If your hotel has an independent website, take a moment and consider its features that you value the most. No matter what these features are, they should always have this clear goal: provide the user with a high-quality experience that convinces them to reserve a room. Recently, Google released a new project designed to improve the experience of mobile users. The Accelerated Mobile Pages (or AMP) project is currently taking the digital world by storm, and many tech-savvy hoteliers may be wondering, “Is AMP right for my hotel website?”
How much value do you put into the mobile traffic on your hotel’s website? Over the past several years, the number of users conducting research and making decisions on their mobile devices has grown at a staggering rate. According to a 2016 study from ComScore (which is free for you to download), 65% of all time spent using digital media is through a mobile device. Not only that, but forty percent of mobile users will abandon a website if it doesn’t load in only three seconds. With smartphones and tablets rising in popularity, the way your site performs on mobile is vital to your success.
Let’s imagine the last time you browsed the internet on your mobile phone. If you were searching for something using an internet browser, did you find results easily? Perhaps you noticed relevant news articles on the page like the image below.
How about the last time you clicked a link on social media? Were you taken to a slow loading and complicated mess of a page with pop ups and difficult to read text? Or did the page load with speed and precision and have easy navigation? Many developers take great pains to consider these factors when designing a website, as they affect the experience of the user and how well their site performs.
A Brief History of Mobile
Accelerated Mobile Pages (more commonly known as “AMP pages”) are the next stage in the evolution of website design. Consider how the typical website looked before the advent of smartphones. Most of the pages you would find were very static, if your screen could not view all of the content you would have to scroll side to side. Then smartphones came along, and full websites became difficult to view on tiny screens, what was a marketer to do!?
Separate mobile websites were an initially popular development since content could be curated and tailored to the intent and needs of mobile users; however, they came with their own host of issues. Separate mobile websites required redirects, which increased the amount of time pages took to load and created a roadblock to view all of a sites content, and because they existed independently of the main site they required an increase in maintenance efforts.
Eventually, responsive website design took hold and has currently taken over as the ideal function for websites to be easily accessible on both desktop and mobile. Responsive pages have the same address no matter what device you use; so content is easy to access and maintain and is presented to fit perfectly within the width of your screen. This means no matter what device you are using, you will be able to simply scroll up and down through all of a sites content simply and easily.
But what are the drawbacks of responsive websites? What if a certain page loads too slowly for mobile users? Can we be sure that a mobile app is loading the page properly?
Enter: Accelerated Mobile Pages
Google’s engineers poured over how mobile users interact with websites and developed a highly technical solution to common issues these individuals have. The key factors that make the AMP project a valuable development are speed and readability, which are the two elements that make for an ideal user experience with a mobile page.
What does it mean to have an AMP page?
The Future of AMP in Digital Marketing
For many digital marketers AMP pages are the way of the future for website design, and are a valuable tool for mobile functionality. Currently, AMP pages are being used heavily by sites that regularly publish new and timely content in an article fashion (consider the Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, etc.). For these types of websites, AMP is the key to success, as it makes articles easy to explore and share with others while also removing intrusive elements that can negatively affect user experience. However, with AMP pages as a growing trend, it is important for hotels with independent websites to consider if these are going to be effective for their goals. Let’s take a look at what the benefits and drawbacks of AMP pages are, to see if they are right for your hotel.
Benefits to Creating AMP Pages
One of the best things about Accelerated Mobile Pages is that they load quickly on your mobile device (hence the name), and when you are catering your content to mobile users speed is everything. The reason why AMP pages are so incredibly fast is they only load content within your screen’s field of view. If something is below the bottom of a window on the user’s device then the content will not load until it is meant to come into view. Also, these pages are missing large blocks of code that can increase download times. When a user visits this quickly loading page they are more likely to interact with it in some way before leaving the site. This leads to lower bounce rates, a signal of quality to Google. While Google does not directly consider the presence of AMP pages as a ranking factor, AMP pages can indirectly boost your rankings by improving the behavior of your site’s visitors.
AMP is also a surefire way to provide users with a consistent experience over all types of mobile devices and browsers. We live in an age where anybody with enough skill and programming knowledge can create their very own smartphone app, which in some cases function as web browsers. In fact, many social media apps already have web browser functionality.
AMPs open source nature saves work for App developers. Mobile apps and browsers will be built or rebuilt with AMP in mind, and AMP pages will consistently load with the same appearance. If your page has features not permitted by AMP, it may load slowly or inconsistently (this is usually the case with pop up features that can disrupt the user experience regardless of how it appears). With AMP pages no matter how a user is viewing your site, it will always appear as intended.
While it may only be temporary, Google’s SERP have been displaying AMP pages in a different, more eye catching way. Many searches now include a carousel feature which allows users to scroll through AMP results specifically. For your site, this may mean a jump in visibility depending on what search results you are appearing for. However, this carousel does not appear in every search and is not necessarily a permanent feature.
As of right now, the presence of AMP pages are NOT a ranking factor in SERPs. However, Google is always updating and modifying their algorithm to improve the experience of searchers, and there has been a big push on improving the rankings of sites that are noticeably more mobile friendly.
