man holding mobile phone over city street
Marketers can't afford to ignore Google AMP any longer — make it part of your balanced marketing strategy PHOTO: Kaique Rocha

Mobile isn’t what’s next — it’s what’s right now. 

Mobile has officially eclipsed desktop in terms of usage numbers, and is cementing itself as the go-to platform for connecting, engaging, shopping and general consumption. 

Even bigger than that, the number of mobile-only users — people using mobile exclusively — has surpassed desktop-only users. In fact, the vast majority of people are multiplatform, meaning, mobile plus desktops, laptops, smart TVs, and the list goes on.

Unsurprisingly, consumers’ increased reliance on mobile has pushed brands and marketers to assess the experiences they’re delivering — specifically, to make those experiences better for end users. Until now, the web wasn’t designed with mobile in mind. 

But a new era of mobile web is well underway — thanks, in no small part, to the Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project.

Understanding Google AMP Project

The goal of the Google AMP Project is as simple as it is complex: in short, put a framework in place to help improve mobile web experiences for everyone. 

These mobile-friendly pages started rolling on news-publication sites and other digital experiences centered around dynamic content. The thinking? If the user experience isn’t spectacular on these platforms, consumers are likely to drop off.

Google has expanded the reach and impact of the AMP Project as well as what it means for brands and consumers in the very short term. Earlier this year, the company announced it will include AMPs in its search results. So to stay ahead of the curve, companies need to optimize their pages using AMP — it’s just part of a balanced marketing strategy.

How Does AMP Impact You?

As with any new innovation, the big question becomes “What does this mean for ME and MY business?”

Out of the gate, brands must be prepared to have tough conversations with their designers. AMPs are an entirely new HTML standard, not something that can be wedged into an existing page. This is a ground-up project.

And while they are tackling the design and user experience (UX), it’s important to really embrace what AMP is — and what it isn’t. 

The new AMP standard has stripped away the bloat that’s meant to help “normal” webpages move faster. That means saying goodbye to JavaScript and — going one step further — a digital experience that’s extremely limited in order to increase speed and load time, something that frustrates designers quite a bit (hence, the need for the tough conversations).

Instead, when brands want to start leveraging AMPs, they need to begin with building a new page, using the specs outlined on the Google AMP Project site. It’s easy enough for a developer to jump in and get the hang of things fairly quickly as it’s a process designed with developers in mind. While the AMP process is often a letdown for designers, it’s usually a hit with developers, enabling them to produce fast pages that are simplified, streamlined and positioned for success.

How Analytics Work With AMP

Marketers and brands must begin by reassessing their mobile experiences and, most likely, optimizing with AMPs. In addition, everyone needs to effectively track, measure and analyze how successful these new pages are, so they can allocate budgets accordingly. If you can’t measure success, you can’t demonstrate — nor improve — ROI.

While it sounds fairly straightforward, the AMP framework has attempted to incorporate as much of what users need as possible. But there are some limitations that marketing analysts should be aware of.

AMPs have their own tag, called <amp-analytics>. Under that umbrella, marketers have some control but typically not as much as they might in traditional frameworks.

More recently, Google has attempted to streamline the analytics process, making it easier for brands to implement an analytics page within AMPs. Now, virtually any provider that wants to integrate with AMPs can — the <amp-analytics> tag provides the elements to ensure companies can measure key touch points.

Caching Webpages - And Related Challenges

Another unique AMP differentiator is caching. AMPs’ added speed is supported by Google’s search engine, which automatically caches these webpages. Therefore, when you click on search results that link to AMPs, Google can serve them immediately since the pages are sitting on their servers — servers that are closer and much faster.

The issue here is with attribution and analytics. Because of heavy cookie restrictions, if you’re working with an AMP, it’s almost impossible to know whether site visitors are returning or new, what they’ve viewed previously, and many other key details that marketers typically use to deliver relevant experiences. 

Furthermore, you never know where site content will load from or even which partners or domains are getting the attribution. Just because you’re visiting NewspaperX.com doesn’t necessarily mean that’s where your content will load from — it could come from Twitter or Pinterest, for example. 

It’s a tricky situation to navigate for brands, marketers and analysts.

The Mobile App vs. Mobile Web Debate

While this may sound like a seismic shift, it really shouldn’t seem that unfamiliar to marketers and brands. In many ways, AMPs mirror the earliest phases of the mobile app explosion. 

Back then, companies were quick to shore-up solid measurement strategies. Fast forward to today, and we’re in the mobile web revolution. You still need to measure app engagement and other key performance indicators (KPIs), but you also have to keep a close eye on mobile web, comparing and contrasting as you go.

But, beyond all of that, an even bigger back and forth is in play: specifically, the mobile app versus mobile web debate that AMPs represent. Though the two battle for advertising views, mobile apps continue to edge out mobile web. 

For a platform like Google, this won’t work. Google is web-first, after all, as is its core product. It has a massive vested interest in improving the mobile web for everyone — not just for the company or its users. Facebook, too, wants to keep its users in the Facebook app but also has a major interest in mobile web. 

The end result? Facebook has its own competing mobile web standards called Facebook Instant Articles and that adds another layer of challenge to the analytics conversation. But given these platforms’ sizes, scopes and unparalleled influences it’s something brands can't afford to ignore moving forward.

Expect More for AMPs - and Us

If AMPs continue to translate their momentum with publishers into other verticals, expect this technology to materially impact the fundamentals of how mobile web is experienced. The AMP standard is evolving rapidly, especially into the commerce and video worlds, so expect those shifts — and the dramatic outcomes — as distinct possibilities.

For brands and marketers, it’s important to stay updated by frequently visiting the AMP Project website. The AMP roadmap includes information regarding what’s new and what’s next. If you’re a developer, you can even contribute to its repository on GitHub.

AMPs aim to solve one of the major pain points tied to mobile web: the fact that it’s painfully slow. For this reason, AMPs could not only boom in usage, but also drum up increased excitement among brands and consumers. 

At the end of the day, AMPs are here — and they have the potential to become bigger, better and more highly sought. Your job is to dive in and determine how to make the most of these mobile web experiences as part of any well-balanced marketing strategy.