In this corner, from Mountain View, California, coming in with an ambitious mission to make the mobile web faster, we have Google AMP! <applause from nerds>
And in this corner, hailing from the mean streets of Menlo Park, California (median household income only $82,609), fighting to shake up the publishing world as we know it, we have Facebook Instant Articles! <applause from more nerds>
Last but not least, we have the rest of planet earth’s publishers, marketers, and internet users, who are increasingly at the mercy of the whims of Silicon Valley engineers!
Let’s get ready to rumble!!!
Google and Facebook are two of the world’s preeminent forces setting the rules for how the internet works right now. They wield incredible power to dictate who gets noticed, how advertising works, and how content is (or should be) distributed for maximum visibility.
These behemoths control a vast share of our eyeballs and attention. Millions of us have come to rely on them for our living, and growing our businesses.
With a wave of their respective hands, Google and Facebook can render entire marketing strategies obsolete. And so we’re forced to adapt whenever Google or Facebook pivot, tinker with their algorithms, or change how the digital advertising/marketing game is played.
That’s certainly the case with AMP and Instant Articles, two new, not entirely controversy-free, features from our technological overlords that carry intriguing possibilities for marketers of all stripes.
Google defines their AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) project, which was launched in February 2016, as: “an open source initiative that embodies the vision that publishers can create mobile optimized content once and have it load instantly everywhere.”
The idea is for content creators to adopt this new AMP standard by removing anything extraneous from their web pages so they load like lightning and provide a better overall user experience. Google envisions a world in which no person must suffer the indignity of a slow-loading page. And, of course, never have to leave the Googlesphere for any web activity.
The catch here is that AMP-friendly content and correlating search results will feed into Google’s own servers, and keep readers on Google — not on your site. So you’ll be more visible, but it won’t be on your turf necessarily.
What exactly this will cost in terms of accommodating AMP standards remains to be seen.
Ultimately, Google is proposing changes to the very structure of the internet, and attempting to rejigger how the whole thing works.
So what exactly is at stake here? AMP is still in its infancy, so no one really knows where this will end up. But the potential for marketers is clearly huge. Having a site that’s mobile-friendly and loads quickly are important factors in your Google search ranking. And of course speedier load times are not just a matter of SEO; seamless loading makes for easier browsing, clicking, downloading, and, of course, purchasing (or whatever conversion it is you’re after). Perhaps most important of all, Google is straight up telling us that those who use AMP will be favored.
If you’d like to learn more about getting started with AMP, this is a good place to start. This one too if you’re keen on adapting your existing content. Or if you use WordPress, bless their good souls, there is a plugin to get you all AMP’d up.
Facebook unveiled Instant Articles in 2015, initially working with just nine heavy hitters like Buzzfeed and National Geographic to promote their new publishing tool. The idea behind IA, not too unlike AMP, is to give publishers a blazing fast, super-visible platform, in exchange for keeping the content within the friendly confines of Facebook. They tout that IA is ‘10 times faster than standard mobile web articles, that Instant Articles are 20% more read, and that people are 70% less likely to abandon an Instant Article.’
Today, Instant Articles is open to all publishers (though getting started requires a bit of effort.) The larger questions facing content creators wanting to get in on the action, however, are ultimately about control and monetization. Is it worth the tradeoff to host your content in a place you can’t control, in hopes of getting more visibility? And possibly business?
Facebook certainly hopes you think so. They have been working furiously to improve and clarify the Instant Articles monetization situation, which they note can be accomplished through direct-sold ads, Audience Network, and branded content. Metrics appear to be easy to track, so that’s nice. They are also making progress with ad integration.
But what about traffic to your own website, or your own SEO and branding? Do you want to take the red pill or the blue pill?
All in all, Instant Articles seems like a fine option for those looking to reach a bunch of people — albeit not in an environment you own or have much control over.
Which Should You Use?
So should you incorporate AMP or Instant Articles into your content marketing strategy? Both? Neither? A combination? Come on now, that’s why you get paid the big bucks.
I suppose the thing to keep in mind, whenever you’re planning to do anything with Google, Facebook, or any other media company, is the inevitable tradeoff. They have the audiences, tools, insight, reach, metrics, and platforms we so badly covet, but they’re not charitable institutions. They’re businesses and businesses gotta make money.
In the case of AMP and Instant Articles, there is certainly some give and take. Are you willing to sacrifice traffic to your own site for more reach and exposure?
That’s a question a lot of marketers are going to be asking themselves in the coming months.