On April 11th, we held our fourth Genesis Shapers Slack meeting. As a reminder, These meetings are a great opportunity for folks to share their thoughts and ideas about Genesis. You can read the recaps of the January, February, and March meetings.
The Genesis Shapers are a hand-selected and diverse group of people representing companies from across the community who have come together to be a representative voice in the strategic direction of Genesis in addition to the feedback we receive directly from customers, across social channels, and through Genesis WP on Slack.
Included in this group are:
Bill Erickson, Carrie Dils, Gary Jones, Greg Boser, Jennifer Bourn, Jon Brown, Jonathan Jeter, Lauren Gaige, Lee Anthony, Mike Hemberger, Robin Cornett, Sara Dunn, Sridhar Katakam, and Tonya Mork.
In the Shapers meeting earlier this month, we discussed Google AMP.
David Vogelpohl, the Vice President of Web Strategy at WP Engine and StudioPress brand lead, facilitated the conversation, and here was the meeting agenda:
- How important is AMP to you as a Genesis developer?
- How much demand do you have from clients for AMP?
- What could be better about creating Genesis themes that use AMP?
- Where does AMP integration fall on your Genesis road map priority list? Is better AMP needed now? If not, what would you do instead?
Importance of Google AMP as a Developer
I had a feeling this was going to be a touchy subject from the get-go. David kicked off the conversation by asking, “How important is AMP to you as a Genesis developer?”
Robin Cornett quickly jumped in with some brutal honesty:
“Honestly, at this point for me, not at all.”
This didn’t come as a surprise to me, because I have to admit that I have kept AMP at a distance myself. It’s definitely something we aren’t embracing (yet) for our clients at Authentik Studio.
Bill Erickson followed up Robin’s comment, pretty much echoing what she said, with a caveat:
“Up until this point, AMP has not been important to me or my clients, but I think if it were easier to integrate it may become more important.”
“I work with a lot of publisher and they have a love/hate relationship with AMP. They want the SERP boost, but not the loss of all their site features.”
Sara Dunn rounded out the initial responses with the same:
“For me, my clients aren’t content publishers so AMP has not been important at all.”
To my surprise, David chimed in with some of his own experience with AMP:
“I used to be totally against it, but they solved a lot of the problems I had mainly the fact you can use your own domain for Google’s AMP cache.”
Between his and David’s response, I gathered some insight into what I presumed was the overall consensus: Many are afraid of AMP—or at least were—until better usability and documentation around it is available.
The conversation moved into the benefits of AMP, which Gary Jones quickly pointed out:
“For publishers there are other benefits, like being in the carousel. On a breaking news story, that’s critical.”
Sara also pointed out:
“It’s my understanding that you can only get into ‘Google Discover’ by using AMP. Google Search Console just launched a Google Discover stats page, so I’m guessing this will continue to be a focus for Google.”
Jonathan Jeter couldn’t join us for this chat, but he did send over some insight, based upon the work he does for clients at his agency:
“AMP is extremely important to us as it is a required functionality for most sites now by our SEO team, along with schema and other standard SEO requirements.”
David wrapped us up with this observation, which led nicely into the next part of our discussion:
“If I had to summarize the comments on this question, it sounds like ‘as a developer’ it may not be super important depending on who you are, but this begs the next question in our agenda.”
Client Demand for Google AMP
David started out this part of the discussion by asking the Shapers how much demand they have from clients for AMP.
Jason Cohen, CTO and founder of WP Engine followed that up with a question of his own:
“Could AMP be an excuse for a freelancer to justify new work? That is: ‘Hey, your blog content might get more views if we AMP-enable just the blog part of your site.’”
“Sure. Anything that Google comes up with could be something to approach clients with. The question is if there is enough value for them to pay a freelancer to implement it.”
And Jennifer Bourn rebounded with a similar response:
“I’m with Sara — there has to be a clear ROI for clients to make it an upsell and increase their budgets.”
Jon Brown, who also was unable to attend the chat, emailed in:
“I haven’t seen ‘theme demand’ for it, but our custom site build clients, which a lot of our publishers, often want it. That said they also often hate it because that can’t figure out how to monetize it to the level they did desktop … or even mobile.”
Gary, who now works at Automattic, used to run his own Genesis agency, added:
“In Genesis world, I had some, but only because the client was up to speed on new developments and wanted that competitive advantage. The AMP plugin and AMP platform was still raw, and a moving target back then though, so difficult to take advantage of. My client knew they wanted to appear higher in search results. They didn’t have ads on the site, so making their content available on AMP wasn’t as much of a conflict compared to ad-driven sites at the time.”
