How content offers a way out of the Google AMP straitjacket

Debate flies over Accelerated Mobile Pages and Google’s hold over digital advertising. But there’s always wiggle room…

Slow page loads have long been the scourge of publishers and users. With every passing year, brands concern themselves more and more with the impact of load times on engagement metrics such as bounce rate and pages per session as they fight to squeeze revenue out of a tough market.

What are Google AMPs?

Google launched its answer to the slow-load problem at the start of last year – Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). But there were dark murmurings that the move was simply a way of better controlling the level of revenue publishers could make from mobile web in the face of new banner advertising technology.

Google’s cache-based solution dramatically scaled back the amount of HTML and JavaScript permissible on any given page. That left a number of advertising providers scrabbling around to ensure that they fitted in with the new regulations.

Inevitably, Google’s SEO algorithm favours publishers adopting its speed-conscious tech. It should be said that the company maintains it won’t promote an AMP version of a post over its original twin.

As I’ve written on these pages previously, monetising mobile is a perilous business. The growth of the platform’s market share is bad news for many publishers who are busy trying to establish a line between income and traffic volume.

Google AMP is, therefore, another sore spot for a publisher’s digital monetisation strategy. It looks like yet more digital advertising dollars heading to the purses of the Google-Facebook duopoly.

Where content comes in

However, to some extent, content marketers are able to find a way around this issue. And much to the chagrin of Google, it’s all in keeping with one of the core benefits of AMPs themselves.

First and foremost, native advertising is a format that’s designed to sit side by side with organic content. The fact that Google AMP is hampering the effectiveness of standard banner advertising by rejecting certain programmatic technologies and insisting on Google-approved setups should be music to the ears of those trying to usurp the concept of traditional online mediums.

Content marketing is often low-tech enough to live inside a publisher’s CMS. Once there, it’s impossible for Google to negatively target it – certainly in the same way that withholding data or restricting page architecture can impact banner advertising.

Content aggregators – the sort of network widgets that sit at the bottom of a piece promising a flat stomach inside a week etc – are, mercifully, reliant on the very JavaScript implementation that AMP cuts out of its setup.

As a result the emphasis will be on publishers to take responsibility for their own partners and establish a fresh strategy to make mobile – now increasingly the dominant web platform – financially viable.

Cache for questions

The task for the publisher is to make the content they allow inside their walled garden of the most relevance and the highest quality. In selling this, Google AMPs’ limitations could be used as a benefit.

Naturally, there are challenges. Establishing reliable analytics is likely to provide a fair amount of initial implementation. There are some scare stories of publishers and bloggers who have adopted Google AMP actually losing traffic. This is due to various quirks that keep readers on the Google search page – making it harder to look around the full site once the original article has been viewed. So much for boosting user experience for your own site…

Such logic might well put off publishers whose mobile traffic figures are based on session durations inflated by paginated lists – a countdown of great seaside attractions, for example. However, this type of content is already being punished by programmatic advertising, as multiple similar page views in a short period greatly diminishes the auction value of that banner real estate.

This may not quell voices who see Google’s threat to the long-term survival of previously dominant publishers as close to the bone in terms of competition law. But there are ways in which the new straitjacket can be given some form of wiggle room.

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