Drive Organic Traffic to Your Website With AMP Article Pages
A Summary in 5 Bullet Points
- The secret is to create and publish in-depth, authoritative articles covering the subjects that are associated with your, and your competitors' products or services.
- These articles must cover each subject in great depth and employ keywords that your competitor's website typically rank well for.
- These informative articles must be free of sales hype but they may contain a series of deep links into your website.
- The content on your existing website is not altered or edited in any way. It’s strictly the beneficiary of increased traffic, generated by these articles.
- Since 60% of all Google searches are from smartphones, these articles should be published as Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) so they will receive favorable ranking by Google on the search engine results pages.
Note: Since July 2018 Google has crawled all web pages as though they are mobile pages. Two of their top-ranking factors are page load speed and mobile friendliness, with extra consideration for AMP web pages.
What Matters to Google
Like all good and responsive business owners, Google’s main purpose in life is to please its users. This means rapidly delivering accurate and relevant results in the most apropriate format to people seeking helpful information.
Google’s Search Algorithm
Google has spent, and continues to spend, mountains of money refining their search algorithm. Their goal is to analyze online content with the same understanding and nuance as a human would. Their money has not been wasted. They’re very good at it and they’re getting better.
Google Doesn’t Care So Much for Sales Hype
Google places a high value on helpful information and a lower value on sales hype. This is frustrating for business owners, who desperately want their web pages to score a high ranking. This battle – Google vs. business owners – has been going on for a very long time. Google does not like being tricked into presenting non-relevant sales content.
Google Seems to Be Evolving
With its increasing emphasis on serving the needs of its users, Google seems to be evolving away from focusing on search engine functions and more toward the broader purpose of becoming a comprehensive information provider – like a library – the world’s library. This explains their evolving Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) specification, which was originally created for articles.
Google’s Obsession with Mobile Users
Again, like any smart business, Google is following its audience – and, increasingly, that audience is mobile. More people are using phones to access the web than any other device.
Each of us literally carries around instant access to the internet in our hands. Needless to say, we are now living in a mobile world. Consequently, Google is striving to improve the mobile experience for its users.
AMP Provides a Better Mobile Experience
AMP pages that contain quality content are favored in Google search results because they provide a better experience to Google's mobile users. AMP pages really shine when it comes to longer, information-packed, authoritative articles…the kind of content preferred by Google, as they transition from a search engine to an answer engine.
Understanding the Mobile User Is Absolutely Critical
To maximize your traffic, you must address the issues that are important to mobile users. If you don’t, you risk losing a large portion of your audience in an instant. As noted in the bullet points above, mobile users represent at least 60% of your website traffic. That’s far too great a percentage to ignore. Like it or not, we’re all being dragged into delivering the mobile experience that Google now expects and that mobile users appreciate.
Split Personalities – Phone vs. Desktop
Here’s the thing…we each have a split personality. We behave differently when using a phone to go online than when we’re in front of desktop or laptop displays.As mobile users, we are less patient and may even be in a distracting environment when viewing web pages on a small screen. If we’re inconvenienced the slightest little bit – poof! – we’re gone. If that happens, the site owner’s time, money and effort to get our attention will be wasted.
The Mobile-Friendly Check List
- A web page must be fast. It should load in less than 2.5 seconds on a 4G mobile network. Any longer, and you will start losing your audience very quickly. After about 3 seconds, more than half of them have vanished, according to Google’s recent studies.
- Graphic elements should be resized for optimum viewing on a small screen and for also faster loading time. It's foolish to wait for a mobile network to download a 1,920-pixel header graphic (huge file size) when the mobile device will be forced to resize it then display it as a 500-pixel graphic, but this is what millions of "responsive" websites do, thus driving away hard earned mobile traffic.
- You must format your content so it’s easy to read on a small screen. A single line of text on a desktop monitor converts to three or more lines of text on a phone. Long, unbroken paragraphs will test the patience of a mobile visitor.
