Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and Facebook’s Instant Articles have allowed viewers to instantly access content for a few years now.
While both of these systems do an incredible job of delivering lightning fast content, they also had two serious (and possibly format killing) flaws – neither one of these formats made ad placement or lead generation very easy.
Of course the whole point of the internet is to make money, so not being able to generate leads or place ads can be a huge problem (calm down Tim Berners-Lee, we’re only kidding).
Recent changes to both Google AMP and Facebook Instant Articles have (at least partially) solved these problems by allowing more ads and CTAs to be added to your content.
By making it easier to include ads and CTAs, Google and Facebook are hoping to attract more publishers to these formats and make instant content the future of the internet.
Before we get into the latest features, let’s take a moment to talk about what Google AMP and Facebook Instant Articles are and what they do for your business.
What Are Google AMP?
Google AMP are web pages that use a simplified version of HTML to deliver faster load times and provide instant content to viewers.
They do this through:
- Using a simplified HTML
- Using scaled-down CSS
- Images must have a declared width and height
- Pages are cached on Google servers
Google AMP is open source, so improvements are guaranteed. Whatever problems people have with the current system will be tweaked and retweaked until the bugs are ironed out and publishers and users have a product they both like.
What Are Facebook Instant Articles?
Facebook Instant Articles are very similar to Google’s AMP. They are also versions of site pages that are specifically modified to load faster that ordinary pages.
One of the biggest differences is that Facebook requires a full version of the content to be hosted on an outside site. Facebook’s articles are designed for mobile viewing (just like Google’s), but they appear on other versions of Facebook as well.
Hosting the page on your site in addition to creating an Instant Article allows Facebook to link to your version of the article for users who are not on a mobile device.
Facebook also allows for the automatic publishing of articles, so you don’t have to go through an extra step after publishing an article to your site.
Choose the Right Content
Google AMP and Facebook’s Instant Articles won’t work with every page on your site. There are certain types of pages that are ideal for this, and there are other pages that won’t work at all.
Articles, blogs, and video content are perfect candidates for AMP or Instant Articles, but eCommerce sites aren’t going to work here yet (Google’s working on it!), and sites that rely on third party lead capture tools or unsupported ad engines are out of luck.
Make sure you choose the right type of content before you convert it into one of these formats.
How Does This Help My Business?
Instant gratification is one of the expectations of living in modern society. Can you imagine having to deal with dial up internet today? Just the thought of that sound gives us shivers.
Having to wait minutes for a website was yesterday’s standard. Today, the standard is having to wait seconds. Tomorrow’s standard was going to be instant pages, but people couldn’t wait that long so Google and Facebook decided to do it right away.
Faster Load Times
These changes allow Google and Facebook to instantly load pages, eliminating the chance that a viewer will bounce back to the SERP if the page doesn’t load fast enough.
83% of users expect a load time of 3 seconds or less, and 40% of users will abandon a website that takes longer than 3 seconds.
People can’t bounce from your site if it loads faster than they can navigate away from it.
The only way to get a page to load faster than AMP or Instant Articles is to work out some sort of Philip K. Dick Minority Report kind of pre-loading website that knows ahead of time that you want to see it.
It sounds like a joke, but somewhere at Google and Facebook, someone is probably working on a predictive AI that does just that.
When you reduce bounce rate, you improve user experience (UX). Google assumes that a site is poor quality if too many users leave the site quickly. Conversely, the longer people stay on a site, the better the site looks to Google.
The better Google thinks a site is, the better they rank the site on a SERP. By reducing bounce rate you are improving the UX of the site, which will increase Google’s opinion of the site and the site’s SERP ranking.
There is a 7% increase in conversions for every second your load time improves. This isn’t magical, it’s just logical. The faster your page loads, the more people will view your page, and the more people viewing your page, the higher your conversion rate.
In addition, people are more likely to click on an AMP or an Instant Article because they know that it will load quickly. This means even more people enjoying your wonderful content and seeing your well crafted CTAs.
Using AMP and Instant Articles will increase the number of clicks on your pages and the increased load speed will make sure more of those clicks stay to see your content.
It’s the one-two punch of digital marketing.
Measure Your Success with Analytics
Don’t panic data fans! Both Google AMP and Facebook Instant Articles offer analytics for their versions, allowing you to track the number of views, conversions, etc…
Google AMP Analytics Instructions
For Google, there’s a little bit of work to do to get the AMP analytics. First, you need to add the amp-analytics code to the header of the page:
Next, this code should be added to the body:
Google recommends including id attributes to make it easier to identify each amp-analytics element.
The following trigger request values are supported for the Google Analytics code:
- pageview for page tracking
- event for event tracking
- social for social tracking
Here’s an example page with the AMP analytics code added:
For a (much) more detailed explanation of how to add analytics code to your AMP, check out this Google Developers AMP analytics page.
Facebook Instant Articles Analytics
If the above section was a little complicated for you, then the Facebook analytics are going to be a breath of fresh air. All you need to do to see your Instant Articles analytics is to go to the standard Facebook analytics tab – the Instant Articles data will be available.
Of course there are also several plugins you can use to gather analytics data, so you’ve got plenty of options here.
Both Formats Support Ads and Engagement
Google AMP and Facebook Instant Articles now both support various ways for you to monetize your content (hooray!).
The CTAs on your site will work just fine on an AMP, with the exception of any A/B test CTAs or smart CTAs, which will not properly display in an AMP. The default version of your CTA will be shown instead.
