Accelerated Mobile Pages Basics for Higher Ed Marketers

 

By: Emma Rose Jun 19, 2019

Accelerated Mobile Pages Basics for Higher Ed Marketers

If you’ve done a search on your mobile phone recently, you’ve probably seen AMP in action. Type in a general search term like “education” and you’ll get traditional links, but you’ll also see image cards that can you can flip through by swiping. These image cards are AMP articles designed to load quickly on mobile devices.

AMP or Accelerated Mobile Pages appear at the top of Google searches

AMP articles offer a two-pronged benefit for institutions of higher education. First, you can offer up AMP results when students search your college on their mobile phones, optimizing their experience. Second you can advertise within AMP results to reach students where they spend the most time, on their mobile devices.

Despite the high value of AMP, there is still a lot of confusion about it and uncertainly about implementing an AMP strategy. Here are the basics to get you started.

What is AMP?

AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages, which are exactly what they sound like — pages optimized to load quickly on a mobile device. They were first introduced in 2016, when Google announced that such pages would be officially integrated into mobile results. Since then, other search engines have enabled AMP functionality. Bing introduced AMP viewer and Bing AMP cache as recently as 2018.

AMP pages look just like regular mobile optimized pages from a user’s perspective. In fact Google has decreed that content on your AMP page needs to be “substantially similar” to that on your mobile responsive pages.

But things look a little different on the back-end. AMP pages are built using a stripped down version of HTML. AMP HTML is a restricted subset of normal HTML designed to be lightweight and help designs load quickly. It’s supported by AMP Java, an off-the-shelf JavaScript library designed with the same goal in mind.

AMP Cache ensures that pages are cached and stored by Google or another search engine to cut load times even further. Every page is validated by the cache to make sure that pages meet AMP best practices. Images don’t load until they are scrolled into view and ads are subject to special requirements that make them lighter and faster.

The point of  all of this is to improve load time, visibility, and dwell time for pages. Google found that users spent 2x longer on AMP pages when compared to regular mobile web pages. The first users of AMP pages were news sites, but since then, anyone who creates content has gotten in on the fun. Doing so makes sense, because mobile is on the rise.

Mobile is Growing

According to Networking firm Cisco, wireless and mobile devices will perform 63% of total searches by 2021. At the moment about 62% of all web browsing happens on mobile devices. Interestingly, about 32% of the time, the top-ranked page is different on mobile than it is on desktops.

Why does this happen? Because users are more impatient on mobile. They’ll leave a page that loads slowly and go to one that loads more quickly. Search engines see this activity and reward the faster-loading page with a better search ranking.

Even a 1 second delay can make a huge difference. In that single second your bounce rate goes up an average 8.3% while your conversion rate drops 3.5% and page views drop an astounding 9.4%.

Those numbers are especially important to Institutions of higher ed. Our research found that 82% of students do at least some college research on their mobile devices. Imagine if you could reach that huge audience just a little bit faster.

How to use AMP for your content

The first way to use AMP to reach potential students is by building AMP pages for your content. Many popular content management systems have compatible plugins that can at least start this process for you. However, hand coding can make a big difference in your results because it allows for better customization.

Make sure there are two versions of any article page: the original mobile optimized page and a AMP version.  The original versions of your articles should include a tag letting Google know that an AMP version exists. It looks like this:

<link rel=”amphtml” href=”http://www.yourcollegewebsite.com/blog-post/amp/“>

You may need to have your web developer rewrite site templates to accommodate the special requirements for an AMP page. These include things like explicit width and height parameters for all images, and custom tags for embedding locally hosted videos. While all of that might sound complicated, anyone with at least intermediate knowledge of HTML should be able to work in AMP HTML with just a little extra effort.

The effort is worth it because an AMP page is the only way to show up in the Top Stories carousel at the top of Google results. AMP stories also show up in News, Google Images and Discover. If visibility is your goal, AMP may help you get there.

How to use AMP for advertising

In November of 2018, Google announced that publishers using Google Ad Manager could serve ads in AMP stories. The same characteristics that make AMP attractive for sharing content also make it useful advertising space.  Visitors spend more time on AMP pages, they don’t bounce as often, and those pages are served up at the top of search results.

As an added bonus, the increased load speeds mean that users don’t need ad blockers to accelerate their browsing. The speed is already optimized, so ads can show as normal without slowing load speeds.

If you’re interested in AMP advertising, your favorite ad network is probably way ahead of you. Google AdSense, Media.net, Amazon A9 and dozens of others are already compatible with AMP.

You can buy all different kinds of ads including banner, sticky, story, flying carpet, promoted content and video ads. They include call to action buttons and other interactive features that make your ads as effective as ever – except more so, because more potential students will see them.

Is AMP right for you?

AMP brings many benefits and a few new complexities to your enrollment marketing strategy. For help deciding whether AMP is right for your institution of higher ed, contact Education Dynamics. We’ve been delivering the best student prospects for over a decade, and we’re always up to date on the latest technology for finding high-quality prospects at scale.