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What Happens When The AMP Requirement Is Removed For Top Stories Section

AMP

In order to provide site owners and SEO experts with a solution for delivering content to mobile users much faster, Google designed the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) framework. This was then set as a requirement for publishers who wanted their content to be displayed in Google’s Top Stories fields.

However, in a recent announcement, Google said that AMP would cease to be a requirement from early next year. With this in mind, many web publishers are now wondering whether they should continue with updating their pages’ AMP versions, or if it’s better to focus their limited resources on optimising mobile experiences so they can be featured in the Top Stories section.

AMP

AMP is an open source HTML framework that was designed by Google to make mobile web pages load faster. Publishers maintain AMP versions of the pages not only to get their articles to load quickly, but also to ensure they have a chance of appearing in Google’s Top Stories mobile version, giving their content increased visibility over a regular search result.

One disadvantage to this is that keeping AMP pages actually means having a second version of a website that you need to keep updating as well. In May 2020, Google said that they would be removing AMP as a requirement to the eligibility of getting featured in the Top Stories section, from early next year. Once this change is implemented, Google will begin to focus more on page experience when selecting the articles that they’ll feature. For those SEO professionals and website owners who’ll continue to use AMP, there should be no visible changes and your page’s AMP version will be the one that will be linked in the Top Stories section.

Uncertain Future For AMP

Now Google’s planning to remove the AMP requirements, many SEO professionals are now re-evaluating if they should spend more time maintaining AMP versions or just concentrate on other ways to enhance mobile users’ experience.

Why AMP is still important for user experience. According to Search Engine Land’s author Glenn Gabe, “For some news publishers, the Top Stories requirement on mobile was an important factor in the decision, while others wanted to move to AMP for the performance increase”. He further added, “The user experience is lightning fast for users (near-instant), so that was always a driving force for moving to AMP”.

AMP isn’t the only way to deliver fast-loading pages. New York Times’ former director of search strategy Matthew Brown said, “For the publishers I’ve been working with, [there’s] not a lot of upside left”. He revealed that many have already committed to investing in improving their mobile experience, and that AMP is simply one way to stay competitive and reach Google’s Top Stories section.

Brown further said, “A lot of the engineering and design teams I’ve worked with have been unhappy having to implement the AMP framework solely for the SEO benefit”.

Given the time and money involved when you’re simultaneously improving your mobile site, I understand the frustration”.

Wait and test. BuzzFeed’s SEO manager Matt Dorville said, “We’re planning to watch and see how the SERP [search engine results page] changes with the new competition and how competitors that don’t have AMP perform”.

With the removal of AMP as a requirement, it opens up the field to more publishers to have their content featured in Google’s Top Stories section. Dorvilla added, “We’re planning to watch and see how the SERP [search engine results page] changes with the new competition and how competitors that don’t have AMP perform”. This means that he’ll continue maintaining AMP, but leave himself the option to rethink after Google implements the change.

Page Experience Signals

If you choose to, instead of keeping your pages’ AMP versions up to date, you can now focus on other page experience factors to get your articles featured in the Top Stories section once the AMP requirement is lifted.

The new page experience algorithm designed by Google is meant to assess pages depending on how real-life users experience them. It combines the Core Web Vitals’ signals with current search signals, including HTTPS, speed, mobile-friendliness, the appearance of intrusive ads, and if content flickers and jumps as the page loads.

Optimistic that this page experience update will be useful because it rewards good user experience, Gabe stated, “There are some algorithms that Google has rolled out that don’t have much impact”. He further said, “if the new signal doesn’t have much power, then site owners won’t take it seriously”. For those who are still maintaining AMP pages, the extent to which they must optimise websites for user page experience will be one factor in deciding whether they should keep using AMP or go ahead without it.

From Dorville’s perspective: “Each one of [Google’s page experience factors] is excellent from a user perspective but, at the same time, we have to weigh the pros and cons of having a website that relies on advertising for revenue which, at times, doesn’t give us the metrics we would like”. He also said, “By eliminating AMP we could plausibly make more revenue [through advertising] but that would come at the expense of more load time as ad networks do increase your load time”. Those who are experiencing similar trade-offs will probably find it beneficial to implement tests to determine the best compromise between generating ad revenue and good user experience.

The Decision Point

According to Brown, “For publishers that are already up and running on AMP, I think the decision point will be when the site goes through any major overhaul, like a redesign or CMS change”.

Then the costs of updating everything to AMP starts to look less favorable given it’s no longer a requirement for Top Stories on mobile”.

Before you go ahead and ditch AMP altogether, your best bet is to check whether competitors in their industry are claiming all the spots in the Top Stories results by use of AMP pages. He further stated, “I’d need to see evidence that non-AMP sites are ranking right alongside them to feel good about switching off or ruling out AMP implementation entirely

According to Google’s product manager, most AMP pages do well in any case in terms of the page experience metrics. Brown’s opinion is that it could well be more challenging to improve user experience on non-AMP pages than to just implement and maintain AMP pages in the first place.  If you’re finding it tough to meet the user experience standards required to get your pages into the Top Stories section, then AMP may be the better and easier route anyway.

Why Google Will Not Add Featured Snippet Highlight To Search Console

When the anchor and highlight feature for featured snippets was released, it included additional tracking parameters to the URL that is being clicked on from Google. They added that, #:~:text=, to the URL. This feature, however, is unlikely to be added to the Google Search Console, according to John Mueller.

On Twitter, Glenn Gabe asked if the said feature will be added to Google Search Console. Mueller responded that, “My feeling is showing those in SC would add a lot of clutter, since the snippet, and with that also the linked fragment, can vary from query to query, even for the same URL“.

In 2016, a featured snippet filter was tested in Google Search Console. However, a year later, the search engine removed it. But as Danny Sullivan has noted, it might well happen one day.

This post was based on news stories at https://searchengineland.com/will-publishers-drop-amp-when-its-no-longer-a-requirement-for-top-stories-335612 and https://www.seroundtable.com/google-featured-snippet-highlight-tracking-search-console-29565.html. Click these links for further info.

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