AMP: The Beginning of the End for Standalone Smartphone Apps?

If you’ve been paying attention to the latest trends in content marketing and SEO, you are surely aware of the AMP initiative that was publicly announced in late 2015. For those of you who have not yet seen it, you can read more about AMP on CMSwire here, here and here.

Short on time? Start with this simple definition from Antoinette Sui’s coverage back in June:

An open-source initiative aimed at improving page load performance on mobile devices, AMPs are essentially HTML pages with a set of specific web protocols.

While this is an industry-wide initiative, Google has been front and center with pushing it out and helping incentivize adoption. In fact, they even added an AMP-relevant section to Google Search Console (formerly called Google Webmaster Tools, abbreviated GSC for this post) back in January, 2016.

In May, GSC expanded the coverage of AMP to make it easier to spot errors. This functions similarly to some of the other indexing and page error reports that have long been standard features of GSC.

And then in August 2016, Google started sending out AMP-related messages right from GSC. They are working hard to notify webmasters when they can benefit from deploying AMP to pages that don’t already have it in place.

Google is only one of the main parties behind AMP, and it has been implemented on a large volume of websites like Twitter, the Washington Post, and many more you would recognize.

Should you also deploy AMP on your own website?

This question is very relevant to me personally and professionally, because Return On Now just decided to deploy AMP on our own WordPress-driven website. If you are on a mobile phone, you can check out the AMP-lified content on our blog.

We have also been pushing our clients on the same CMS to follow suit. So if we have waited almost a year to move on it, why now?

  1. It’s become abundantly clear that Google is planning a continued push to drive adoption, and it’s lined up to accelerate further.
  2. WordPress now has better, more established AMP plugins to consider. Our favorite is Automaticc’s version, with Glue from Yoast to connect the SEO features to AMP without requiring any coding or hacking.

I get it – your CMS or custom built website may not have ready-made plugins to simplify the process. Only WordPress, Drupal, and Squarespace have it figured out among the most used CMS solutions on the market (along with smaller players Hatena and Marfeel).

That shouldn’t stop or delay you any longer. Remember Mobilegeddon, where Google flipped the mobile SERPs to favor responsive or mobile-friendly sites over all others?

This is a follow on to that update, and something I’d expect to have a lasting positive or negative impact on your organic performance for mobile traffic. If you want to minimize load time and optimize your user experience for mobile users, it’s time to get on board now.

How will AMP impact mobile behavior?

The logical expectation is that mobile users will like your site, visit it more often, and spend more time on it with improved UX through AMP. That’s certainly a good thing.

But what happens for websites that currently have apps built for mobile that aim to get around mobile UX issues on their full websites? Should they start planning for the demise of the mobile app and building it into their website itself?

This is a tough one. For blog posts, articles, and similar ongoing content efforts, perhaps we will see fewer apps built simply for reading those materials more conveniently. But that’s pretty much the majority of what AMP optimizes so far.

We are not at a point where other functionality, specifically around ecommerce transactions, is improved more than marginally on load time. There is still a need to have those processes available in a simplified format, like Amazon’s flagship shopping app.

This should come as no surprise. AMP is built to improve load times and UX for content specifically. It delivers on that promise from what we can see in our own experience and tests.

It is possible that the initiative will grow one day, and we can certainly ask these questions again when it expands. But that doesn’t mean that having AMP available will completely obsolete the app. It could change what is included in a typical app, but I imagine we are a long way from seeing apps fall out of favor completely.

This reminds me of the chatter back in 2011, 2012, and 2013 about how various pundits and bloggers waxed poetic about HTML5 eliminating the need for apps on smartphones.

And guess what…it never happened.

So take advantage of AMP for the benefit of you and your audience. But don’t overestimate where it will take us in the coming months and years. We simply don’t know those answers yet.

Summary

AMP is a fantastic development for content marketers and publications. It stands to offer a great deal of value in customer satisfaction and overall website traffic retention. If your site isn’t yet AMP’d, start planning to make the transition. My best guess is that Google makes this more of an algorithmic issue as we head into 2017, so the time is now to act.

And don’t worry…no need to start planning a migration from your amazing iPhone and/or Android apps back to your native website. We are not even close to seeing that become an issue.