Joost's weekly SEO recap:

AMPlified spam

This is a week of quite a bit of news. Google pushed a new standard called Accelerated Mobile Pages and an update to prevent hacked sites from ranking in the search results. Let’s dive in!

Accelerated Mobile Pages

The biggest news of the week is Google’s push for a new web standard they’ve developed together with a ton of (mostly European) publishers and some other parties. It’s called Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and it’s supposed to be a new and open web standard.

Compare these two screenshots from the Guardian:


Left is the AMP version, right the normal HTML version.

I have two problems with it:

  1. It restricts what we can do on the web.
  2. It’s not open at all, but benefits a select group of larger web companies.

Restricting the web

The basic idea of AMP is that they’ve modified HTML to restrict it quite a bit. A lot of the functionality we offer on web pages today won’t be allowed within AMP pages, which makes making it faster quite easy. Let’s compare this to a race car. If you want to make a race car faster, you give it a faster engine and you strip all the weight. In this weight stripping you also remove things like back seats, air conditioning, etc. AMP is not unlike that. It’s the trimmed down version of a normal web, because Google cares for speed more than for nifty features.

I’ve worked on CSS3 a lot, starting back in 2006. Ironically, AMP removes some of the CSS selectors that were introduced back then. AMP basically brings us back to an internet from before 2000. AMP throws away years of advancement, with the only goal being to make the web faster. I like fast, but I like features more. There’s a reason most of us ride in cars with air conditioning, back seats, GPS etc. We like these features. I can’t see this as an improvement.

Not an open standard

Some of the things we can currently do on the web that you’d expect to be restricted in AMP are not, which is where I get worried. Some companies get to have their own tags with their own specific functionality, but it’s unclear whether everyone can get those. There are, for instance, specific tags for YouTube and Twitter. To get your tag in AMP you’ll have to apply to the people that lead its development. The same is true for most advertising formats: only 5 ad platforms are supported, of which Google owns 2.

Currently there is no info to be found on the AMP project site about how the process of applying for new tags or ad formats, or other things, will work. The site just has a form with no information on who you’re submitting info to. It doesn’t feel “open”, it feels very closed.

Right now, AMP seems to be far from an open standard. It’s a standard devised by Google, which was smart enough to allow a few competitors access to not be hit by court cases immediately.

An anti-spam update

Other news this week was that Google rolled out an update to minimize the number of hacked sites showing in the search results. They’re calling it an algorithmic update, yet, to be honest, most of what I’m seeing suggests that they actually just flagged thousands if not more sites as spam. Some of the most spammed for keywords had their entire top 20 change, but within 2 days the entire top 20 was filled back up with hacked sites, just relatively new ones.

What it does show is that you should really make sure your site doesn’t get hacked. This article on WordPress security might be a good start if you’re on WordPress.

That’s it, see you next week!

Joost's weekly SEO recap series

9 Responses to AMPlified spam

  1. Rob
    Rob  • 6 years ago

    It looks like Automattic have started a plugin that adds support:
    Still a few issues to iron out though.

  2. Avishek
    Avishek  • 6 years ago

    Hi my sitemap contains 1525 webpages and 900 images which are submited to
    index. about a month ago 1300 wepages and 760 images were indexed but now it’s
    gone down to 500 webpages and 240 images. why has it happened ? how to
    resolve it? Please Help me

    • Rob
      Rob  • 6 years ago

      You’re asking n the wrong place, try the Google webmasters forum

  3. Rob
    Rob  • 6 years ago

    The project is on github so it’s pretty open:

    From your article I get the impression that you imagine building desktop sites with it when it seems to be just an alternative way to show your existing content for systems that support it.

    Keep your air conditioning and furry dice if you want and provide a faster means to your content for those with bad connections (and those who really don’t care how fancy your car is)

  4. Tarun Gupta
    Tarun Gupta  • 6 years ago

    Google Accelerated Mobile Pages varies from Facebook Instant Articles because it concentrates on the versatile’s mobile web..

  5. Tom Southern
    Tom Southern  • 6 years ago

    Hi Joost,

    This is really helpful, thanks. Recently, I’ve seen more comment spam appearing on even some popular blogs, especially those using comment plugins that have some kind of social sharing facility. But, also I’ve seen comment spam creep into a comments in other ways too. I know it’s hard to keep constant watch when you’ve got lots of posts on your blog, but I think everyone should keep an eye out for spam.

    There the usual obvious spam comments. But some spammers are getting quite clever in the comments they’re leave, for example, their comments are longer than usual and appear as if they’re genuine responses to the post. The clues are often in their blog urls.

    It’s one to watch out for.

  6. Petar Bogdanov
    Petar Bogdanov  • 6 years ago

    Brief and conscious on the AMP issue. Hackers will be hackers. There are niches where “burn and churn” rules the day. Some random guy (with the necessary skill set of course) will try to outplay Big G even for a few weeks.

  7. Jonathan Beddoes
    Jonathan Beddoes  • 6 years ago

    Great article and I’m glad someone is talking about this.

    I came across AMP this week for the first time and I was baffled by it. I got the impression just by looking briefly that another facet of the technology was resource sharing (a bit like jQuery being hosted on Google) which will speed websites too. That part might not be such a bad idea.

    On a separate note, you should definitely start paying me for QA consultancy services :)

    1) “AMP is not unlike that” – no need for the double negative here.
    2) link is broken because of HTTPS

    You’re welcome :)


    • John Alexander
      John Alexander  • 6 years ago

      Using a combination of terms like “not unlike” is not only acceptable, it’s a subtle usage that gives a shade of meaning you wouldn’t get with the opposite. So saying 1 thing is “not unlike” another is different than saying the 1 thing is “like” the other. It’s an accepted usage because it softens the association, implying that, while they’re not completely different, they’re not identical, either.