- These shorter paragraphs should have compelling subtitles to hold your visitors’ interest as they scroll. (The article on this page is an example.) Ideally, on a small screen when one subtitle scrolls up out of sight, the next one comes into view below.
- For best results, the article page should be in AMP format. Google maintains a separate cache for AMP-formatted pages and serves them lightning fast to mobile users. In general, Google created the AMP specification for efficient delivery of informative articles, which is consistent with their new mission in life. This task is quite technical and may require outside help. (More on AMP below.)
Win by Teaming Up With Google
If you’ve been frustrated with your efforts to get your website to rank higher than, or at least among your competition’s websites, you now have an alternative to expensive, time-consuming, ineffective ranking strategies directly associated with your website. This AMP article technique should enable you to improve your search results, all without touching or interfering with your website, or risking its reputation with questionable SEO tactics.
You will learn more here how you can enhance your partnership with Google by writing an authoritative article on a subject related to the product or service you sell. Zero-hype, informative articles should be displayed on a search results page to anyone using keywords normally associated with your and your competitors’ websites.
A carefully-crafted headline or title for such articles will attract the attention of people interested in your product or service, since it’s human nature to want to learn more in an environment devoid of sales pressure.
So, your articles shouldn’t contain any sales hype. They should be strictly informative pieces that answer a key, pre-sale question common in your industry. And, you should stick to one topic (one pre-sale question) per article.
Key Requirements for Your Articles
In addition to the actual content (your helpful information), there are several other key requirements for a successful article strategy. Each article should…
- Include keywords used by your competitors to rank well;
- Cover only one topic;
- Contain a descriptive, yet intriguing title that triggers curiosity. Such a title might pose a question (“How to…”) or offer advice (“The Best Way to…”) or report news (“The Latest
- Be formatted according to AMP’s technical specifications; and
- Be functionally formatted (short paragraphs, etc), which makes it easier to read, especially on a phone.
Okay, let’s get more specific about all of this AMP stuff.
What is AMP and Why Should I Care?
In 2015 Google introduced a new, open-source standard they call Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). This new page standard is a significant piece of the website success puzzle.
Driven by the fact that more than 60% of all Google users are on mobile devices and knowing that Google places its users first, even ahead of its advertisers, you can understand why Google would want to cater to all mobile users.
You should care about AMP because AMP means speed…page loading speed for smartphone users. Most mobile users will abandon a web page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. So, it stands to reason that Google favors websites that load very quickly when generating their search results page.
Note: The speed advantage of pages delivered from the AMP cache are available only on mobile devices. On desktop and laptop systems (larger screens) AMP pages behave like any other web page.
The Secret to AMP’s Speed
AMP pages are created in a unique form of HTML that enables separate caching of the page content at Google and other content delivery locations around the web. This provides almost instant webpage delivery (instant page loading) on a smartphone. This lightning-fast page delivery from the AMP cache eliminates many technical steps between
clicking on the search result and displaying the page to an impatient person using a phone.
Why Do AMP Pages Need to Be Validated?
To qualify for inclusion in Google’s AMP cache, a page must exactly match strict AMP design standards. If a page fails to meet this strict specification, it will not be included in the cache. In that case, it will work like any other web page, but its speed advantages will be lost. Submitting a page to Google for AMP validation is how a developer knows if the page passes the test or if it requires further work.
What is Structured Data?
Structured data is a strict protocol for communication directly with the search engine robot about your webpage so it can be indexed efficiently. AMP web pages typically have about 30 lines of source code designated as "structured data." This strict format is defined by Schema.org (https://schema.org/).
Dozens of preformatted "schemas" (specifications) are defined there and they cover almost all types of web pages. Here are some examples of Schema categories: Articles, Events, Movies, Restaurants, Book Reviews, Job Postings, etc.
Structured data helps a search-result robot (Google’s AI) to select the most relevant web pages for the search results list. Simply put, carefully-constructed structured data improves the odds that your web page will be in included in the search results.
What Are Snippets and How Will They Help?
