Speed is of the essence on the internet, and Google and Facebook are doing battle to make sure they win the race. As Google has said for a number of years, ‘Being Quick’ is of paramount importance. Attention spans among internet users are shorter than ever and there’s an expectation on brands to deliver fast-loading eCommerce sites and to ensure that the consumer journey through the site is also quick and easy. Indeed, Google found that 29% of online shoppers will immediately leave a site if it is too slow or doesn’t meet their needs.
Facebook and Google have both sought to tap into users’ need for speed by developing pages that load quicker than the average. Google has called its new functionality Accelerated Mobile Pages (or AMP), while Facebook has dubbed theirs Facebook Instant Articles (which we have covered previously). Both are aimed at speeding up the mobile experience and the delivery of content, but do they actually work, and what are pros and cons for eCommerce sites looking to turbo boost their offering?
Facebook Instant Articles
As we mentioned in our previous piece on the subject, Facebook Instant Articles are designed to give publishers a quick, sleek way to publish their pieces on Facebook itself. Here’s what we said last month:
“If you see a Guardian article posted by a friend on Facebook and that article uses the Instant Articles functionality, you won’t be taken to The Guardian’s website when you click it. Instead, it’ll load within the Facebook app and you’ll be able to load it and close it down quickly and easily. Good for you, but also good for The Guardian, who’ll enjoy greater engagement and awareness.”
Facebook has run trials on Instant Articles and said that pieces published using the functionality receive around 20% more clicks and 30% more shares. The problem, however, is that while it looks exciting and has significant potential for publishers, its potential for brands and eCommerce sites is limited. By keeping the user on Facebook, the Instant Articles functionality threatens to undermine the integrity of a brand’s content marketing strategy. After all, what’s the point in driving interest, engagement, and shares if all that interest is staying on Facebook?
Google Accelerated Mobile Pages
That is a key question that Facebook will need to answer, but it’s not a problem Google has. Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages functionality looks similar to Facebook Instant Articles, in that it keeps the user within Google branded pages, but they are not locked into a Google product. Here’s how it works…
If the user were to search for a news story on their mobile device, they would find the usual search results, but at the top of the page, they would also see a number of results listed as being Accelerated Mobile Pages. These are marked by a lightning bolt and the letters AMP. If, for example, the user clicks on a link from The Guardian within that bank of results, they’re sent through to The Guardian’s website, just with a blue Google bar at the top, which allows the user to scroll back or forward to the other AMP stories.
Unlike Facebook Instant Articles, the user is not locked in to Google functionality when they read an AMP story. They can scroll through the AMP stories the search results have provided, but also simply scroll through the site they find most interesting, as if they had clicked any regular result through Google. So if the user finds a Guardian article through Facebook Instant Articles, it’s difficult for them to navigate through the rest of The Guardian’s site; if they find that same article through Google AMP, it’s much easier.
So which is better? It all depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re a publisher, both Facebook Instant Articles and Google Accelerated Mobile Pages have huge potential to drive awareness, interest, and engagement. Accelerated Mobile Pages will likely help extend your reach and awareness, while Instant Articles can help boost engagement and sharing potential. You really can’t go wrong with either if your sole aim is to publish content.
However, if you’re a brand or eCommerce site looking to use that content to grow traffic and boost revenue, Facebook Instant Articles has severe restrictions that could undermine your content strategy. Google Accelerated Mobile Pages is the more preferable option, as it sends the user to the site, rather than keeping them locked into a Google property. This helps the overall content strategy along, and that will help your brand tick the ‘Be Quick’ metric that Google deems so important.
In the battle between Google AMP and Facebook Instant Articles, which option do you think presents the best opportunity for retailers? Let us know in the comments or via social media, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog.