Google AMP – Self Referencing Canonical

If you’ve decided that Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are for you, then this next article in our series of AMP exploration will be something you will want to check out.

Normally, in order to run AMP, you have to have an AMP URL that references an original canonical URL. In addition, you have to make sure to follow Google’s recommended guidelines and best practices when it comes to JavaScript and other page coding and add-ons. WordPress has a plugin that was developed by AMP Project Contributors (Official AMP Plugin for WordPress) that can make the process tremendously easier when implementing on a WordPress website. Google provides developers with options to test mobile friendliness of websites, if it is AMP compliant (AMP Validator), and to ensure structured snippets will display.

What some people may not know however, is that if you decide to just have your entire site be AMPs, then technically, you do not have to have a separate canonical URL that AMP has to reference. This is known as a self-referential canonical URL. Google confirmed that this self-referential canonical tag can help your pages perform well in search results. 

In the case you are using standalone AMP pages (website consisting of AMP pages only), you do need to include the AMP pages in your XML sitemap.

Google has said, repeatedly, that AMP in and of itself is not a ranking signal. John Mueller states that, if the AMP pages are your primary (canonical) version, then these are the pages that Google will judge when making ranking decisions. And, since site speed has been a ranking factor for several years, the speed of pages that are successfully AMP-ed will play a role in ranking.

Furthermore, at least for now, AMP pages are seen on the news carousel, found above-the-fold and pushing down standard organic results. Pages in the carousel are therefore naturally going to receive more impressions and clicks, with a lower bounce rate as the more impatient searchers receive more instant gratification.

Some of you may be wondering, about how AMP performs on a desktop or laptop? Google announced in one of their Webmaster Blog’s that AMP pages display equally well on both mobile and desktop screens. If AMP supports all the functionality that you need, you might consider creating your pages as standalone AMP pages to support both desktop and mobile visitors for the same page. However, AMP on desktop doesn’t get search-specific features in Google Search results.

When it comes to Google Analytics, AMPs will show differently than regular traffic if you have a canonical URL that point to an AMP URL, you’ll need to implement session stitching. Without it, your analytics will simply be wrong. In a nutshell, Google Analytics will see the visitors to your AMP pages as being on a different site. Your AMP pages will show poor user engagement metrics as a result. To measure how you are doing with your AMP pages, you need to get accurate data!

It’s important to note that, at the property level, you will see data from your alternate property (for example, your mobile site) shifted to your “canonical property”. Your alternate property traffic probably won’t drop to zero in Search Console because canonicalization is at the page, not the property level, and your mobile property might have some canonical pages. However, for most users, most property-level data will shift to one property. AMP property traffic will drop to zero in most cases (except for self-canonical pages).

AMP traffic uses different client IDs from those for web traffic by default. AMP pages load faster and show different traffic patterns than their standard web page counterparts, which can often mean you will get different metrics between AMP and non-AMP traffic.

Use of a separate property to measure AMP traffic allows for better analysis of metrics and a more accurate picture of your traffic. If you do need to use a single property to measure both AMP and non-AMP traffic, use the data source dimension or a custom dimension to distinguish them.

By default, Google Analytics will send the value “AMP” via the data source dimension. Use this value to segment, filter, or otherwise analyze AMP vs non-AMP content within a single view.

If Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages sounds like the right fit for you, but you’re just confused about how to implement or the process or are feeling overwhelmed, feel free to reach out to Maltese Marketing!