AMP is an HTML framework that helps desktop-optimized sites deliver ultra-fast mobile versions of webpages.
AMP is created by Google, which has led to claims it gives pages a ranking advantage in mobile search over non-AMP pages.
Google has debunked those claims and said AMP is not a ranking factor.
Case closed, right?
It’s easy to say AMP doesn’t give a site an advantage in rankings and leave it at that.
But we can’t write it off and ignore the impact it has on other elements that do matter for SEO.
Here’s what the evidence says about AMP’s impact on search results and how it’s connected to other ranking factors.
The Claim: AMP is a Ranking Factor
The claim here is straightforward – AMP gives pages a ranking boost in Google’s search results.
AMP has come up in discussions about ranking factors ever since Google launched the technology in 2018.
One reason AMP is thought to be a ranking factor is because Google has a stake in its success as a technology.
Google is responsible for the creation of AMP, and actively encourages using it as part of a larger effort to speed up the web.
In theory, Google could increase the adoption rate of AMP by turning it into a ranking signal.
The ranking boost would be like a reward for using Google’s new technology. Of course, that would be unfair to any site not using AMP.
If Google used AMP to rank search results, you could argue it would be forcing sites to use its technology in order to stay relevant.
Thankfully, that’s not how search works.
But AMP isn’t irrelevant to SEO by any stretch.
Let’s look at the evidence on how AMP impacts SEO.
The Evidence Against AMP as a Ranking Factor
In Google’s Advanced SEO guide, the company says it ranks all pages using the same signals regardless of how the page was developed:
“While AMP itself isn’t a ranking factor, speed is a ranking factor for Google Search. Google Search applies the same standard to all pages, regardless of the technology used to build the page.”
This quote touches on something we mentioned earlier about AMP impacting other things, like page speed, which are confirmed ranking factors.
Sites that use AMP can potentially benefit from these other signals.
As of July 2018, page speed has been a ranking factor for mobile searches.
Because AMP is designed to load pages instantly, it can help sites send stronger ranking signals in terms of mobile page speed.
This has the potential to lead to better rankings. However, sites can generate the same signals without AMP.
Core Web Vitals
Google’s Core Web Vitals became ranking factors when the page experience algorithm update was rolled out in June 2021.
Leading up to the launch of the update, Google’s communication to site owners has always been that AMP can help with achieving ideal Core Web Vitals scores.
“There is a high likelihood that AMP pages will meet the thresholds. AMP is about delivering high quality, user-first experiences; its initial design goals are closely aligned with what Core Web Vitals measure today.
This means that sites built using AMP likely can easily meet Web Vitals thresholds.”
Google presented data showing that AMP domains were five times more likely to pass Core Web Vitals compared to non-AMP domains.
Passing Google’s Core Web Vitals thresholds has the potential to improve a site’s search rankings.
Again, as with the page speed ranking boost, this can be achieved without AMP.
Other SEO Benefits of AMP
AMP used to carry with it various perks that could enhance how a page appears in search results.
For example, Google’s Top Stories carousel, which appears at the top of search results when looking for news stories, used to only accept AMP pages.
Top Stories eligibility was a ranking advantage unique to AMP for a period of time.
That changed in June 2021 with the rollout of the Page Experience update, which now makes it possible for non-AMP pages to appear in the Top Stories carousel.
Lastly, another unique feature of AMP pages was that a lightning bolt icon appeared in search results to indicate which pages offered faster experiences.
Google has done away with that icon. Now, AMP pages are indistinguishable from regular pages in search results.
AMP as a Ranking Factor: Our Verdict
Google has confirmed multiple times that AMP is not a Google ranking factor.
Further, it no longer has unique advantages that could have an impact on click-through rate, such as a special icon and Top Stories exclusivity.
AMP can positively impact other ranking factors (e.g., speed), but it is not a factor on its own.
Featured image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal
Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say
Google has agreed to pay a $391.5 million settlement to 40 states to resolve accusations that it tracked people’s locations in violation of state laws, including snooping on consumers’ whereabouts even after they told the tech behemoth to bug off.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said it is time for Big Tech to recognize state laws that limit data collection efforts.
“I have been ringing the alarm bell on big tech for years, and this is why,” Mr. Landry, a Republican, said in a statement Monday. “Citizens must be able to make informed decisions about what information they release to big tech.”
The attorneys general said the investigation resulted in the largest-ever multistate privacy settlement. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, a Democrat, said Google’s penalty is a “historic win for consumers.”
“Location data is among the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects, and there are so many reasons why a consumer may opt out of tracking,” Mr. Tong said. “Our investigation found that Google continued to collect this personal information even after consumers told them not to. That is an unacceptable invasion of consumer privacy, and a violation of state law.”
Location tracking can help tech companies sell digital ads to marketers looking to connect with consumers within their vicinity. It’s another tool in a data-gathering toolkit that generates more than $200 billion in annual ad revenue for Google, accounting for most of the profits pouring into the coffers of its corporate parent, Alphabet, which has a market value of $1.2 trillion.
The settlement is part of a series of legal challenges to Big Tech in the U.S. and around the world, which include consumer protection and antitrust lawsuits.
Though Google, based in Mountain View, California, said it fixed the problems several years ago, the company’s critics remained skeptical. State attorneys general who also have tussled with Google have questioned whether the tech company will follow through on its commitments.
The states aren’t dialing back their scrutiny of Google’s empire.
Last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was filing a lawsuit over reports that Google unlawfully collected millions of Texans’ biometric data such as “voiceprints and records of face geometry.”
The states began investigating Google’s location tracking after The Associated Press reported in 2018 that Android devices and iPhones were storing location data despite the activation of privacy settings intended to prevent the company from following along.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich went after the company in May 2020. The state’s lawsuit charged that the company had defrauded its users by misleading them into believing they could keep their whereabouts private by turning off location tracking in the settings of their software.
Arizona settled its case with Google for $85 million last month. By then, attorneys general in several other states and the District of Columbia had pounced with their own lawsuits seeking to hold Google accountable.
Along with the hefty penalty, the state attorneys general said, Google must not hide key information about location tracking, must give users detailed information about the types of location tracking information Google collects, and must show additional information to people when users turn location-related account settings to “off.”
States will receive differing sums from the settlement. Mr. Landry’s office said Louisiana would receive more than $12.7 million, and Mr. Tong’s office said Connecticut would collect more than $6.5 million.
The financial penalty will not cripple Google’s business. The company raked in $69 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2022, according to reports, yielding about $13.9 billion in profit.
Google downplayed its location-tracking tools Monday and said it changed the products at issue long ago.
“Consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this investigation which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said in a statement.
Google product managers Marlo McGriff and David Monsees defended their company’s Search and Maps products’ usage of location information.
“Location information lets us offer you a more helpful experience when you use our products,” the two men wrote on Google’s blog. “From Google Maps’ driving directions that show you how to avoid traffic to Google Search surfacing local restaurants and letting you know how busy they are, location information helps connect experiences across Google to what’s most relevant and useful.”
The blog post touted transparency tools and auto-delete controls that Google has developed in recent years and said the private browsing Incognito mode prevents Google Maps from saving an account’s search history.
Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees said Google would make changes to its products as part of the settlement. The changes include simplifying the process for deleting location data, updating the method to set up an account and revamping information hubs.
“We’ll provide a new control that allows users to easily turn off their Location History and Web & App Activity settings and delete their past data in one simple flow,” Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees wrote. “We’ll also continue deleting Location History data for users who have not recently contributed new Location History data to their account.”
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.
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