Accelerated Mobile Pages and WordPress

Everybody knows by now that a website’s speed matters a lot. (In case you don’t, read this: Case study: Mobile pages that are 1 second faster experience up to 27% increase in conversion rate.) Google stays in front of the effort to speed things up, motivating site owners by making page load speed a factor in their search ranking algorithm, most importantly, but also by providing tools and tips for developers, like Page Speed Insights and “mobile friendly” testing — not to mention the performance tools in Chrome’s excellent developer tools.mobile-case-study-conversions

Accelerated Mobile Pages is one of Google’s newest performance-related initiatives (from early October 2015, here’s the launch announcement), promising a systematic rather than a piecemeal improvement in performance by defining and enforcing a rigid structure for the content with constrained embellishment. The open-source initiative is loose in the wild (here and here), though uncommon. and pages built accordingly are expected to show up on Google SERPs in early 2016. Sitepoint has a good overview of the initiative.

Not surprisingly, because they were one of the initial partners in the initiative, Automattic (the guys behind WordPress.com) has already released a first-cut plugin enabling a WordPress site to produce AMP pages. Called “AMP” (on GitHub) simply enough, it lacks options and features but does take care of business, and is far-enough along and well-enough written that a decent developer can start using it now. It’s implemented on this site — you can view this post in AMP format by visiting http://www.steveclason.com/accelerated-mobile-pages-and-wordpress/amp/ [opens in a new tab]. That’s the default look — I haven’t done a thing, though the plugin has plenty of filters to allow some personal expression. Like the RICG responsive image engine, I expect this will roll into the WordPress core before long.

My guess is that this will get a lot of attention once AMP pages start showing up in Google SERPS. Content providers should think about stealing a march on the competition and implementing this soon. It will mostly benefit content providers and won’t affect SEO — or shouldn’t, in theory.

Yikes! What Happened?

A while back, last year maybe but it looks like I deleted the post, I spent a considerable amount of time making this site reach perfection (two 100s) on Google’s Page Speed Insights tool. Here’s what it looks like today (18 Oct 2015):
pageSpeedInsights_18Oct2015

So, what happened?

I changed my caching plugin from “W3 Total Cache” to “WP Super Cache” but it’s hard to believe that would cause much problem. I also installed a plugin to support Accelerated Mobile Pages (which so far seems to do nothing at all but I haven’t poked at it), but I think the real reason for the decline in my score is neglect. The world kept turning but I stopped paying attention to this site. For a freelance developer, that’s a good thing because when we have paying work we tend to ignore our personal sites, but it’s embarrassing for a guy who’s supposed to be Performance Focused.

So, I’ve got some work to do here, don’t I?

Are We Mobile-Friendly Yet?

Every site I’ve built in the last couple of years incorporates a device-responsive layout using media queries to serve different styles to different device widths. (Except for one, which used device-detection at the client’s insistence, but I don’t like to talk about that one.) I’m not unique — every developer I work with can probably say the same thing.

Making a responsive site costs a little more than a static, fixed-width site, as everyone should know by now, but given the trends in mobile-device usage and search engines’ inclusion of “mobile friendliness” in their ranking algorithms, those of us still building static sites have their heads in the sand.

Google is trying to help yank those heads up (actually, they’re trying to help themselves by improving the quality of their search results, but we can pretend) by providing a simple pass/fail tool to tell you if a site is Mobile Frieldly, here. It’s also avaialable via Webmaster Tools.

Online Reviews As Good As Personal Recommendations

online-reviews-chartSearch Engine Land published a study from BrightLocal about the effect of online business reviews. There’s lots of data, but the take-away is that those reviews matter, almost as much as personal recommendations, which matter a whole lot. I try to review products (books!) and services, especially when my experience has been positive, because I read and value reviews myself and I’m willing to take a few minutes to go beyond the “this sucks”, anger-driven Amazon one-star reviews.