Have you noticed a revolving carousel of articles or a small "lightning bolt" icon next to some of the results of mobile Google searches over the past year? If so, then chances are you've made the acquaintance of the Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project and the blisteringly fast pages that take advantage of this new system to load in the blink of an eye.

While loading articles, blog posts, and other content nearly instantaneously is great in the abstract, it's only natural to ask the question that just popped into the minds of everyone reading this: Does AMP really mean much to dealerships and the rest of the automotive industry?

The answer to this question lies in the fact that the impact generated by AMP has revolutionized the mobile content experience and drastically altered a hefty portion of the digital landscape. To prove this point to you (and ensure that you don't fall behind as AMP continues to grow and evolve), let's set aside a few minutes to talk about what AMP is, how it works, and why it needs to be on your dealership's radar.

The Basics of "Diet HTML"

As Will Critchlow and Tom Anthony of the Moz Blog's "Whiteboard Friday" series explain, AMP is a stripped-down "diet" form of HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language). Unlike standard HTML, AMP aims to trim any elements or inclusions that bog down load times and detract from a lightweight and fast-loading user experience. AMP, a direct response to projects like Facebook's Instant Articles and Apple News, is also open source, thereby allowing it an even greater range of flexibility for content producers who wish to optimize the loading experience.

Moz's Whiteboard Friday's Explanation of AMP (Click To Expand)

As the above illustration from Whiteboard Friday highlights, the specific technical aspects that increase the load speeds of AMP-enabled pages include:

  • Limited use of tags.
  • Streamlined Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).
  • Standardized JavaScript and components.
  • Designed with heavy caching in mind.
  • Lazy loading and rendering preferences that pull content only when needed.

In other words, AMP is designed to ensure that it taxes user resources in the most minimal way possible and never keeps the person on the other side of the screen waiting for your content. Considering that smartphone usage has rendered the average human attention span to an interval that is shorter than that of a goldfish (as reported by Leon Watson of Britain's The Telegraph), it's safe to say that the faster your content loads for viewers on the other side of the screen, the better.

Does My Dealership Need to Worry about AMP?

While spelling out the concept behind AMP is a fairly straightforward process, determining whether or not this joint project between Google and Twitter matters to your dealership is a conversation that isn't exactly as cut and dry. On the one hand, Search Engine Journal's Matt Southern points out that adherence to AMP design isn't a ranking factor on its own in Google's search algorithm - yet.

"Google's John Mueller officially stated AMP is not a ranking factor at this point. Converting pages to AMP format will satisfy the mobile-friendly ranking signal, but there's no ranking signal that's solely associated with AMP."
- Matt Southern, Search Engine Journal

However, all signs point to a not so distant future in which AMP-enabled content is king. At the top of this list of indicators that speak to an impending shift on this front is the fact that the AMP content carousel already maintains a coveted spot above the fold on mobile devices during a Google search.

Adding in both the fact that Google announced back in October of 2015 that mobile search queries had officially surpassed those generated by desktop and the realization that, according to Danielle Antosz of Search Engine Journal, the world's leading search engine has teased the notion of AMP moving from non-ranking factor to major player multiple times sends a very clear message: Any dealer that isn't on board with AMP as part of its content operations stands a substantial risk of being left behind in an increasingly mobile-oriented digital landscape.

Considering how important it is to stay ahead of the competition in the online marketplace, is this trend really something your dealership can afford to turn a blind eye to when it comes time to generate content for its site?

Getting Your Content on Track with AMP

Now that you understand the importance of AMP and how it can bolster the reach and impact of your content, it's time to answer the other major question that's racing through your mind right about now: How does a dealership integrate AMP into its overarching content strategy?

As the AMP project team explains in their "how-to" guide for getting up and running with this content approach, the process starts with familiarizing yourself with the required mark-up for this iteration of your dealership blog posts and other site content. Specifically, AMP-enabled pages necessitate the following inclusions within your backend before being published:

  • An appropriate doctype declaration.
  • A top-level HTML tag.
  • Body and head tags.
  • Character set tag as the first child of the head tag.
  • Executable script tag as the second child of the head tag.
  • Referencing tag that points back to the original HTML version of the AMP document. (Or to itself if no such document exists.)
  • Responsive meta tag located within the aforementioned head tag.
  • AMP-specific style and boilerplate formatting.
  • Optional meta data inclusions.