Drawbacks and Limitations of AMP
Some other features are allowed but require special code limitations in order to be permitted. Take a look at the distinct design features that our clients below have. Many of the major features of these pages like backgrounds, menus, slideshows, and virtual tours are simply not possible in AMP.
As you can see, while AMP pages load quickly to accommodate the needs of the mobile user, they prevent websites from implementing many custom design elements that you as a hotel owner may use to drive users to your hotel specifically. In a similar vein, take a look at how the design limitations imposed by the AMP project affect a website’s ability to showcase itself as a distinct entity. Below are three AMP pages of different websites with distinctly different target markets and who produce vastly different content. At a glance, how clear are the differences between these three sites?
If your goal on your hotel website is to make a clear distinction between your hotel and your competitor’s, a large batch of AMP pages may be the exact opposite of what you want for your site.
If you look at the AMP project website you may see a very common theme among the sites being promoted as participants. A vast majority of AMP’s participants are content publishers and news sites, who come out with new articles of timely content on a daily or weekly basis. Most of the data currently surrounding AMP is for users with a particular goal in mind.
Making a purchase on a room is different than sharing an article or liking a post. While it is clear that AMP provides a better user experience for mobile users in general, it may not provide an ideal experience for your mobile visitors. This is not to say AMP pages cannot be valuable to a hotel website; however the data in support of AMP pages is skewed to a very particular style of website, with a user intent that is not necessarily the same as what your mobile users have.
If you were to push forward with an AMP page, you would be one of the first in the hotel industry to do so, which can be a double edged sword. Your website now has a unique feature few competitors have, but there’s no telling how this development will be received for your niche market. With Google updating their algorithm to allow for the best search experience possible, they may just as easily find that for local business searches (which would include hotels), AMP pages do not provide the same value to searchers as a mobile responsive website.
Several e-Commerce sites are currently testing out AMP pages and gathering data to measure their effectiveness. While this is not exactly the same as a hotel website, there are similarities in that users are encouraged to make a purchase. For nearly any hotel website looking to get involved in the AMP project, I would highly recommend monitoring what the general effect is for e-Commerce and what other major industries begin adopting AMP before making a final decision.
The addition of special pages that only certain users can see requires making very precise changes to your website on several different levels. While they make your site appear simpler, AMP pages will add a lot of back-end complexity which will have a ripple effect when you inevitably need to make other changes to your site.
There are different files your independent website is hosting that a user’s device loads when it pulls up a page. The back-end of your site is constructed of carefully compiled computer code and should not be changed without the proper skill and expertise. Some (but not all) website management tools have plugins built in place to allow for easier creation of AMP pages, but even in those cases you will want experienced and knowledgeable developers to make these changes.
In short, you should be aware that making an AMP version of one of your pages is not some simple “press a few buttons and it’s done” project. Like most changes to your site, this is complicated and requires time, energy, and skill to be sure it hass been done correctly. You and your digital marketing team will need to make a point to ensure it functions properly throughout the life of your website.
How Should a Hotel Website Use AMP Pages?
Let’s say you are fully invested in creating AMP pages for your hotel’s independent website. Have you considered exactly how you will be using these pages? Since AMP pages are designed to encourage user engagement and get your visitors clicking links, you should prioritize the pages only where link clicks will bring in revenue (i.e. pages where users can browse your rooms and special offers). On these pages, you will want few distractions so users click on the right links, such as “check availability.” It is these instances where an AMP page can vastly improve the experience and activity of your average mobile user.
Is now the best time to AMPlify my Website?
Should you implement AMP on your hotel website? Sadly, that question lacks a simple and straightforward answer, as it depends heavily on your individual needs and goals. What you as a hotelier need to do is carefully evaluate several key factors and determine if investing in the time and effort to create AMP pages is right for your hotel. Asking yourself these questions will help guide you in the right direction:
- Do you see measurable value from mobile traffic for your website?
- Do you already have a mobile responsive website?
- Are there elements slowing down your pages and affecting their performance?
- How much do you value the unique effect your site design has to a user?
You also need to determine if your site loads fast enough on mobile as is and if it performs properly on most mobile browsers. If it does not, consider what other factors may be affecting your site. Rather than jumping headfirst into a massive development project, you may simply need to make some slight tweaks to improve you performance.
For most websites, I would recommend verifying your site performs to the highest possible caliber on mobile. Make sure it loads quickly and easily and none of your content appears strangely on mobile devices. Fortunately, many hotel websites do not have additional ads and pop ups that can throw off your mobile performance. However, if your hotel website does not load quickly or perform well on mobile, you can always get in touch with one of our digital marketing consultants to find the best option for you! Regardless of your decision, it is vital to stay up to date on news and trends of AMP and the digital marketing world by so you can adjust your strategy to match the regular updates and changes of this project. We will be keeping an eye on Google’s AMP project, so feel free to subscribe to our newsletter below for regular updates on the digital marketing world!