#TechTips: Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages Is Good For Google; #AMP

drill-google-amp

On February 24, 2016 Google officially integrated Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) listings into its mobile search results. AMP is an open standard delivery network that is proxy-based, intended to improve page performance on mobile devices. You may have noticed that when you tap search results on Google, it will take you to a cached version. An AMP bar appears on the top of the page with the option for you to navigate to the actual page. Search results that are cached has a lightning bolt icon indicator. Three years later, AMP is becoming more pervasive. It’s appearing in more and more mobile search results.

This seems like a good idea at first glance – helping mobile users on slower networks access pages faster. But on a larger picture, especially for publishers, this is not necessarily a good thing. For one thing, cached pages maybe outdated; sure, one can argue that static articles should be cached, but not if you have embedded web components that are necessary for your engagement stats, just to mention one. The cached page is published within the Google domain and not directly from the publishers domain. I for one would prefer to read an article from the actual site and not from Google’s cache. Cached pages on AMP opens up a whole new can of worms; it will make “fake publishers” look credible, traffic is redirected to Google instead of the publisher’s site, and it poses issues for articles that are monetized.

Assuming the site’s host is really slow, if Google really wants to help improve site performance, perhaps, it should help promote better programming practices. The days of lean programming and lean data structures went out the window when computing power, memory and storage got cheaper – approximately 2000s. Sites got heavy because of excessive formatting, media not optimized for the web, code commenting and simply bad coding practices… in a production environment! Even with compression and minimization, sites are still bulky because designers, coders and wizards don’t know how to produce a lean page. Not to mention the other big culprit of sluggish sites… excessive ads and tracking injection – they in turn pull in more heavy code… yes, I’m pointing at you Google Ads!

AMP simply wrecks havoc on a website’s day-to-day operation. It may seem like it benefits the publisher, but in reality it does not. It also doesn’t improve user experience, on the contrary, it can be frustrating. AMP often breaks the page it cache, since sites these days are able to detect unauthorized content publishing and therefore will restrict access to resources pulled by external domains. What’s Google’s solution? It wants the publishers to change their content to become AMP-compliant. Yes, Google wants publishers to work for them.

If there’s one thing publishers should learn about technology and the web is that standards are constantly changing… and fast! It’s best not to waste your time and effort to conform to a proprietary standard which… firstly, is not universal and therefore will only work in fewer use cases, and secondly, it maybe abandoned if the said company isn’t able to make enough money out of it – Google is NOT doing this for free, this is a product, which is designed to pull in revenue for Google in one way or the other.

You want to improve your site’s performance? Design your systems better, code better, cache locally and stick to universal standards. And you’ll thank yourself later for not wasting so much money, time and effort for a fleeting pet project.

So how can you prevent your site from ending up on AMP cache? Discourage it! Don’t even bother adding redirects in headers to take cache pages to the live ones, do this instead.

Add this code to your site’s .htaccess:

# Redirect AMP to non-AMP
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} (.+)/amp(.*)$
RewriteRule ^ %1/ [R=301,L]

 

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