The conversation moved away from the agency world a bit and toward the use/integration of AMP in Genesis themes. Gary said:
“I think Genesis / Genesis child themes supporting out of the box is a nice to have, but I don’t think the typical SP customer would be able to make explicit use of it. As a feature, I think it would currently be more valuable to Genesis developers, who need to create a site fort clients who do want it.”
“How seamless is the integration with AMP? If CSS changes are made to the child theme, do those automatically appear in the AMP version? Or do you need to compile a separate AMP stylesheet?”
Tonya Mork, who has spent a significant amount of her time while at XWP (and beyond) working on AMP support/integration replied:
“AMP requires different markup for interactive components. That means the developer needs to provide an AMP component for any interactive features (i.e. features that require JS). Tree shaking and the bulk of issues are handled by the AMP plugin and/or the Genesis + AMP components.”
Bill expressed his thought as it pertains to our customers:
“If it’s ‘activate AMP and everything is taken care of’ then I think SP customers would appreciate it. But I’d be worried it might introduce more issues than it solves in the real world (too large styles, incompatibility with JS-requiring plugins).”
Carrie Dils rounded out this part of conversation with a little honestly, followed with—well, a Carrie-ism:
“I don’t have an opinion due to my own lack of knowledge. I’m here for the free donuts.”
In my opinion, honesty is always the best policy. Grins.
Genesis Themes with AMP Support
Next, we moved into conversation around what could be better about creating Genesis themes that use AMP.
Robin kicked it off with this question:
“Is there any benefit to using the AMP plugin (or enabling it) without using AMP? I’m not sure if that makes sense—hopefully someone knows what I’m asking.”
I love her honesty with the question, because I think it is representative of the uncertainty and confusion that exists with—what I’m guessing—is a majority of the Genesis (and greater WordPress) community.
“No. It’s just for AMP endpoints. That said, if we choose not to add AMP as a component to Genesis, then we may want to extract the CSS tree shaker component and then allow it to be enabled. It’s native AMP by default. So it’s displaying the AMPlified version of the site.”
Jason jumped back in with this suggestion:
“RE: AMP + Plugins: Since many plugins are incompatible, or at least ‘unfriendly,’ I wonder whether there would be value in a curated list of plugins that do play nice with AMP & Genesis. Maybe even featured online at StudioPress.”
As an added data point, Carrie pinged Rebecca Gill to ask her if her SEO clients request AMP. Her response:
“Nope. Barely ever.”
Well there ya go… and a great segway into David’s final question for the Shapers.
“Where does AMP integration fall on your Genesis road map priority list? Is better AMP needed now? If not, what would you do instead?”
Google AMP Integration Roadmap
Gary quick re-routed the conversation a bit with some insight:
“I honestly think a focus on i18n infrastructure for Genesis and child themes and plugins would have more appeal to creating more sales than AMP support at this stage.”
Sara put in her two cents:
“No more widgetized home pages? I’m not sure if these things fall on the same road map.”
And Robin expressed her support and enthusiasm for the new onboarding feature built into Genesis:
“It doesn’t matter so much for me, but I think the continued onboarding work is great. I’m talking about it at our May meetup.
Though he was unable to attend the meeting, Mike Hemberger took some time to share his thoughts about AMP, as it pertains to the work he and David are doing at BizBudding:
“Just wanted to say that we have a some (6-12) clients we are very close with that are publishers running ads. AMP made sense for the news carousel, ranking, boost, etc so we are constantly tweaking existing plugins and code to make it all work. It’s been frustrating for sure, *however* I do want to say that when we are AMP validated and the sites are serving AMP posts, these clients see a *very* noticeable boost in ad revenue.”
I have always appreciated their dedication to challenging the status quo and investing in providing the best products and services for their clients. Mike continued:
“This is a scenario where the client probably wouldn’t ‘ask for AMP’ because they don’t know, and honestly we don’t really know. Point being, this a ‘submit to Google’ kinda thing in my eyes. If traffic/ranking is important, and Google builds this huge thing they are pushing, and we see first-hand (via our own or our client’s websites) that AMP is helping them _a lot_, this is definitely something we want to have an easier way to handle.”
It’s obvious to me that AMP is in demand with certain types of website owners (especially publishers), and is definitely on the radar of developers and users of Genesis, though there is still a fair amount of hesitation for fully adopting it. Our hope is that improvements coming in Genesis 3.0 which make it easier to build AMP compatible themes, to empower the Genesis community to have a solid approach to AMP when clients need it.
For those who are interested in learning more about utilizing the power of AMP and how it works with WordPress, here’s a really good read.
As always, I enjoy following along with the latest trends in technology, and will be pushing myself to understand how AMP can be used and more importantly, reaping the benefits that it claims to offer.