There’s a reason we’ve been in the hosting business for nearly two decades: For many of us here, the world of the web is more than just a job. Like many of my colleagues at 34SP.com, in my spare time I run my own WordPress based websites; the hosting world rarely stops at 5 pm. for us.

I know a lot of websites are considering making the leap to AMP, so to play a little devil’s advocate, I wanted to write about why I made the jump AWAY from Google AMP. First things first though…

What is Google AMP?

AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages. The technology developed and operated by Google aims to massively improve the speed of content delivery on mobile devices.

Once a WordPress website has enabled Google AMP, it creates two versions of posts and pages. One for regular devices such as desktops and another for devices deemed as mobile. The AMP pages are then pushed directly to Google’s servers. When a user finds your website through Google search, the page is served from the Google server directly, rather than your WordPress account.

As Google’s server footprint is massive and largely unparalleled, the page data is likely being served geographically very close to the user. Couple that with the fact that AMP pages are hugely stripped down in terms of code and the result is blazingly fast load times.

Go ahead and search for a newsworthy item (news sites in particular lean heavily on AMP) on your phone right now. At the top of the search results you should see a variety of items, several with little lightning bolts next to them.

The lightning bolt indicates the page is AMP enabled and will be served from Google’s AMP servers:

Example of AMP served pages

How to serve Google AMP pages with WordPress

Getting started with Google AMP on WordPress is very easy. Indeed, it’s as simple as installing a plugin and flicking the switch. You can then sit back and watch the AMP traffic flow in. There are currently two plugins that make the move this simple: AMP for WP by Ahmed Kaludi is used by most, with the official AMP plugin lagging slightly behind.

Both are free for their basic functions and again, both are very simple to install. Once installed, your site will begin generating AMP pages and sending them to Google for indexing. Things couldn’t be easier, right?

Of course, things are never quite so simple, and there are trade-offs you might encounter when using Google AMP.

Google AMP – the good, the bad, the ugly

I initially enabled AMP on several of my sites in order to improve the end user experience. After all, who doesn’t love a crazily fast loading site? The results were immediately noticeable. AMP pages can load almost instantly and are a great experience for end users. In theory, faster sites means happier user, which should make for better search results

That said, the downside to AMP is now having ostensibly two websites to maintain. I personally struggled with this part of AMP, and my mobile pages were truly ugly. I’d load them up, cringe and make plans to quickly change them; only to forget, or at least on the days I did remember, struggle to really get to grips with making a meaningful difference.

This problem was compounded when an advertiser came on board for one of my websites, meaning I really had to get to grips with offering a unified design experience across platforms. After all, I couldn’t really tell them their ad wouldn’t be displayed properly if a user came to the site via a mobile device.

With that in mind, I took to de-AMP’ing my site.

How to remove Google AMP from a WordPress site

Removing Google AMP requires taking a few steps, beyond just deactivating the plugin.

The first step is making sure there is no reference to amphtml link in posts. The quickest solution is to use WP-CLI to do this:

wp search-replace '<link rel="amphtml" href="(.+)" >' '' --regex --skip-plugins --skip-themes --regex-flags='i'

The next step is to add redirection options. This can be done with .htaccess files but a simpler solution is the redirection rules

wp plugin install redirection --activate

Once activated navigate to wp-admin then Tools and Redirection.

Set the source to:

/(.*)\/amp 

The regex box should be ticked.

The Target should then be set to:

https://yoursite.com/$1

Next we can remove the plugin

wp plugin deactivate amp

Finally if you’re using our WordPress Hosting then there is on more stepm again easiest using WP-CLI:

wp hosting flush

Before and after results of De-AMP-ification

Here’s a telling shot from Google Search Console, that details how the process of de-AMP-ification generally progresses:

As you can see, things aren’t instant and nearly a month after deploying the changes, this particular site is still seeing a handful of pages indexed as AMP.

My own personal theory here is that the AMP pages are de-indexed and replaced based on popularity and access. The first few days see the most dramatic drop as the most accessed pages are reevaluated, followed by a much more gradual decline.

Search traffic in a de-AMP-ed world

The biggest fear I had in removing AMP from my site was a loss of traffic from search. After all, AMP is one Google’s current star projects; surely their algorithms wouldn’t be overly pleased to see me disabling this feature?

I’m pleased to report that a further month after the above screenshots were taken, my traffic is largely unchanged aside from expected seasonality.

With AMP now removed from the site I can use the WordPress theme options to deliver the mobile experience and as a result I have more direct control over the look of my site. My site doesn’t load quite as quickly as it once did on mobile, but in my opinion the overall user experience is improved, and for me that’s more important.

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