We disable AMP pages on Search Engine Land
âGasp! Think about the traffic!
This is a fairly accurate account of the more than two dozen conversations we’ve had on Search Engine Land’s medium of Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages over the past few years. In the beginning, it was the headache of managing the separate code base that AMP requires, as well as the havoc AMP wreaks on crawls when a good chunk of your audience’s time is spent on an external server not connected to your own site. But, Google’s decision to no longer require AMP for inclusion in Top Stories carousels has given us yet another reason to question the wisdom of supporting AMP.
So, this Friday, we turn it off.
How we got here
Even when Google sent heavy traffic to AMP Top Stories articles, the tradeoff had its downsides. For a small publisher with limited resources, the development work is considerate. And not being able to fully understand how users migrated between AMP and non-AMP pages meant our image of returning and highly engaged visitors was wrong.
But, in August, we saw a significant drop in traffic to AMP Pages, suggesting that the inclusion of non-AMP pages from competing sources in Top Stories was wreaking havoc.
Our own analyzes showed that between July and August, we saw a 34% drop in AMP traffic, setting a new traffic baseline that was consistent month-to-month through the fall.
This week, we also learned that Twitter has stopped referring mobile users to AMP versions, which zeroed out our third largest referrer to AMP Pages behind Google and LinkedIn. We’ve also seen LinkedIn referrals plummet, suggesting that at the end of November we’ll be facing another lower traffic baseline to AMP Pages.
Editors have been reluctant to remove AMP due to the unknown effect it may have on traffic. But what our data seemed to tell us was that there was just as much risk on the other side. We could keep the AMP pages, which we know have a good experience by Google’s standards, and their visibility would drop anyway due to competition in Top Stories and waning support from social media platforms.
Read more: Google limited the speed of non-AMP pages, created a format to hamper header auctions, antitrust claims
We know what a road to oblivion looks like, and our data suggests that AMP visibility is on that road. Rather than driving this to nowhere, we decided to turn off AMP and take back control of our data.
How we do it
âIf you’re ready and your mobile pages are performing well, I think you should start testing. That’s what Conde Nast, global vice president of audience development strategy John Shehata, told SMX Next attendees this month when asked to remove AMP.
Shehata suggested a measured strategy that starts with removing AMP from articles after seven days, then moving to removing AMP on larger thematic collections.
âIf all goes well, then go for the whole site,â he said. “I think it will be better in the long run.”
That, of course, depends on the speed and experience of your native mobile pages, he said.
The Washington Post, which is still listed as an AMP success story on the AMP project site, actually disabled AMP some time ago, said Shani George, vice president of communications at the post.
âCreating a reading experience centered on speed and quality has long been a top priority for us,â she added, pointing to a detailed article her team of engineers published this summer around her work on Core Web Vitals.
Because we are a smaller niche publisher, our plan is to conserve our resources and turn off AMP for the entire site at once. Our main content management system is WordPress, and AMP is currently configured for posts only, not pages. But by far that includes most of our content.
Our plan is to use 302 redirects as a first step. This way we tell Google that they are temporary and that there will be no PageRank issues if we turn them off (or replace them with 301s). Next, we’ll see how our pages work without AMP. If there is no measurable difference, then we will replace those 302 redirects with permanent 301 redirects. 301s should send any PageRank obtained from AMP URLs to their non-AMP counterparts.
Of course, if the worst-case scenario happens and traffic drops beyond what we can handle, we’ll disable 302 redirects and schedule a different course for AMP.
It’s a risk for sure. While we have done a tremendous amount of work to improve our CWV scores, we are still struggling to achieve high scores by Google standards. This work will continue, however. Perhaps the best solace we have at this point is that many SEOs we’ve spoken to are struggling to see measurable impacts for working on CWV since the rollout of the Page Experience Update. .
Maybe it’s not about traffic for us
The relationship between publishers and platforms is dysfunctional at best. Newsstands of yesteryear are today’s ânews feedsâ and publishers have been repeatedly taken aback when platforms change the rules. We probably knew that allowing a search platform to host our content on their own servers was doomed to implode, but the audience is our lifeblood, so can you fault us for buying?
We also know that tying our fate to third-party platforms can be as risky as not participating in them at all. But when it comes to supporting AMP on Search Engine Land, we’re going to be successful. We just want to get our content back.