Consistent with their efforts to transition into becoming primarily an information provider, and practicing their "user first" philosophy, Google is delivering (displaying) what’s called “single-answer” results to search inquiries. These are called snippets. These happen most often when the user is employing a voice search query.
Snippets are created on the fly directly from Google's index of websites, as the AI (artificial intelligence) robot is assembling the search results page. These single-answer responses serve to improve Google’s AI software and possibly enhance the user experience if the answer satisfies the user's question.
Google uses an algorithm to search its cache of this type of content and displays what it thinksis the best question/answer snippet among others that are available.
If you are lucky, Google will grab content from one of your web pages or articles and serve it as a snippet. Snippets are displayed in what’s called “position zero,” which is at the very top of a search results page on a desktop search and frequently as the only result on a smartphone search.
Here’s an example: If someone types in a question like, “What is the best way to sharpen a kitchen knife?”, Google may display a snippet that clearly answers that question and display it right at the top of the page, ahead of everything.
There are several ways to sharpen a kitchen knife, depending on how dull it is and what tools are best for bringing the edge back to super sharp. So, how does Google decide which website to snatch a snippet from?
No one knows because snippets are uniquely selected by the AI-based language used in the search query and what Google knows about the user. A different user may see different snippets for the same exact search query.
It’s almost certainly a different snippet would be displayed if the question was, “What’s the best way to sharpen a dull kitchen knife?” This assumes Google finds a snippet that answers this exact question.
Snippets help Google users by displaying instant answers to their queries right at the top of the page. It’s human nature that once people read the answer in the snippet, many of them will not read the rest of the page.
They most likely will read the answer in the snippet and then click on a link embedded there and go straight to the snippet owner’s web page. This is a good result for the owner of the snippet content, but bad for the owners of all the other listing on the search page.
There Are Many Google Search Result Formats
In addition to the conventional search results listings that we’re all used to seeing displayed on a search results page, Google now has over 20 different search result formats. Some of these are dominated by large snippets of content extracted directly from web pages, which are often AMP pages. So, beyond simple download speed, AMP pages offer other benefits. Offering good snippet candidates is one.
Including Keywords in Your Article Content
As you know, including keywords in the content of your website helps Google determine how relevant your content is to the search terms typed in by Google’s users.
If you wish to steer as many people as possible to your website, you should include keywords in your articles that your competitors rank well for. This is an important part of this AMP article strategy.
How to Identify the Keywords That Rank Well for Your Competitors
First, make a list of key search terms you think your prospective customers will use when looking for the product or service you and your competitors sell.
Perform a few, incognito searches with those terms and slight variations. (Note: An incognito search is an option included with your browser. It enables you to perform a search that is unaffected by your own search history, online activities or your physical location.) You should do the same searches from your phone, using both voice and text.
The search engine results will be your list of competitors according to Google. Record the keywords used during your search. As you build this new list, prioritize them to help decide which ones to include in your articles.
Because you will be limiting each article to a single subject, you should only use those keywords most relevant to that particular subject. You can also find competitors’ keywords, plus a list of backlinks by using a service like SpyFu. Their website has a free service that is very useful is analyzing your competitors' web presence.
Another company that offers a similar service is SE Ranking. They also have a free trial.
When Your Site Doesn’t Rank Well but Your AMP Articles Do
By including your competitors’ keywords in your AMP article, you can drive traffic to your site even if your site’s listing doesn’t even appear on a search results page. In fact, your AMP article has a very good chance of getting clicks, even if it’s displayed among your competitor’s listings.
Why will this happen? It will happen because the descriptive title and description tags attached to your article will let people know your providing helpful information related to their search, especially if your article answers a commonly-asked, pre-sale question for your product or service.
Human Nature Takes Over
Here’s an example… Let’s say someone is searching for a pest control service in their area. When the search results page appears and among all of the company listings there is a listing for an article entitled, “How Long Does It Take For Termites To Do Real Damage To Your Home?”
No sales hype…just helpful information on a subject most homeowners will want to know about. This title is descriptive, but it also has an additional element that draws people in like a magnet and that additional element is curiosity – one of the most powerful forces in nature.
