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One of the biggest challenges facing digital advertisers these days is problem of the mobile user.

Specifically, your prospective customers who increasingly rely on mobile technology to stay connected, research purchases, and consume content are getting smarter, more sophisticated, and less patient when it comes to slow-loading pages and advertisements on those pages.

We now live in a digital world where a few seconds can make or break the success of an ad campaign. To put it bluntly, pages and ads that take more than one second to load fully are costing you money — maybe lots of it.

What’s the solution?
AMP. (Maybe.)

What is AMP?

AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages and it’s a Google-operated bit of web technology with the sole purpose of speeding pages up for mobile web users.

AMP is built on a foundation called AMP HTML, which is a version of the code that provides the basic building blocks of the web. AMP HTML is part of an open source framework designed to speed up mobile pages.

The entire framework also utilizes AMP JS, a JavaScript framework for mobile sites and AMP CDN, a content delivery network that is optional. (Generally speaking, CDNs cache your site’s pages and distribute them across multiple servers in different geographic locations, resulting in faster delivery to users who are near those locations.)

To achieve this speed enhancement, AMP strips out some branding from the page. This has caused some critics to raise concerns about giving even sketchy or “fake news” content the same imprimatur of legitimacy as, for example, work from credible news outlets such as The Guardian and NPR.

Among the elements of a page that will get stripped out in order to render the page more quickly in the mobile browser are two in particular that are pretty important to advertisers and marketers:

  1. Any kind of form – e.g., lead capture or sign-up forms
  2. Any third-party JavaScript elements

(There are some workarounds for these limitations but they require additional coding.)

After removing these “extraneous” pieces of code and branding, the AMP page can load anywhere from 15 to 80 percent faster than the original mobile version of the page, without removing a single bit of basic functionality for the user. Even competitor Bing admitted that Google’s AMP program increases page speed by up to 80 percent.

It’s entirely possible to create stripped down pages by hand using other advanced performance optimization tools, but this is usually something best reserved for experienced developers. Most small business site owners don’t have that kind of time or the resources available to accomplish this in-house. Google’s AMP program helps these website owners achieve the benefits of a faster and easier mobile website for their users without the heavy investment in development skill or time.

For publishers, it’s relatively simple to setup AMP. The basic procedure for AMP integrationrequires two versions of the pages you’d like to include in AMP results, plus validated code, in-line CSS styles, and a new canonical tag in the original version of the page. AMP integration for WordPress sites makes use of plugins to simplify the process.

It’s important to remember that here, we’re talking about mobile users specifically. Google AMP doesn’t apply to desktop or laptop computer users. But mobile users are an increasingly crucial part of an advertiser’s targeted audience. Statistics suggest that the use of mobile is only going to continue growing, with some predicting a seven-fold increase in mobile use over desktop use from 2016 to 2021.

So it’s important to keep them happy, and AMP is one effective way to do it.

How Does AMP Work With Ad Networks on Pages?

The AMP Project gives a basic overview of the way AMP integrates with advertising. Basically, AMP is focused on the benefit to the user that comes from an improved experience on the mobile web. The overall goal of the project may be better user experience, but part of that goals means supporting and providing technology that makes ads safer, as well as faster.

Ads on AMP pages work pretty much the way they have on regular web pages all along. The publisher of the page creates a placeholder for the ad, through JavaScript for traditional pages and by adding the <amp-ad> tag to their AMP page for a specific ad network.

Then when a user clicks on a link for that AMP page, that tag triggers a request for the ad network to return and display the ad on the AMP page in that placeholder area.

AMP works with dozens of supported ad networks, from AdSense to Zucks.

What Can AMP Do For Your Ads?

Because AMP requires pages to carry stripped down code, with no third party JavaScript or more complex HTML elements, so far it’s been used primarily to power versions of static pages with primarily written content. Examples include blog posts and articles, which you may already have seen at the top of Google search engine results on your mobile device.

Recently, that’s begun to change. Google AMP has been expanded to include ads and landing pages (through ALP or “accelerated landing pages,” a similar framework to AMP aimed at landing pages in particular). Previously, however, an ad on an AMP-powered page still loaded at slow speeds, while the page around it may have rendered in less than a second.

Keep in mind there are two equally important effects of AMP for digital advertisers.

First, there’s the effect on the page loading time itself, excluding the ad. On its own, this performance metric is significant for your prospective customers. A faster loading page gives a smoother user experience which puts users in a better and more receptive frame of mind for your ad.

On the flip side, a lag in page load time can make a significant dent in your conversion rate, decreasing it by up to 12% for every additional second it takes the page to fully load. Too much lag? Your users will go elsewhere.

What is “too much lag”? Believe it or not, it can be three seconds or less. Now consider this: Most mobile ad pages take about 6.9 seconds to fully display in the browser window. Those advertisers are doomed before they even get a chance to make an impression, so to speak.

Moreover, when those users abandon the page, over 70% of them won’t come back. What’s worse, some of those who abandon the page will even tell their friends about their poor experiences.

Meanwhile, AMP pages load in one second or less. This leads to a more immediate sense of satisfaction in users, who can find what they’re looking for more quickly. The enhanced, improved experience on your page will render them more receptive to the message from your brand and the call to action you’ve included in your ad or landing page.

There’s also the second effect on the ad itself. Even if the page around the ad loads quickly, the ad may render as a blank space, causing the user to keep scrolling down the page and actually miss the ad altogether.

A page that uses AMP technology to make even the ads render quickly doesn’t have that problem. The ad renders almost instantly, with the rest of the page, making the user far likelier to click on it and thus increasing your conversion rate. That experience has a bleed over effect on the rest of your marketing funnel, increasing conversions farther down the line.

Putting AMP and ALP Together

So let’s imagine how this might work once you’ve put all the pieces together.

Let’s imagine a member of your targeted audience, who is browsing the web on their smartphone, searching Google for information on a product you carry or a service you provide.

In their list of search results, they notice that a few AMP pages are prioritized at the top. One of those pages is a mobile-friendly version of a buyer’s guide on a leading site in your niche. This page loads instantly in the user’s mobile browser. It features an ad that leads to your landing page, powered by ALP so it renders just as quickly as the AMP page.

All told, everyone benefits:

  • The user benefits from a better and more positive all-around experience.
  • The advertisers and marketers benefit from the better user experience because it leads directly to higher conversion rates.

Publishers of pages on which ads are placed also benefit; more effective ads lead to higher clicks, which in turn justifies increased rates for advertising.

Reasons to Stay Cautious

This may all sound too good to be true. In fact there are reasons to remain cautious about AMPing up your pages and ads.

The main reason to hold back a bit has to do with your audience. If they’re still not sure what AMP pages are, they may not trust those top-of-list streamlined results. They may also have become “banner blind” to ads placed at the top of the AMP page.

However, as the program and use of AMP pages spreads, that’s likely to continue to change.

Bottom line: if your overall conversion rate from ads placed on mobile pages isn’t that hot, you may want to consider trying an AMP-only campaign to see how top placement on AMP pages works for you.

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