Get AMPed – What you need to know about Accelerated Mobile Pages

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Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 14 seconds

Speed matters on the web.  This is particularly true on the mobile web, where bandwidth and attention spans can both be in seriously limited supply. Slow pages can send users running to our competitors and anything that can speed up our pages has to be a good thing… doesn’t it?

Google announced AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Pages, at the beginning of October and gave us the promise of lightning fast load times on mobile devices. The initiative is new, but already being adopted by a number of publishers and technology provider.  With names like Google, WordPress, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Twitter backing the initiative, Accelerated Mobile Pages have the potential to be a game-changer.

What, exactly, are Accelerated Mobile Pages?

AMP is a framework for building lightweight, stripped down pages that load near instantly on mobile devices. AMP is a clever blend of a number of technologies.  The first is a specification that is effectively a subset of HTML with potentially slow elements removed. Third party script support is removed and JavaScript is limited to fast, pre-defined libraries and no author-written script at all.  Google’s caching can also be leveraged to deliver the lightweight pages even faster.

This isn’t WAP 2.0 though. AMP allows for rich content. Graphics, animation and video are all supported. Text will be loaded first, with images following and rich content and scripts only loading once the essentials have been handled.  Thanks to some clever pre-loading and multi-threading techniques this all happens faster than you might expect.

The results are impressive. In tests, AMP pages are loading up to 85% faster than their full equivalents.

Accelerated Mobile Pages Project

So AMP are like Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News then?

Yes… no… well, sort of. The end goal is similar: Slimmed down mobiles pages that load in an instant.   The key difference, for publishers, is that AMP pages live on your server on the open web rather than being created within Facebook or Apple’s wonderfully manicured, but highly walled gardens.

The fast mobile offerings from Facebook and Apple have undoubtedly been motivators for Google to pursue AMP.  Both competing technologies keep users with their walls, removing the need to visit the open web.  Google, of course, has a vested interest in ensuring that the user experience of the open web doesn’t fall behind in-app alternatives.  The web is Google’s natural habit and where it dominates. It’s only when users are on the web that they generate the data and the ad impressions that fuel Google’s business.

AMP is also Open Source (although very much still a Google project) and open to all. No application process or approval, and any technology provider can build their own integration.

In short, AMP is a technology for publishers whereas Facebook Instant Articles and Google News are business deals open to publishers (or some publishers, in the case of Facebook).

How does this impact ad publishers?

Love them or loath them, ads pay for most commercial content on the web and all three platforms acknowledge the essential need for publishers to monetize their content through ads.   Both Facebook and Apple’s platforms allow publishers to run ads through their proprietary platforms, taking a 30% cut on inventory that they fill.

AMP allows publishers to run their own ads, including through ad networks competing with Google.   Currently, support is in place for ads through A9, Ad Reactor and AdTech by AOL as well as Google’s two networks (AdSense and DoubleClick).  As AMP is open source I’d expect to see others joining that list quickly, but even without them that is a strong initial lineup that should help push revenues.

It’s worth noting that AMP doesn’t prevent ad blocking. Several early articles on AMP described Accelerated Mobile Pages as “Google’s response to ad blocking” and seemed to suggest that ad blocking will be prevented. This is not the case. AMP certainly does prevent most ad tech from running on pages, which will be good news to those with privacy concerns around ads. However, the initiative certainly doesn’t read as a counter attack to the rise of ad blocking.

Being backed by Google, there should not be any surprise that AMP will also support Analytics.

Guardian AMP pages

How to implement AMP on your website

If you are a WordPress user then the good news is that there is already a plugin that will do it for you. Simply install the plugin and AMP versions of your pages will be automatically produced.  Careful to check your canonicals, as these are additional pages with the potential to introduce a whole new way for publishers to mess up their indexing.

It’s free, open source and makes things lightning fast. What’s not to like?

Although AMP sounds like a win for everyone, there are some serious criticisms being levelled at it. With Google having backed responsive design so assertively over the last few years, site owners might rightly be less than enthusiastic about now rolling out “mobile only” pages in the form of AMP.  Worse still, publishers could be looking at producing pages for responsive and AMP in addition to content in Apple and Facebook’s proprietary formats.

The biggest criticisms though are that AMP is essentially a fork of HTML that has been decided by a private company.  The battle for HTML standards has been a long fought one and AMP effectively undoes much of that work, replacing tags like IMG that have existed for decades.  Having decades of work undone by a web giant like Google has understandably upset many in the web standards community.

What every SEO is wondering: Will AMP impact rankings?

Google have said that its algorithms will not favour AMP pages in organic search results.  They did although though remind us that page speed is already a factor in search. In short then “No, but they’ll likely do better anyway”.

AMP Google search

When will AMP be live in the wild?

Google already has a demo of its search running AMP (Visit this link on a mobile device for more information – be sure to read the resulting page).  The promise is that they will start sending traffic to AMP pages “early in 2016”, which should keep a few developers and SEOs busy over the Christmas period.

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Mat has been building, managing and marketing websites since 1996 and now heads up the team at OKO Digital. Mat has solid experience across a range of digital skills, but is increasingly focused on his specialist area of website monetisation.

