Mobile Friendliness to the next level
They made us go mobile friendly and now they’ve taken mobile friendliness to the next level with Google’s AMP pages and Facebook’s Instant Articles. I’ve been listening to major bloggers expressing their concerns at Google and Facebook’s next big thing that’s going to change how businesses present themselves on the web. In particular, the mobile web and how that might affect anyone who has a website and relies on search engines for traffic.
Last year, Google introduced the concept of mobile friendliness and that they now give priority to mobile friendly websites in searches done on mobile devices. They alluded that if you weren’t mobile friendly, then eventually you wouldn’t be listed on a mobile search.
Mobile friendliness means that your web pages appear on a mobile screen without having to pinch and resize the page and text is of a size that can be read easily and links are sized and positioned so that they could be touched with a finger. For this reason mobile friendly sites (or their mobile versions) don’t have side bars or traditional navigation menu bars stretched across the top of the page.
What Google and Facebook are imposing on us next
They’ve taken mobile friendliness to the next level with a project called Accelerated Mobile Pages or Google AMP for Google and Facebook Instant Articles (FBIA) for Facebook. It’s predicted that eventually AMP (and FBIA) pages will be prioritised in mobile search results. Which means anyone who has a website is affected, even if they have adapted mobile friendliness.
Why are they making changes, again?
As more of us are moving over to smart phones it follows that the percentage of people searching websites on their mobile increases. In fact research by ComScore reveals that there are now more mobile users than desktop users.
But even with mobile friendly sites, page load speeds can be incredibly slow and research shows that most of us don’t wait any longer than 3 seconds for a page to load. The reason that websites take a long time to load is because it’s loading the header, navigation menus, social media share icons, side bars, footers, sign up boxes, rotating banner images and all sorts that on a desktop don’t necessarily take that long but on a mobile do.
So hence the advent of FBIA and AMP projects, which are initiatives to encourage us to create mobile optimised content that loads instantly everywhere. Sounds good, right?
What happens with FBIA and AMP Enabled Pages
FBIA and AMP pages are a version of your regular web pages and blog posts that only load the content of the article to mobile devices. Things like the header images/logos, menu navigation bars, side bars and footers are removed. It also strips out java scripts that power sign up forms and pop-ups. All that’s left is the actual content, which includes text, images and video, which means it’s much quicker to load. Great for the end user consuming the content on their mobile.
This is what an AMP page looks like
But wait…. Did she say that it removes header images/logos, menus, side bars, footers AND sign up boxes? Yes, that’s right. Not only that but at the time of writing, it also strips out any share buttons! Which is why the big bloggers are up in arms about the changes. The main purpose of blogging for most people is that the blog articles they create, generate leads from search traffic and sharing, which drives people to their website, where they then can have a look round using the navigation menu and sign up to free reports and gather leads. The AMP project effectively throws that out the window!
What to do
So if this change is inevitable, we’d better start preparing for it now, so that when Google algorithms do start favouring AMP pages over mobile-friendly pages, over regular pages, the impact will hardly be noticeable to your website’s rankings.
Here’s a key. Not all pages on your website need to be AMP enabled. Just the ones you want to be ranked for in Google. So that means we need to think cleverly about how to best use this.
As AMP/FBIA enabled pages strip out sign up boxes, side bars and navigation, it’s best to have a mix of both types of pages (AMP/FBIA and regular) and be strategic about which pages/posts are AMP/FBIA enabled.
Currently, you may have pages that you rank for (e.g. landing pages and blog posts), so tweak them (or make dedicated AMP/FBIA versions of them) and have these pages have click thro’s to non-AMP/FBIA enabled pages on your website where sign up forms sit.
But here’s the thing, those click throughs can’t be at the end of the article and they must be linking through to related content. So they need to sit within the body of the article. It’s not yet clear whether an optin/sales page would be allowed as related content.
This means you need to be quite strategic in the path you want people to take having read your AMP/FBIA page. A possible strategy that might work is having a link within the text of your AMP/FBIA page that takes them to a related article, that has a link to an optin page.
Do I need to do anything now
If you don’t rely on search engine traffic, then actually you don’t need to do anything. For most people, search engine traffic is a nice to have and shouldn’t be totally disregarded. It’s easy enough to adapt any content you do on your website to be search engine optimised.
If you are already blogging and you’re site is mobile friendly, then you’re on the right path. In WordPress, there are plugins that turn your existing content into AMP/FBIA format, which I’ve been trying out, but they’re still problems with the plugins that need ironing out, so sit tight for now.
If you don’t already blog, then this is a good excuse to start blogging, so that your blog posts can start getting noticed by Google so when the algorithms start favouring AMP enabled pages, you’re more ready than if you had no blog posts to turn into AMP/FBIA formats.
So there you have a snapshot of what’s to come, how that affects your website and and how to be prepared for the inevitable mobile friendliness changes. It’ll be interesting to watch how the big bloggers adapt their mobile friendly content to be AMP/FBIA compliant and I’ll be taking notes on what they do to turn this to their advantage.