Twitter has started linking to Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs) from its native Android and iOS apps, shifting more traffic away from standard mobile web pages and giving publishers another reason to pay attention to how their AMPs display and perform.
Twitter hasn’t made any public announcements about the change since Google I/O in May, and it’s unclear whether the rollout is complete. But the switch is apparent in the Twitter apps if you know where to look — and in publishers’ referral analytics.
This graph shows the growth in Twitter traffic to AMP content among the national and local news publishers using Relay Media, Inc.’s AMP converter. (Disclosure: Relay Media is my employer.) Twitter referrals grew from less than 1 percent of AMP sessions in December 2016 to more than 12 percent at the end of June, when Twitter expanded AMP links from its mobile web app to its Android and iOS apps.
Overall, Relay Media has seen non-Google sourced traffic grow from from about 4 percent of AMP sessions in December 2016 to 20% in June. That traffic is additive; total AMP sessions including Google sessions also grew significantly over the period.
Linking to a publisher’s AMPs instead of standard web pages isn’t something Twitter (or any other referrer) needs cooperation or even permission from the publisher to do. Any referrer can find the AMP URL in the source code of a standard web page and choose to display the AMP for a cleaner, faster experience, while the AMP itself remains fully intact (including the publisher’s ads and analytics).
Twitter’s use of AMP is mostly transparent to users. Twitter is linking to the publisher-hosted AMP instead of the Google-hosted version; the domain displayed in Twitter’s viewer should look very similar to the publisher’s standard URL (as opposed to the more complicated AMP URLs on Google’s CDN).
If a publisher is producing high-quality AMPs, the only thing users should notice is fast, smooth page load. For example, here’s a standard local news article (left) and the AMP version rendered in Twitter’s Android app (right). Apart from a couple of small cosmetic differences, the feel and functionality are the same.
This is a good time for all AMP-enabled publishers to try the side-by-side test, focusing on engagement and business performance. Here are some specific things to check:
- Video: One of the trickiest content formats for AMP is video, since AMP’s native video component is still a work in progress with respect to ads and analytics — but without video, a publisher’s AMP content and monetization are incomplete. Many third-party players are AMP-enabled, and there’s almost always a path to get video (and ads) to work.
- Onward engagement: AMP supports navigation menus and other clickable header elements, related stories lists, and pretty much anything else you can do on a standard web page. It’d be nice to see publishers test unique AMP engagement tactics as well.
- Calls to action: Search and social platforms are the wide mouth of the consumer funnel. While you’re giving users a beautiful, fast experience on AMP, you can also (politely) give them the opportunity to subscribe to notifications, download apps and so on.
- Revenue operations: Yield optimization is as much about back-end services such as header bidding and DMPs as it is about the ads on a page. It takes vigilance to keep up with the growing list of AMP-enabled ad tech companies; remember to check with all of your ad tech partners and ask them to notify you when they become AMP-enabled if they aren’t already.
There’s no rule that AMPs must be identical to their standard versions. In fact, AMP is a great opportunity for publishers to declutter their pages and experiment with new and simplified layouts. But, if a publisher’s AMPs are missing revenue-critical elements, or if the content is incomplete, those gaps will become noticeable as more platforms and referrers adopt the practice of AMP linking.
The good news is that AMP is a universal distribution format which automatically works across platforms and environments (unlike proprietary formats such as Facebook Instant Articles), and the dividends of optimization will grow as AMP audience expands.