SEO: AMP’s days are numbered

Since 2014, publishers have felt obliged to publish Accelerated Mobile Pages to get good news search traffic. Those days may well be over.

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages: a must-have for news sites looking to get significant search traffic on mobile, right? Until now, sure. For much of the past decade they have been a virtual pre-requisite for appearing in the news carousel, the new stories area of the main search results page.

As Barry Adams described it recently:

Since its inception in 2015, AMP has been force-fed to publishers. The arrangement was simple: adopt AMP or forego most of your mobile search traffic. Without having valid AMP versions of your articles, your content would be extremely unlikely to be shown in Google’s mobile Top Stories carousels.

So, reluctantly, big publishers have had to throw resources at it, and smaller publishers have had to weigh the costs of implementation, versus the costs of losing that news search traffic.

The beginning of AMP’s end

Two things have changed:

  1. With the introduction of Core Web Vitals as a ranking signal, Google no longer requires AMP for inclusion in the news carousel
  2. It turns out that the motivations for forcing AMP on publishers may have been less than pure, after all… (All due credit to Malcolm Coles, then at The Telegraph, who I remember expressing deep scepticism about Google’s motivations and data justifying them at the time.)

The amount of traffic going to non-AMP pages has left from single digit percentages to over 25%, according to Adams. That’s changing the equation for many publishers. Maintaining both a good set of traditional pages that are well mobile-optimised AND AMP pages is developer overhead they can ill-afford.

And with good mobile-friendly pages now ranking OK, it might be time to wind down AMP support, and reclaim that developer time and effort.

Publishers abandoning AMP

Some other events have occurred which suggest that people are doing just that: quietly abandoning AMP:

Here’s what triggered the change at Search Engine Land:

But, this August we saw a significant drop in traffic to AMP pages, suggesting that the inclusion of non-AMP pages from competing sources in Top Stories was taking a toll. Our own analytics showed that between July and August we saw a 34% drop in AMP traffic, setting a new baseline of traffic that was consistent month-to-month through the fall.

When both a major social platform AND one of the biggest SEO blogs out there are saying “goodbye and good riddance” to the format, its days are clearly numbered. As John Gruber put it:

It took four years, but support for AMP is suddenly collapsing. Good riddance.

What should I do?

Simple advice:

1. If you’re not publishing AMP

Cross AMP off your to-investigate list. Concentrate instead on making your site perform better under the Core Web Vitals metric — something I will return to in the coming weeks.

There is no good reason to invest resources in developing out AMP if you don’t publish them on your site now.

2. If you are publishing AMP

It’s analytics time!

Start carefully entering how your traffic to AMP pages is changing over time. If it’s on a downwards spiral, it’s time to think about removing support, and just switching to good, fast-loading mobile-friendly pages instead. And you are doing that already, right?

If it’s negligible, just rip those AMPs out immediately.

However, if your AMP traffic is both good and holding steady for now, leave things as they are, and maintain a watching brief.


Adam Tinworth Twitter

Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.