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Performance

6 Reasons Google AMP is Not Great for eCommerce Websites

This blog has been updated for accuracy, July 2021

With annual eCommerce growth rates at an all-time high, eCommerce conversion rates have captured the focus of online retailers. However, a notable hurdle for online retailers has been conversion rates on mobile devices, which are still trailing those on desktop. Slow mobile page load times are the biggest culprit.

Find out if slow page load time is impacting your conversions with a free eCommerce Site Performance Snapshot today!   

This roadblock has many retailers looking for new ways to make their mobile websites faster, and Google AMP is one approach. Google AMP sets guidelines for building faster mobile pages for any type of website and utilizes Google infrastructure to serve content. Early results from media websites that use AMP have been positive, but eCommerce websites are a different beast. Is AMP the right approach for eCommerce websites? 

Don’t put down that RWD book and start coding new pages just yet. Let’s first understand what the AMP Project is all about.  

What is Google AMP? 

The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project sponsored by Google sets a standard framework for creating fast-loading mobile pages. The open-source Project has published tutorials for building AMP pages and provides standards for validating page compliancy within the AMP standards. These standards restrict developers from using many features that delay page loading, such as JavaScript, advertising tags, etc. In order to publish an AMP compliant page, you must only use Google approved HTML, and host the page content on Google infrastructure.   

Should I be Using Google AMP?

The first step is determining if AMP is essential for your business. AMP can improve SEO, but it is case dependent. The benefits AMP offer cater to some businesses better than others. Let’s examine some key factors that can help determine if AMP is right for you. 

  • AMP is popular among publisher sites that generate and maintain a high volume of articles. If the majority of your site pages aren’t composed of articles, then AMP is not essential for your business.  
  • If you are already utilizing a content delivery network and the performance optimization features that are included, then AMP is not essential for your business. 
  • AMP produces clean pages for site visitors by limiting and suppressing tools like JavaScript functions and plugins. If you depend on 3rd party tools for functions such as lead capturing and audience tracking, then AMP is not essential for your business. 
  • If you have either a mobile version of your site or mobile optimization measures already in place, AMP is not essential for your business. 

What Are the Perks?

For websites that cater to mobile visitors, Google AMP can have notable benefits, the most significant relating to speed. AMP is geared around speed and strips out everything that can slow down page load time, generating fast mobile pages.  Additionally, while AMP itself is not a ranking factor, speed is an important factor, especially with Google’s Core Web Vitals being introduced as a ranking factor in June 2021. Other benefits include increased website engagement, improved ranking and traffic, lower bounce rates, and increased ad views and click-through rates.  

Why is AMP not great for eCommerce?

AMP works well for static web pages and for media websites competing for impatient mobile visitors. But, AMP is not as great for eCommerce websites. There are many complications for eCommerce websites that move to AMP. Here are a few to consider: 

  • Feature restrictions – To be accepted as an AMP page, developers must use Google’s library of approved HTML, JavaScript, CSS, and analytics tags. Many of the JavaScript driven features that both shoppers and retailers love (recommendations, payment options, A/B testing) are not allowed on AMP pages. So, AMP makes pages faster, but you may see lower conversion rates and order sizes if you ditch these features. 
  • Poor support for dynamic eCommerce pages – AMP doesn’t work with dynamic pages and features such as faceted search, search results, and shopping cart pages. If you embrace AMP, you need to direct visitors to your old mobile site or PWA for these parts of the shopping journey. If you go this route, Google has published guidance on how to do it. 
  • Lower ad revenue – Advertising tags are restricted which will have an impact on sites that rely on incremental revenue from manufacturer advertisements and ad networks.   
  • Development investment – This is yet another coding framework to learn, implement, and support. And it likely won’t be the last. As soon as you finish your AMP training and recode the mobile site, there’s a good chance a new standard will have emerged. Wasn’t it just yesterday that responsive web design was the great new standard we were all supposed to follow? 
  • Low eCommerce adoption – Based on research using Google (a small sample set), it looks like the primary eCommerce adopters of AMP are eBay and Overstock. Until more eCommerce sites deploy these pages and publish results, you might want to wait and see if the benefit outweighs the investment and loss of functionality. 
  • Limited design options – Business using AMP have very little control over design. Users are forced to choose between very limited styling and design options. This, in addition to the automatic adoption into Google’s ecosystem, can have negative brand image implications. 

What Is the Best Approach? 

eCommerce development teams should be focused on building mobile experiences that delight customers. You should not be crippling those efforts by rebuilding your site to new standards that change every few months, especially when those standards eliminate features that customers love. Here are a couple of alternatives to using AMP. 

  • eCommerce acceleration technology (outside the code base) – An entire industry of eCommerce acceleration technology exists so you can improve the speed of mobile eCommerce pages. And this technology doesn’t force you to change your development approach or build new pages. This acceleration technology layer sits outside the eCommerce website code base, optimizing mobile pages as visitors request them. As a result, no matter how you build the site, no matter how often standards change, this optimization layer will accelerate page elements so all devices get the fastest possible experience; not just those accessing AMP pages from a mobile device. 
  • Apply best practices without the AMP restrictions – Retailers can always incorporate performance best practices into their current development process, and these would make both their mobile AND desktop websites load faster. AMP’s biggest benefit is probably the forced compliance with a very broad set of best practices focused on mobile websites. These best practices could simply be implemented without using AMP. That way, retailers can cherry pick the best ones, without facing the restrictions and challenges listed above. 

Conclusion – eCommerce Should Wait on AMP for Now 

AMP is limiting. If you do experiment with Google AMP, limit it to your home page and product detail pages. If you don’t want to roll-out piecemeal, then wait until the AMP project catches up with support for more eCommerce features. But, the better long-term solution is to apply specialized eCommerce acceleration technology (like YOTTAA). You’ll get the same results without coding new pages or removing features that you and your customers love. Learn more here! 

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