AMP are also AdWords compatible. Google Display Network ads will automatically convert into AMP, so there’s no extra work involved, just make sure that you’ve enabled the GDN for your campaign.
Facebook Instant Articles
Facebook also allows ads in their version, and recently they’ve opened up even more ad space in their articles in an attempt to stimulate revenue for publishers.
In addition, Facebook’s now allowing email sign up CTAs and “Like” buttons in Instant Articles, and they’re working on Free Trial and Mobile App Install CTAs to provide even more ways to convert visitors.
How to Create AMP and Instant Articles
Next is a basic outline for the steps you’ll need to take to convert an article or blog into an AMP or an Instant Article, but we advise you to have your webmaster or IT department help with this process as it is fairly involved.
While it might seem overwhelming, the benefits of using AMP and Instant Articles far outweigh the complexity of creating them.
For Google, once you have written the code framework, you can reuse the basic code and change the content for any new pages (don’t forget to change the meta data and images), which will greatly simplify the process.
Facebook allows you to automatically publish new articles through a plugin, RSS feed, or API, which will also streamline the process.
Create the Page
- Write the HTML. There are several required markups for this page that are listed here, and you’ll want to include Schema markup in the <head> as well.
- Link your page. You’ll need to use a rel=canonical link in the code for Google to reference. This should be the non-AMP version of the page on your website, but it can link to itself if no other version of the page exists.
- Validate your page. Google provides an AMP validator tool for this. It’s important to make sure your code is correct, or all of your work will be for nothing.
Design the Look
- Use Schema. Schema will allow your page to appear in rich snippets and will ensure that your logo, images, and other features appear properly.
- Verify your Schema. Google provides another tool for verifying your Schema. Don’t do all of this for nothing! Make sure your code is correct.
- Test your page. The next step is to publish your page and make sure it works properly. Use Google’s AMP Test Tool for this to make sure everything is in working order.
Test Your Site
Google provides ways to monitor your pages once you have published them. You can use their Search Console AMP Report to check for issues that affect the entire site, and their Rich Cards Report will help you identify problems in your Schema code.
- Sign up. The first thing you need to do is to sign up your page for Instant Articles. Once you’ve signed up, you can proceed to the initial setup by going to the Publishing Tools tab at the top of your page and clicking on Configuration, which is listed under Instant Articles on the left.
- Style your articles. You can create several designs for your articles that reflect your business’s style, and you’ll need to upload a logo that will appear in your articles. Go to the Configuration section in Publishing Tools and select Styles to do this.
- Import your articles. There are several ways to import articles, ranging from fairly easy to hacker-level complicated.
- If you use a third-party publishing platform like WordPress, then you can use a plugin to make this process quick and easy.
- A dedicated RSS feed can be set up if you use a CMS, and it will automatically convert your new articles to Instant Articles.
- An Instant Articles API exists that will also automate this process, but this is the most complicated of the three options.
- Connect your site. You can now authorize your site to automatically create Instant Articles from your website. You’ll need to go back to the Configuration section in Publishing Tools and go to Connect Your Site.
- For WordPress, you just need to enter your URL.
- If you’re using the API or RSS feed options, you’ll need to enter some code in the <head> section of your site.
- Submit samples for review. Facebook wants to make sure you’ve got the hang of it, so you’ll need to submit 5 articles for their review. Go to the Configuration section and click Submit for Review (under Step 2).
- Share your articles. Instant Articles aren’t automatically shared on your page, so you need to make sure you let the world know about your terrific instant content.
That’s it! You now have the tools you need to start creating AMP and Instant Articles for your content.
The Dark Side of Instant Content
It isn’t all sunshine and roses with AMP or Instant Articles, however. There are a few downsides to instantly loading content.
Side effects may include:
Content is stored on Google or Facebook’s servers.
- It won’t be your site getting the traffic, it’ll be Google or Facebook. We’ve already showed you how to get the analytics data from these pages, but this will add one more thing to a to-do list that is (if your list is anything like ours) already too long.
- It also limits the ability of visitors to visit other pages on your site. You can add links to the content, so it’s not impossible, but it adds an obstacle to a process that you want to be as smooth as possible.
- For Facebook Instant Articles, this means more time that you’re spending inside of Facebook and off of the rest of the internet. Of course this is Facebook’s goal, but it’s not such a great thing for the web in general. If you never leave Facebook, then Facebook has too much control over what you see on the internet.
It doesn’t work for eCommerce.
- If you’ve got an eCommerce site, or a site that requires more than the limited features of these formats, then you’re out of luck (at least for now). This may change in the future, but for now the type of content that works best for this format is text or video.
It can be really hard to do.
- You may remember from our “How To” section above how many validators, verification tools, and testers Google provides for AMP. They didn’t do this for fun – Google knows how difficult this can be. We highly recommend getting the help of an expert when doing this.
Optimized sites are (almost) just as fast.
- If your site is doing everything that it can be (should be) doing to reduce load times, then AMP or Instant Articles isn’t going to be that much of a revelation. Your site will already be loading in less than three seconds if you’re taking care of business.
Even considering these negatives, Google’s AMP and Facebook’s Instant Articles are well worth the investment. Make sure you choose the right content, code the page correctly (and test it), and take advantage of the new ad rules and CTAs. Your traffic should increase almost as fast as your articles load.