Google amps up mobile load speeds

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Google amps up mobile load speeds
Google amps up mobile load speeds

As the marketing world continues its steady march to mobile, managers and developers alike are recognizing how accelerated webpage performance has become--along with customer expectations of how that page will perform.

Last October Google announced the Accelerated Mobile Page Project, or AMP. AMP is an open-source protocol aimed at improving page load performance on mobile devices.  The AMP consists of three protocols, a set of HTML custom elements, a JavaScript library, and a CDN for caching pages.

The protocol works by minimizing Web page elements that slow down loading, such as scripts. This aids how articles can be distributed better online, from Google search to social networks and everywhere in between. One complication is that author-written JavaScript or any third-party scripts are sandboxed. This means AMP pages allow third-party JavaScript to function through a separate framework so that the scripts do not block execution of the main page and slow page loading.  But the framework AMP provides, an "iframe," may introduce another level of quality assurance requirements when integrating multiple scripts, each with their own purpose and function.

Analytics scripts are among these impacted scripts.  Because analytics scripts are ubiquitous on website and app pages, it was inevitable that Google would develop a solution, particularly one in which own analytics solution, Google Analytics would benefit. To permit an easier measurement function, Google introduced a support element.  The HTML element, designated as <amp-analytics>, captures measurement activity on an AMP document, and then sends the details to an analytics server in a JSON configuration object. It can also incorporate Google Analytics specific configuration parameters.

For addressing Google Analytics installation concerns, Google recommends that marketers establish an AMP-enhanced web page first, then create a separate account for the AMP page. Doing so will reveal if a site visit is treated as two visits in the analytics reports, one for an AMP page and one for a regular page. In addition, marketing managers should audit how AMP pages work in conjunction with ad servers that rely on JavaScript, as well as other vendor solutions. This will help reveal if any conflicting loading with the AMP framework occurs. For those with development teams in house, an technical specification is available on GitHub as a starting point.

Publishers, and advertiser platforms are partnering with Google. The relationships provide testing environments for ad serving, including native ads. The descriptions on the FAQ page of the AMP site indicate the intent to focus AMP's initial benefits towards publishable content. It notes that “the goal is for all published content, from news stories to videos and from blogs to photographs and GIFs, to work using Accelerated Mobile Pages.”   Currently several platforms ranging from ChartBeat to The Guardian and The New York Times are using AMP pages so that crawling and indexing AMP pages are better understood.

Google's emphasis on content providers may seem discouraging for CMOs representing retail, e-commerce or B2B firms where publishing is not the main business model. But managers serving those CMOs recognize the value published content has in digital marketing strategy these days.  The content is shared and can be part of digital word-of-mouth among customers.  Thus, managers who are planning a content marketing strategy should at least monitor developments as Google as it oversees the future development of AMP.

The overall value marketers achieve from AMP is to create a meaningful experience with a brand through a better digital response to content. Research from various sources indicates that site visitors are increasingly influenced by page load performance. Soasta, a private analytics tech firm, discovered a correlation in its recent performance study: a 27-percent increase in conversion rate can result from loading a mobile page just one second faster.

Like many of Google's projects, AMP will evolve beyond its current early stages. Making mobile pages load quickly will encourage people to associate a good experience with your brand.


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