In order to improve your loading times, you may well be tempted to format a new version of your website in Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). In theory, the smoother the browsing experience, the faster your customers can complete their orders and the better your chances of boosting conversion rates. But is there a catch? Is the format viable for e-commerce? Let’s weigh up the pros and cons.
How does AMP work?
The AMP format can be understood as follows:
- it is a type of simplified HTML, where assets that slow down or block page loading altogether are removed or replaced by tags specific to AMP;
- third parties are blocked, initially with the exception of a few JS libraries that are carefully sorted by speed on the fly – Google has now opened up to custom scripts;
- webpages can be stored on Google servers, which take the role of a CDN, allowing them to be served even faster.
Increasingly adopted by media websites (here is an example for French media websites), there is no doubt that AMP is an effective solution for an ultra-fast website, as each page is stripped down to the essential displays: text and multimedia content. It can make loading on mobile up to 90% faster. Among the five billion surveyed in 2018, thirty-one million domains had already adopted the format (approximately 0.6%).
Accelerated Mobile Pages has equally been open to e-commerce websites since 2016. Owing to the constraints and restrictions of the format, is it really advisable for a merchant website?
Functionality and maintenance: the limits of AMP
Your typical e-commerce website contains functionality, which can be managed by third parties, to enable transactions, catalogues, high-quality images, customer reviews, recommendations, advertising and retargeting, etc. All of these features add up to a rich and personalised experience, but – where they are poorly optimised – they are capable of slowing down the website.
In order to limit the impact of these restrictions, the majority of retailers only develop certain pages in AMP (home page, category pages, landing pages, etc.) and switch discretely to the responsive or mobile version of the site during browsing.
This is what happens when you navigate from the Google SERP to a category page:
- an icon in the search results denotes an AMP version,
- the home page is then served in AMP,
- when you land on the category page, the website switches to a conventional HTML version with dynamic content and additional functionality.
Given the related constraints, the reality is that applying the AMP format to each page of a merchant website is a complicated exercise – all the more so because you have to manage a separate environment.
DOUBLE THE EFFORT
In spite of its undeniable performance on mobile, simply adopting AMP does not solve all of your loading issues because, as the name would suggest, the format is only mobile-compatible. If you want to provide a high-speed website in all use cases, you also have to optimise the desktop version!
Unlike a responsive website using the same code for all devices, an AMP website is coded in its own distinct language. As such, it’s a new website for you to manage, monitor, maintain and so forth – adding an extra layer of complexity to development.
Another important consideration is that, in the current job market, there is a shortage of profiles specialised in AMP. Going down this road entails a certain level of risk because you may end up lacking the resources to overcome potential maintenance issues.
AMP & SEO
Regardless of whether it applies to only some pages, this form of website “duplication” can lead to budget crawl and demands careful consideration of your SEO strategy upstream, to avoid cannibalising main website traffic and referencing.
It’s also important to bear in mind that, while faster pages are more likely to rank higher in search engines, and even though Google promotes pages in AMP format, it doesn’t boost the referencing of your website at all!
WHO HOLDS THE REINS?
Last but not least, irrespective of the fact that AMP is open-source, it remains a Google initiative. The tech giant’s handling of the format has proved to be somewhat contentious – to the point that Google eventually made certain concessions with regard to transparency. Even so, if Google decides to change the rules, who has control of your website?
Any attempt to boost Internet speeds and accelerate browsing is certainly welcome, yet we do have reservations about the format – with no ideal solution in sight – and we are not the only ones.
More reasons why AMP is not ideal for e-commerce
As we highlighted earlier, if you are planning to adopt AMP, you shouldn’t count your chickens and third-party content before they hatch. Say goodbye to messenger applications, specific payment and login options, search and filter settings, and a chunk of your advertising revenue... This article offers a detailed insight into why AMP’s particular limitations can be fatal to e-commerce.
Before you dive in headfirst, always weigh up the pros and cons of developing an AMP version of your website. Ask yourself whether this approach is really the best solution to reducing your loading times. By accelerating only certain pages and only on mobile, are you cutting off your nose to spite your face?
Accelerated Mobile Pages are not the only way to speed up a website. Our monthly web performance rankings in partnership with JDN demonstrate that a mobile website can offer excellent loading times, just so long as it is well optimised. You need only look as far as RueDuCommerce – often perched at top spot in e-commerce – or Wikipedia across all categories.
And as another example of how our SaaS solution can improve UX and conversion rates, we can mention one of our clients, the retailer Orange Marine, who successfully improved its mobile loading times, optimising its Speed Index by 20% and boosting conversions by 5%.
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