that are relevant for the user — i.e. the first section on the display. The remaining information on the page is loaded later or not at all.
Facebook Instant Articles (IA for short) function in a similar fashion: For example, if a newspaper publishes an article, the user can view the full content of the article in Facebook and does not need to access the newspaper’s (external) website. Because juggling around various tabs on smartphones continues to remain a rather fiddly affair, this can be a true blessing for readers. Facebook itself speaks of a tenfold increase in the speed at which content is displayed and a 70% higher chance that the user actually reads the article all the way to the end.
In other words: Both companies want to make the mobile internet “faster”. However, whether you should blindly follow this trend is a different question entirely.
The greatest advantage of both technologies is obvious: Loading times are drastically shortened, thereby also improving user behavior. After all, slowly loading progress bars cause even interested users to quickly give up. On the other hand, if the desired content is immediately “there” for your visitors, even users with a particularly low attention span will have nothing to complain about.
In addition, this also increases visibility in the corresponding medium. This is because Facebook and Google reward the use of their own technologies with better placement and longer periods of visibility.
On Google, you and your articles will appear increasingly frequently in the mobile search results outside of regular search results. They will be labeled with an AMP icon.
Facebook rewards the use of Instant Articles with greater reach and a longer half-life. They are marked with a lightning bolt icon.
Hence, you can reach your target group more quickly, lower bounce rates, and even perform a little SEO and/or Social Media Optimization at the same time. Hence, through AMPs and IAs, you increase your coverage on the internet, allowing you to reach your target group even in the most obscure sections of the web. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Everything is faster and easier. However, there is always a flip side.
Risks of AMP and IA
Although Google Accelerated Mobile Pages and Facebook Instant Articles allow your visitors to see your content much quicker when navigating the internet, you must consider that this means users may never see your actual website. Articles and news will be read in Google search results and on the Facebook News Feed. Because the entirety of the content is then visible to users, they have almost no reason to visit your website. The information has been found — so why click on a link?
Hence, our hypothetical user would then not come into contact with the rest of your media at all. The other things you have to offer, sell, or provide for discussion will remain hidden from users in the era of AMP and IA. Users will then only visit your website when they are motivated to do so on their own. Depending on the industry, this may be a huge disadvantage. Initially, you may reach more users, but will have to settle for lower conversion rates over the long term.
Furthermore, by doing so you also make yourself dependent on Google and Facebook. If these companies modify the functioning of AMP or IA in the future, you will need to go along with these changes (or remove the code from your website, but probably not without suffering a major hit). In addition, even these giants are not “too big to fail”: We should remember the numerous dotcom bubbles that burst at the turn of the millennium. Or more recently Yahoo, who is now no longer even called Yahoo. Or do you still remember the search engine with the black dog, mySpace, or Lokalisten?
Hence, it cannot be ruled out that Google and Facebook might also suffer the same fate — not today or tomorrow, but it is certainly possible in the foreseeable future. Therefore, the earlier you make yourself independent, the better. And yes, you can do so even using only simple means.
In short: If you rely on Google AMP or Facebook IA, you will no longer get to know your visitors, the contacts remain with Google and Facebook, and you make yourself reliant on them.
Learning from Facebook and Google
Due to the reasons listed above, I therefore advise against using AMP or IA (or both technologies at once) for the time being. This is because in addition to the risks mentioned, Facebook Instant Articles and Google Accelerated Mobile Pages cannot really be implemented in a stable fashion. Their use is effectively limited to blog articles — shops and static pages find practically no representation. There will certainly be solutions for this soon, but only with the risks previously mentioned.
At the same time, the advantages cannot simply be ignored — but you can also partially compensate for them on your own:
You can optimize loading times even with just standard means and without the integration of plugins or additional code. Among other aspects, you should consider the following in particular:
- A minimalist design ensures a higher speed. Animations, sliders (yes you read correctly) not only distract from what is essential — they also greatly affect the speed of your site. Offer your readers the information they are searching for — and no more. Design is still “form follows function” and not “bling bling”. At the same time, ensure that you do not use a design that is too dull or too generic. Visual attractiveness is in itself an advantage, but only if it does not impact performance.
- Furthermore, also reduce the number of features and plugins. With our SEO Plugin for WordPress, for example, you can eliminate the free Yoast plugin, the extension for premium SEO, for news SEO, and for shop optimization. Or simply just the slow loading times of the Dutch SEO tool. The same also applies to other plugins: Compare their speed and scrutinize their added value for your visitors.
- When using large media files, you should not rely on your own server, which is probably much too small, but instead use a stable content delivery network or the services YouTube or Vimeo has to offer. Doing so allows videos (and images) to be delivered much quicker. Furthermore, also experiment with the caching of your website. A well-configured cache for certain content is always an asset, so that not every user needs to reload every single image at each visit. Hence, follow e.g. my guide for performance optimization to increase the speed of your site.
With these really simple tips, you can already drastically reduce loading times and recreate the principle of AMP and IA. By doing so, you also improve your loading times and visitor behavior on your site.
As you can see, Accelerated Media Pages and Instant Articles come with at least as many disadvantages as advantages. Hence, before you jump on the bandwagon with the latest Google and Facebook trends, you should wait and see how this story develops. In the meantime, the best thing to do would be to focus on a minimalist design and top performance.