Weekly SEO Recap: AMPlified spam

Joost's weekly SEO recapThis 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:

guardian-amp guardian-normal

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 can 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 CSS3.info 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 got 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, 2 of which are owned by Google.

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!

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