AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) for Lawyers

Google continuously improves on user experience in search results. AMP (or Accelerated Mobile Pages) are a response to an increasing number of users browsing the web on mobile devices. It is an open-source (free for anyone that wants to contribute to or use it1) project developed by Google and Twitter.

Phones and tablets are often much less powerful than desktop computers so they may not be able to digest pages as quickly. Consumers are also digesting content on much smaller devices making screen real estate all the more important.

What are AMP Pages?

AMP pages are essentially another version of a site owner’s pages that can be cached and loaded more quickly.

They are designed for better performance on mobile devices. AMP pages are coded using AMP-optimized HTML elements and are basically a stripped down version of regular pages. They are intended to be “light weight” for improved performance for users on cell phones and tablets.

You can see AMP pages denoted in search results with the AMP lightening bolt symbol:

amp-page

Overall AMP pages are put on a major diet compared with regular pages on the internet. Here is what attorneys can expect if they want to make AMP compatible pages on their website.

Why Should Attorneys Care?

Authoritative content is (or should be) a centerpiece3 of attorneys’ marketing efforts online. Well-written, informative and well-researched content helps attract searchers to an attorney’s website among many other benefits.

Huge percentages of users are now accessing websites on mobile devices rather than traditional desktop computers. Mobile devices are leaner and do not have the processing power of larger machines.

The point of all this is that AMP pages can help content load more quickly on attorney’s websites creating an improved user experience. Better user experiences send good signals to search engines that pages are working well for users.

Do Attorney’s Need AMP Pages?

The fast answer is “it depends”. Using AMP pages is not a matter of flipping a switch and there are a host of things to consider before going down that road.

 

Implementation 
Depending on the way a website is built, AMP pages may be more or less difficult to implement. For most attorney websites built on CMSs, the markup needed to make an AMP-optimized site is fairly easy to implement.

For businesses that have thousands of pages and/or those that are generated dynamically, the process may be more complicated. Attorneys should consider the effort involved in implementing AMP pages compared with the benefit realized for their audience.

Cost vs Benefit
Beyond the actual ease of implementation, there are also cost benefit considerations to weigh. Even though implementing AMP pages may be less resource intensive on many attorney websites does not make it a simple project.
AMP came about as a project for making the mobile web browsing experience better for users.

For attorney sites that are mostly static content with only dozens of pages, AMP does not necessarily make sense. For sites that publish news content and rely heavily on monetization through ads, AMP is a natural progression to improve the experience for their visitors.

Google’s VP of engineering David Besbris has mentioned that Google is already factoring in page load speed4 and user experience into its algorithm but the company has not openly said that AMP optimized pages will be favored in search (yet).
Here are some tips to decide whether or not AMP pages are a sensible goal to pursue:

  • If you have a site that is already mature in terms of SEO may find added value in creating AMP pages.
  • Sites with lots of different types of resources loaded onto single pages
  • Sites with substantially more mobile visitors than desktop (north of 70%).
  • Sites that have a mature link profile.

AMP is Not All Positive

Running off and optimizing all of your blog pages with AMP markup provided by Google5 may not be the best thing to do. You have to pay close attention to the implementation. Links are still a huge part of ranking well in search.

Attorneys can leverage Google to add AMP markup to their blog pages however doing that would inadvertently generate future links to Google.com pages and not their own website.

That’s because Google AMP pages have the google.com/amp URL before them. Google is also moving toward hosting pages on their own so they do not have to fetch them from website owners.

All that being said, if links are to remain an important part of ranking a web page, we can certainly see Google finding a way to give credit to links pointing at AMP pages to the publishing website and not its own pages.

Inaccurate Analytics Data

A recent development related to AMP6 is that a growing number of website owners are expereincing inconsistencies in their analytics sessions data.

There’s a long technical explanation provided by Google’s engineers7 but the short of  it is, single unique visitors could be counted multiple times.

That presents a lot of issues if you’re in the midst of an SEO campaign.  Inaccurate data can lead to bad decision making which hurts your overall business goals.

Practical Mobile Enhancements

AMP should be on attorney’s radar but it may not be practical to implement right away. Here are some things attorneys can do to make sure they are ranking well in mobile searches and providing a good experience for their visitors:

  • Mobile responsive vs. mobile only site: Attorneys should have a responsive site as opposed to mobile-specific pages. The difference is having a responsive site means the site changes based on the screen that is rendering it as opposed to having the same content on a mobile-specific domain.Mobile-specific pages are essentially a different site that only shows to mobile users. The draw back there is that any links built to the main website do not benefit the mobile version (which is even more potentially damaging considering Google is moving toward mobile-first indexing8). Site owners also have to worry about updating two versions of their site.
  • Strip out unnecessary content: Real estate on mobile device screens is even more limited than on desktop or laptop screens. It’s a good idea to strip out content that doesn’t really add anything to the mobile experience.
  • Make elements larger: Businesses kind of have to dummy-proof their mobile sites. That means making buttons, links and text very large so that they are easy to read by virtually anyone.This makes it more likely that people will stay on your site and click through to other pages (which sends good signals to search engines if users have arrived at your site via a search results page).

As with any change Google makes, it is important to remain aware of what is happening. The AMP project is still fairly new and many attorney websites simply do not fall within the target audience of website owners who will benefit from its implementation.

That is not to say they will never need to convert their pages to perform better on mobile devices.

References
https://www.ampproject.org/1
http://searchengineland.com/amp-top-stories-now-live-2433142
http://rankingsio.wpengine.com//developing-a-content-strategy-for-attorneys/3
http://rankingsio.wpengine.com//improving-your-law-firms-website-speed/4
https://googleblog.blogspot.com/2015/10/introducing-accelerated-mobile-pages.html5
http://marketingland.com/amp-bug-bad-google-analytics-2082176
https://www.christianoliveira.com/blog/en/web-analytics/why-the-bounce-rate-of-my-amp-pages-is-so-high/7
https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2016/11/mobile-first-indexing.html8

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