Google Addresses Concerns About URL Handling for AMP-Enabled Web Pages

Changes to Accelerated Mobile Pages will make it easier to access, copy and share canonical URLs for mobile search results, Google says.

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Google has tweaked the manner in which URLs for web pages that have implemented the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) protocol show up in mobile search results.

The goal is to make it easier for users to identify the true origin of AMP-enabled web pages and to make it easier for them to access, copy and share pages' canonical URLs with others.

The move stems from concerns about the manner in which Google initially implemented the AMP URL scheme. Some felt that the URLs displayed in mobile search results for AMP-enabled pages, obscured the identity of the true publisher and the origin of the web page while not always attributing traffic to the original publishers.

In a blog announcing the change this week, Google software engineer Alex Fischer acknowledged the concerns that have been expressed around the AMP URL scheme and said the changes were being made to address those issues.

“We at Google have every intention in making the AMP experience as good as we can for both, users and publishers,” Fischer said. “A thriving ecosystem is very important to us and attribution, user trust and ownership are important pieces of this ecosystem.”

The Google-led AMP open source protocol is designed to give web publishers a way to create web pages that load much faster on mobile devices than standard web pages. In the past, Google has cited examples where publishers that implemented the protocol saw their mobile page load times jump by more than 85 percent while their click-through rate jumped over 200 percent.

Google has committed to getting as many websites as possible to adopt the protocol and has recently begun playing up AMP-enabled pages in mobile search results. So far at least, the company has not said it would use AMP as a criteria for ranking websites but it is likely that the company will do so in future.

For some months now there have been concerns about Google not showing the URL of the original publisher in its AMP search results.

While users who clicked on a result were taken to the original publisher’s site, the URLs that appeared at the bottom of the search result itself pointed to a cached copy of the content on Google’s servers. So when users clicked on that link, the content would be served from the AMP cache rather than the publisher’s site.

In the blog post this week, Fischer said the Google has now added an anchor button in the AMP Viewer header in mobile search that will allow users to more easily access and share the original—or canonical—URL of a document.

People conducting a mobile search can now simply long-tap on the link that is displayed to use their browser’s native-share capability, Fischer said. Attribution, ownership and brand have become a lot clearer as a result of the change, he said.

According to Fischer, Google’s AMP URL scheme is designed to support the its intended purpose of enabling fast mobile page load times. AMP documents displayed in mobile search have three different URLs—the original URL, an AMP Cache URL and a Google AMP Viewer URL.

The Cache URL points to data that Google caches so the data can be uploaded more quickly to a mobile devices from any location. The Google AMP Viewer URL meanwhile is for a feature called “pre-rendering” that allows AMP pages to load instantly when a user clicks on a search result.

The URLs enable the speed benefits that AMP can deliver while minimizing effort for websites that want to take advantage of it, Fischer said.

“We have heard how you feel about this approach and the importance of URLs,” Fischer said in explaining Google’s tweak. “As you know, we want to be thoughtful in what we do and ensure that we don't break the speed and performance users expect from AMP pages.”

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.