Let’s have a recap of the recently launched Penguin 4.0, before diving into AMP.
By now, you’ve probably heard of Penguin 4.0, which operates in real time. This is now part of the Google core algorithm.
Some people may still be thinking, “great,” so what does this mean for me and my website? That’s actually a fair question. You need to know about Penguin 4.0 because Penguin no longer “behaves” in the same way as it did in the past.
Before, if your website had a bunch of spammy links directed to it, your ranking would drop. Google would use the Penguin penalty to demote your website. Many sites have seen their rankings drop due to Penguin.
In Penguin’s current environment, those links would be devalued. Sites will no longer be demoted for past link issues.
This is really big news here. That mean’s your website’s SEO is still important, but you can be more confident when building links. Some people have refrained from link-building strategies because they feared the Penguin penalty.
You may not be familiar with two changes that will arguably have a similar magnitude in the coming years, the upcoming “mobile-first” index and the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) program.
Let’s break down these changes down and talk about Google’s big picture and how all these elements fit together.
Google is in the process of rolling out a “mobile-first” index. With this new index, search results and search rankings will be based on the content from the site’s mobile version first. Since Day 1 of Google, the “Desktop-first” index was used.
Let that information sink in for one second…
Most sites either have a mobile counterpart, or they’re responsive. That’s good news. If your “desktop site” is currently ranking for any phrases, your mobile version of this, content should rank the same in the mobile-first index. And I do need to emphasize the word “should”.
However, this is where things start to get a little complicated and involved…
If you have a mobile-friendly site, but don’t have the same amount of content on the mobile pages, this can cause an issue when the index is rolled out. You can check your site to see if it’s mobile friendly using this tool.
Should you care?
Google has said that the index will look at the site’s mobile version. If there is less content on mobile page A than on desktop page A, then Google will only view the mobile version.
Most likely, you should care. You need to care about the amount of mobile page content and whether, or not, you have the same on-page optimization methods as the desktop version.
This is why people take a responsive design approach vs. using separate mobile sites.
This content and linking can remain the same regardless of which version you view.
If this is the case, you may find your rankings shift. If you don’t have as much content on your mobile pages as you do on your desktop pages, then your site will not rank well.
However, beyond responsiveness, you may make a bigger impact with AMP. So, Is the mobile version of your site AMP powered?
What is “AMP”?
AMP is Accelerated Mobile Pages.
Gary Illyes from Google has been quoted as saying Google will give preference to an AMP powered page.
While that is enough for AMP, beyond that, your mobile site’s page speed will determine your mobile and desktop’s site in Google. Google will look at the structured data and tags, H1s, title and content that’s generated on your mobile site. Google will use this over your desktop site.
Google has laid this out in a straightforward path. You should follow this path if you want to rank well in the “mobile-first” index.
Make sure you have a mobile site which contains the same optimization methods and content used on its desktop counterpart. Also, make sure you use AMP so that the page loads fast.
Here’s How You Can Get Started with AMP
If you use WordPress, it’s easy to integrate AMP. All you have to do is use a couple of simple plugins.
Step #1 – AMP Plugins
There are many AMP plugins. Here are some of the ones we’ve used.
AMP: https://wordpress.org/plugins/amp/ (Our preferred option!)
Either of these plugins can be used to create dynamically generated AMP-compatible pages.
There are a few important notes regarding the AMP plugin:
WP Pages and archives are not supported at this point. This means they won’t have AMP compatible versions for Archives or Pages. This is likely to be fixed when the plugins evolve or are updated. Your AMP content should not be automatically displayed to a mobile visitor.
What we’re trying to do is prepare for future Google AMP updates, (like including more of the AMP pages in the SERPs). By setting up these pages today, your site will be optimized for when the AMP program expands.
We’ve witnessed some steady traffic from our site’s AMP pages. However, this program is still new. You should get prepared because this program is expanding quickly.
Step #2 – Enable YOAST SEO on All AMP Pages
You won’t want to lose your YOAST data in the shuffle. That’s why you should be sure AMP uses all of the YOAST metadata, as intended.
While there are several ways to do this, Glue for YOAST SEO and the AMP plugin, make this easy: https://wordpress.org/plugins/glue-for-yoast-seo-amp/
Step #3 – Test the AMP Powered Mobile Site
Google released an AMP testing tool. This can be accessed here after the pages have been AMP-enabled: https://validator.ampproject.org/
This is easy to use, type in the URL of the site or page to test. Click “Validate” and the AMP validator will tell you if there are any issues you need to know about.
The tool will highlight any code issues. It will show the exact line of code containing the problem. It’s a great developer tool for troubleshooting issues.
Great changes offer great opportunities. That rings true when it comes to the recent Google announcements regarding Penguin 4.0. This, along with their preference for AMP-powered websites and mobile optimization.
Today, SEO isn’t just about building links and optimizing your site. This is not just about fast-loading, responsive sites, creating content or doing on-page optimization. This is only part of what you need to do to optimize your site.
Today’s SEO is not like yesterday’s and it looks nothing like tomorrow. It’s always been this way. SEO changes and evolves over time. When you know what these changes are, you can adjust your site so that it is prepared for this shift.
The key to being successful is being ahead of these shifts. That means you need to make sure your mobile and desktop sites have the same optimization and the same amount of content and it’s powered by Google’s AMP Program standards.
Not only would you rank better when someone searches for their target word or phrase on a mobile device, it will also help the ranking for desktops. But don’t forget that now and in the future, more of your competitors will be upgrading their sites to the AMP standards. By working on these issues, you can ensure your site ranks well in Google as these coming changes are rolled out.