Google released the open-source accelerated mobile pages framework in 2015 with the primary goal being to speed up the delivery of webpages on mobile devices. Within two years, 900,000 web domains were publishing AMP pages, with more than 2 billion AMP pages published globally.
At my company, we help AMP publishers monetize using AMP ads, and we are a Google Certified Publishing Partner. Through this experience, I've seen that AMP is evolving. Speeding up webpage delivery was only one aspect of the AMP project. Since its launch, Google has also released AMP web stories (think Instagram stories), AMP email and AMP ads. In this article, I’m going to focus on AMP ads.
What are AMP Ads?
AMP ads bring the same operating principles that made AMP-enabled webpages so popular and apply them to delivering advertising experiences that are faster, lighter and more secure than standard display ads.
In simple terms, this means publishers can run ads that load faster and improve engagement by providing a better user experience, while still retaining core monetization capabilities. From my perspective, being able to deliver a better user experience is more important than ever before, considering the increased regulatory focus on user privacy and the mass adoption of ad-blocking software, which is now available for almost all types of browsers and devices.
When most people think of the benefits of AMP ads, they think of speed. After all, when ads take too long to load, users bounce off the webpage. By delivering ads faster, AMP ads can help improve the inventory’s viewability score and click-through rates, which in turn signals to advertisers that your inventory falls in the premium category.
That said, leveraging AMP ads has advantages beyond better speed, including:
• They're light and flexible. AMP ads combine commonly used ad functionality, which helps reduce the size of the ad units. Once on-page, AMP ads also consume less bandwidth by bundling multiple requests together instead of making separate calls. They're also extremely flexible. Because AMP ads are designed to work on both AMP-enabled and standard HTML pages across devices, they're relatively easy to switch to or test.
• They're coordinated. AMP ads run on code that can adaptively allocate network bandwidth to the right page component at the right time, therefore delivering a better user experience overall. For instance, animations are paused until the ad unit hits the user’s viewport.
• They have a lower likelihood of malware attacks. According to Google, AMP ads are verified before being served, making it much less likely they'll be attacked by malware.
• They offer multiple ad formats. Just because AMP ads run faster does not mean they are plain or less interactive than standard or rich display ads. In my experience, apart from static creatives, AMP ads allow animations, in addition to formats like carousel ads, video parallax ads and more.
• They support header bidding. AMP ads support header bidding via "real-time config," a feature of fast fetch rendering. But unlike a typical header bidding wrapper, RTC caps the number of demand partners you can call using an AMP ad to a maximum of five.
How publishers can test AMP ads
If you are considering leveraging AMP ads, there are a few best practices to keep in mind. First, every AMPHTML ad should be validated before going live on your website. I also recommend testing AMPHTML ads on a few pages before setting them up for your entire website.
When opting for header bidding either via real-time config or wrapper-based setup, make sure your partners have a demand for AMP inventory. Then, think of running a few tests to check whether all your demand partners are able to bid for your inventory.
It's also important to note that publishers might struggle to understand and implement the technical stuff. To enable your inventory for AMP ads, you need to tweak the source code and add custom tags to signal to servers that you have AMP inventory.
Overall, remember that the successful implementation of AMP ads will require human resources, time and a few rounds of tests to get it right.
Putting it all together
In summary, with the global cost of ad fraud expected to reach $44 billion by 2022, the ability to serve ads that are verified and more resistant to malware is on its own a very compelling advantage for publishers. Add to that the fact that AMP ads could enable you to deliver better user experiences, as well as tackle some of the underlying problems that have plagued traditional display advertising (such as bloated ads, slow delivery times and malware), and I believe testing AMP ads is worth considering.
When AMP was first launched, I saw it receive a backlash from some in the publishing community because of the lack of monetization options, but from my perspective, AMP ads go a long way today in cementing those capabilities with support for header bidding.
As of January 2019, AMP ads comprised 12% of all ads served via Google’s Display Network, compared to 1% in 2018. As the usage of AMP ads increases, I believe it might also contribute to a reduction in the growth rate of ad blocking because users will have fewer reasons to block ads.