Digital Publishing Platforms
3 mins read

Publishers: Are there any benefits in sticking with Google AMP?

According to a recent article in the UK’s Press Gazette, some publishers are ditching Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) after it was dropped as a ranking consideration for the search engine’s Top Stories carousel. While ad-funded publishers still see performance and revenue benefits, subscription-based outlets are dropping the coding standard after seeing poor UX.

Takeaways

  • Google’s Top Stories carousel is seen as a key traffic driver for major online publishers. While Google says AMP has never been a ranking factor in its organic search results, until recently only pages built using AMP were included in the top spot to ensure users found fast-loading pages and could swipe from story to story.
  • The Google AMP requirement was dropped in May 2021, opening up Top Stories to any content that complies with Google News content policies and scores well on page experience. According to SEO tool Newsdash, more than 30% of the news articles now seen in Top Stories in UK and US search pages are now thought to be non-AMP.
  • Late last year, Daniel Smullen, head of SEO at Mediahuis IRL, told Search Engine Land that Top Stories gave publishers greater visibility in search results and potentially attracted more traffic than a standard search listing. He said:

Let’s be honest, most publishers adopted AMP due to its Top Stories eligibility requirement. Not due to its ‘perceived’ speed-boosting effect.

AMP benefits?

Now that AMP is no longer the price of admission to the Top Stories club, publishers are reconsidering the commitment to the mobile-first format. According to Press Gazette, most are taking a “wait and see” approach, but some have already made up their minds to move on without it.

  • The format now has the most value for non-paywalled publishers like the UK’s The Sun and Mail Online. AMP still monetises well for these advertising-funded titles. The Sun’s head of SEO Carly Steven said AMP pages remained “high performing” for revenue.
  • Steven told Press Gazette that The Sun also had ‘really positive experiences’ with AMP’s faster pages. She said the title benefits from the improved user experience:

It’s obviously a great user experience and from our point of view of course, like all publishers, anything that is good for our readers and makes the process of reading our content easier for them is a win for us.

Poor subscriber experience

In contrast, subscription-focused publishers are finding Google AMP offers a worse experience for paying readers, with some losing subscribers frustrated by the user experience.

The Irish Independent, owned by Belgium’s Mediahuis, turned AMP off last year and key to the decision was the Independent’s continued move to a subscriber-funded model. The way the AMP cache is hosted on Google’s servers caused subscribers to be logged out of their accounts and stopped personalisation of subscriber homepages.

Most publishers that do have subscription models will probably move away from AMP, but those who don’t have a subscriber model and rely on online advertising, I think they’ll stick with AMP.

Long term, publishers are focused on Google’s Core Web Vitals (CWVs), with most seeing the work they have done on AMP as a strong foundation. A Google spokesperson said:

When people come to Google, we want it to be easy to find relevant, high-quality information and websites that have a good user experience. Page experience is one of many ranking factors in search, and for many site owners, AMP continues to be an efficient and effective way to achieve a great page experience.

This piece was originally published in Spiny Trends and is re-published with permission. Spiny Trends delivers updates and analysis on the industry news you need to stay on top of if you’re running a media and publishing business. Subscribe to a weekly email roundup here.