State of Digital

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Conservative Pundits Need to Grow a Pair and Speak Up for America

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I no longer blame Donald Trump. He’s trying to do what he feels is best. I don’t even blame Trump supporters as much as I once did. They’re getting schooled in the art of the sale and are subjected to arguably the best political sales pitch of all time. I do, however, blame the conservative pundits in the country for holding back on the truth in order to keep their ratings up.

Whether on conservative talk radio, on political publications, or on their television shows, the majority of conservative pundits are being very careful about what they say regarding Donald Trump. The majority of them are educated and experienced enough to see that he has some great talking points and powerful ideologies but that he lacks the skills and understanding necessary to run the country. Unfortunately, their jobs are based upon popularity and ratings. They’ve seen what happens when they lash out against him. A single utterance of direct opposition makes them lose listeners, readers, or viewers.

The more I watch Trump, the more I realize that I don’t dislike him. I definitely don’t dislike many of his ideas (though his tax plan is laughable, but that’s a different topic). I love that he’s framed the conversations around the important issues that affect the country, but I also recognize that he’s spinning the discussion away from the topics and towards himself. This is both by design as well as being a consequence of the man himself. He’s one of the most magnetic personalities in the world. People and conversations gravitate to him naturally.

The bad part is that he’s pointing out important topics and then muddying the waters instead of bringing up real dialogue. His policies are not debatable because they are, for the most part, unknown. Whenever he’s asked how he’s going to do this improbable thing or that impossible thing, his response is invariably “believe me.” Seriously, listen to how he responds to those questions. He has the same response every time regardless of the issue.

The pundits are latching onto his supporters. They are now seeing based upon the numbers that if they somehow defend his ideas, they’ll get more people paying attention to them. They’re right. Saying something positive about Trump and getting him to mention it on his Twitter account or in an interview is quick boost to their ratings. The conservative pundits who guide the talking points of the Republican party are finding that their short-term meal ticket is Donald Trump. That alone is bad, but it gets worse.

There’s another unfortunate reality for most of these conservative media personalities. Their popularity thrives on Democrats. The more anger that people have towards liberals in Washington DC, the more listeners, readers, and viewers they get. It’s the nasty secret that no pundit would acknowledge but the data is clear. The Obama effect on their numbers has been tremendous. It’s like gun sales. The more that Obama talks about guns, the more guns are sold and the more people tune into conservative journalists to hear what they want to hear.

A Clinton White House will be a windfall for them. Now, I’m not saying that any of them want Hillary Clinton to win, but there’s a distinct silver lining to a Trump nomination. Just as it improves their numbers by loosely supporting him, it would improve their numbers if he gets the nomination because they know he cannot beat Clinton in a general election. This isn’t a big conspiracy; none of them want to see a Clinton White House, but it’s in the back of their minds that the worse thing that can happen to them personally is that their ratings will stay steady or go up by supporting Trump and watching him lose to Clinton.

The same people who were bashing Trump a couple of months ago are apologizing for him today. They haven’t come around to his way of thinking. They don’t truly want to see him win. They’ve learned their lessons based upon the times they bashed him, the hate mail they received, and the reduced numbers that ensued. I heard tonight someone who was adamantly opposed to him in the past defending his comments about halting Muslim immigration by calling it a negotiation. They said that he was stating his most extreme idea in hopes of negotiating down to something in the middle.

To anyone with a brain, this makes absolutely no sense. He’s not negotiating anything at this point. He’s selling himself, his brand, and his ideas. The man has some of the strongest negotiating skills in the business world but he’s flexing those muscles with these statements. He’s pitching himself. To call it part of a negotiation while he’s running for the nomination is blatantly wrong and pundits know this. They’re grasping for any justification they can find in order to not bash him or his unconstitutional ideas.

They’re terrified that he’ll say something bad about them. They’re scared that he won’t go on their show or do their interview. They’re worried about how his supporters will react if they tell the truth.

This may all sound like Trump bashing but it’s really not. Again, I’m not against him as a person and I respect what he’s trying to do. Moreover, I’m extremely impressed with the skill he’s been displaying when it comes to using his sales acumen to pitch voters. It’s nothing short of brilliant. I can’t wait to see what he does when the election is over.

Now is not the time to be looking at ratings. The pundits are being shortsighted by doing so because they will be called out for it if he’s nominated. Why? Because a Trump nomination means a landslide victory for Clinton. Trump will lose worse than Bob Dole. If he doesn’t get the nomination and feels inclined to run as a third-party candidate, the same thing will result. This is the year when we have the most negative sentiment towards the Democrats and the weakest possible candidate to fight. Five or six of the other candidates would defeat Clinton handily, but they won’t get the chance if Trump is nominated. The idea that we could lose this, the most important Presidential election in decades, utterly blows my mind. If we lose, I won’t be blaming Trump or his supporters. I’ll blame the pundits who did nothing to stop it.

They’re going to cash their ratings checks in to the detriment of the country. There are several that I respect who are now being selfish. They’re worried about their numbers. They’re scared. They need to grow a pair. Too much is at stake to allow the election to slip away over popularity numbers. No dittos will be coming from me if it happens.

Soshable

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