Here's an example of how all of this AMP framework should look on your backend:

<!doctype html>
<html amp lang="en">
  <head>
    <meta charset="utf-8">
    <script async src="https://cdn.ampproject.org/v0.js"></script>
    <title>Hello, AMPs</title>
    <link rel="canonical" href="http://example.ampproject.org/article-metadata.html" />
    <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width,minimum-scale=1,initial-scale=1">
    <script type="application/ld+json">
      {
        "@context": "http://schema.org",
        "@type": "NewsArticle",
        "headline": "Open-source framework for publishing content",
        "datePublished": "2015-10-07T12:02:41Z",
        "image": [
          "logo.jpg"
        ]
      }
    </script>
    <style amp-boilerplate>body{-webkit-animation:-amp-start 8s steps(1,end) 0s 1 normal both;-moz-animation:-amp-start 8s steps(1,end) 0s 1 normal both;-ms-animation:-amp-start 8s steps(1,end) 0s 1 normal both;animation:-amp-start 8s steps(1,end) 0s 1 normal both}@-webkit-keyframes -amp-start{from{visibility:hidden}to{visibility:visible}}@-moz-keyframes -amp-start{from{visibility:hidden}to{visibility:visible}}@-ms-keyframes -amp-start{from{visibility:hidden}to{visibility:visible}}@-o-keyframes -amp-start{from{visibility:hidden}to{visibility:visible}}@keyframes -amp-start{from{visibility:hidden}to{visibility:visible}}</style><noscript><style amp-boilerplate>body{-webkit-animation:none;-moz-animation:none;-ms-animation:none;animation:none}</style></noscript>
  </head>
  <body>
    <h1>Welcome to the mobile web</h1>
  </body>
</html>
        

For a complete breakdown of each of these features, feel free to step aside for a moment and dig into the "required mark-up" section of the Google AMP starter guide, found here.

Of course, being up to speed with the tech side of things is really only half of the conversation when it comes to integrating AMP into your dealership's digital operations and approach to site content; you also have to decide which pages are worth enabling on this front in the first place.

The big key here is that adopting AMP technology isn't something that requires a complete overhaul of every page within your domain. In fact, you're much better off focusing on a couple of static content pages that are most likely to serve as landing points for search results and then working your way up to deeper integration. It might not be the flashiest approach possible, but it ensures that your dealership doesn't waste its valuable time - and resources - trying to undertake a site-wide overhaul when it only needs to focus on a select group of pages.

What's Next for AMP?

As always, Google is far from willing to turn its eye away from the future - and the upcoming changes to its AMP project send this message home in a major way. Specifically, Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan reports that the web's leading search engine plans to change the header that appears above AMP content.

"Early next year, Google will make it easier for those viewing AMP content in its search results to find and share URLs that lead directly back to publishers, rather than to Google itself."
- Danny Sullivan, Search Engine Land

And why is Google bothering to make what appears (initially, at least) to be such a minor change to the structure of this mobile-centric project? It all boils down to ensuring that credit for quality content - and the ensuing benefits - ends up with the publisher (read: your dealership), and not Google.

Currently, AMP content doesn't redirect to the publisher's site when a reader clicks on the search result link related to this offering. Instead, the viewer stays on Google and receives a Google-based Uniform Resource Locator (URL) - which can naturally be a little confusing for the person on the other side of the screen if he or she was expecting to see your dealership's domain (and share this content with friends on social media) and isn't exactly familiar with the inner workings of the AMP project.

Looking to AMP's future.

While this change doesn't look to be ready for live distribution until sometime in the first quarter of 2017, it proves, without question, that the team from over at the Googleplex is serious about optimizing, refining, and enhancing the AMP project in particular - and the mobile user experience in general. Once you understand this, the need for your dealership to follow along in Google's footsteps, lest it ends up falling behind the competition, becomes readily apparent.

Want to stay on top of all of the latest developments with Google's AMP project, as well as the rest of the cutting edge of the automotive digital marketing sector? Then be sure to follow Remora on Facebook and Twitter and check in regularly as we continue to bring you breaking news and insights from around the web.