And, in several places throughout the article, there are links to the website of the company that produced the article. Now, imagine how much more effective this approach would be if this company created several other articles, built around different keywords.
Do you see how this works? An intriguing, curiosity-inducing title/description combination attached to your article puts human nature on your side.
Outsource Your Article Writing
If you’re too busy to write your own articles, you can outsource that part of the job. To prepare for that, create an outline of the points to be covered and provide a list of the keywords you want to be worked into the article.
To find a writer, search “writers for hire online.” You will see listings for upwork.com, freelancer.com, writeraccess.com, ffiver.com, etc. As you will see, there are a lot of freelance writers out there. You may want to ask for writing samples before you engage one of them.
If you hire an outside writer, consider their work as an initial draft. You will want to carefully review it to check the facts and maybe alter the style. Its tone should be conversational.
Read it out loud to see if it flows well and sounds right to you. Also, make sure your keywords have been included and fit in naturally with the surrounding text.
Converting Your Finished Article to AMP Format
Unless you’re totally familiar with publishing articles in the AMP format, you will want to hire it done. You will need someone familiar with the AMP validation process to make sure Google accepts it into their AMP cache.
Alpha Group Software (https://AGSW.com) offers this service, as do other providers. AGSW will convert your article to AMP specifications, get it validated and also host it for a very reasonable price.
AGSW also offers mobile format editing. This service converts normally-formatted text, as you would typically see on a desktop monitor or in hard copy, to a format optimized for easy reading on a smart phone screen.
This service includes the creation of descriptive subheadings, with the appropriate AMP-HTML tags and structured data, to help Google catalog the content of each paragraph. This increases the chances of a paragraph being chosen as a snippet that Google could display as a single answer to a user query.
Your Article Success Check List
- Format your article as a series of short paragraphs, each with a descriptive heading.
- Go through the article to confirm you have used your keywords in a natural way throughout the text of the article. These should the keywords that rank well for your competitors.
- Add text links in your article to your website, using anchor text representing the keywords associated with the content on your website.
- Build a simple web page, following the guidelines for articles established by the AMP project (https://www.ampproject.org).
- Create structured data for your article, following the guidelines presented by Schema.org (https://shcema.org/article).
- Employ the JSON-LD method of delivering structured data (https://jsonld.com/article).
- Validate your AMP page with Google (https://search.google.com/test/amp).
- If you are hosting the AMP page on your website, add it to your site map XML-Sitemaps
- Submit your new sitemap to your Google search console (https://search.google.com/searchconsole/about).
- The next time Google crawls your website, they should copy your AMP page into their AMP cache for direct delivery to the search engine results page when the user is using a mobile device.
Overwhelmed? Not To Worry
If you’re overwhelmed by this list of individual tasks, all is not lost. If you wish, you can submit the draft of your article to Alpha Group Software for the handling of all the technical stuff.
Upon completion of the work, you can host the article as part of your website or AGSW will host it for you. The hosting location of the article itself is transparent to your audience.
If you want help, email your article to AGSW at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a quote for publishing it as a validated AMP page.
You are also welcome to email any questions you may have about this entire AMP article strategy. Send your questions to email@example.com.
About the author…
Frank Holt’s entire career has been associated with the evolution of both the technology and culture of the world of computers. After his earlier years working for IBM and HP involved with Mainframe and Minicomputer hardware and software, he focused on Internet web development, just as the popularity of the web as a marketing environment exploded. He’s been helping small business owners with their online marketing ever since.
Having to wear many hats, small business owners are often broadsided with the challenge of keeping current with the constantly-changing aspects of internet marketing. Being bombarded and overwhelmed with the details of each new thing is exhausting. And, then there’s the cost of chasing this moving target – search engine this and SEO that.
Frank helps business owners deal with these issues with a common-sense approach to all of that nonsense. He has a good handle on what should be addressed and what can safely be ignored. The benefits are twofold: First, his clients don’t go insane and, second, the return on their ad budgets improves. After all, they have a business to run.