Google AMP Case Study – Leads Dropped by 59% (How to Disable It)

Updated on October 26, 2017

If you run a WordPress site you have probably contemplated already at some point whether or not you should implement the hot new Google AMP for mobile. We had the same dilemma here at Kinsta and ended up testing it for a while. In the end, we didn’t see good results and it ended up hurting our conversion rate on mobile devices. So today we are going to dive into how to disable Google AMP on your blog, and how to safely do it without 404 errors or harming your SEO. Simply deactivating the AMP plugin alone could end up really harming your site, so be careful. The good news is that both methods mentioned below don’t require a WordPress developer and can be done in a few minutes!

Google AMP

Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages Project) was originally launched back in October 2015. The project relies on AMP HTML, a new open framework built entirely out of existing web technologies, which allows websites to build light-weight web pages. To put it simply, it offers a way to serve up a stripped down version of your current web page. You can read more about it in our in-depth post on Google AMP, as well compare all the pros and cons.

Google AMP

Why Google AMP Didn’t Work For Us

Due to all the hype around Google AMP, we decided to give it a try on our Kinsta site. You never really know what will happen until you test something. So we let it run for two months and here the conclusions we came to. Note: This could vary in almost every industry, so we highly recommend testing it on your own site before drawing conclusions. A couple ways to test this include:

  • Looking at data in Google Search Console before and after.
  • Comparing data from Google Analytics on your /amp/ URLs vs original URLs from organic traffic before and after.

Here is some data from during the time AMP was enabled on our site.

Google AMP Positions

As you can see, after enabling Google AMP and allowing them time to index we definitely saw a decrease in average positions in SERPs on mobile.

Google AMP positions data

Google AMP positions data

Google AMP CTR

After enabling Google AMP we saw a decrease in CTR on mobile.

Google AMP CTR

Google AMP CTR

Google AMP Impressions

After enabling Google AMP we did see a higher number of impressions.

Google AMP impressions

Google AMP impressions

Google AMP Clicks

After enabling Google AMP we saw a slight increase in total clicks.

Google AMP clicks

Google AMP clicks

So for us, there was good and bad in the data above. However, the most important part was looking at the data in Google Analytics for the time AMP was enabled:

  • Our mobile leads dropped by 59.09%.
  • Our newsletter email sign-ups from mobile dropped by 16.67%.
  • Our account creations from mobile devices dropped 10.53%.

Because of this, we decided that Google AMP was not working for our business model. So why did we not see good results, when others do? Well, probably one of the biggest reasons is that our site is already pretty fast on mobile. So we didn’t see a huge increase in speed, as some other ad-heavy sites might have. According to Google, 70% of cellular network connections globally will occur at 3G or slower speeds through 2020. So while it is super important to optimize for mobile, those that already have a well-optimized site probably won’t notice huge differences.

Another reason is that we don’t publish news. A lot of big publications are using AMP and taking advantage of the carousel in SERPs. A lot of big companies like The Washington Post, Gizmodo, and Wired all saw big improvements with Google AMP, but these are all news-oriented and ad-heavy content sites. We, of course, publish a lot of content, but our primary focus is still on generating leads and signing up customers.

Could we have done more conversion rate optimization to our AMP install? Probably yes. There are ways to add CTAs, newsletter signups, etc. We did optimize for some of this. But after seeing the conversion data above it wasn’t worth managing Google AMP separately, which can be a pain, just to have a slightly faster mobile site. Also, a lot of our traffic and audience to the Kinsta blog is not from mobile to begin with, so we decided to disable Google AMP.

Also, currently there are no SEO benefits from AMP yet unless you are a news site trying to score the carousel in SERPs. We analyzed our mobile rankings and after AMP was fully removed, our rankings actually went up. Again, this could just be from natural progress. But we saw no increases in SERPs from running AMP. If you’re site is slow to begin with though you might, so we always advise testing on your own site.

mobile rankings

mobile rankings after removing AMP

Other brands have also seen no harmful impact from removing AMP, and like us, actually saw improvements. Outside Magazine increased pageviews per visit 13 percent after ditching Google AMP.

How to Disable Google AMP

There are a couple different ways you disable Google AMP. Google has their official documentation on how to remove AMP from Google Search. A big problem with this though is that it usually requires a developer and their instructions are not very WordPress friendly. Their very first step is to remove the rel=”amphtml” link from the canonical non-AMP page, while still leaving the AMP page in place. Thankfully though there are a few different ways to approach this without harming your SEO. You don’t want to simply disable the Google AMP plugin as this will result in 404 pages.

Option 1 – Search and Replace (Regex)

The first option involves using a search and replace plugin to remove the rel=”amphtml” code while no-indexing the AMP pages.  We can thank Gulshan Kumar who originally posted this strategy. This assumes you are utilizing the free AMP for WP plugin.

Step 1

First, you will need to download and install the free WordPress Real-Time Find and Replace plugin. One of the great things about this plugin is that it doesn’t modify your database or site, so it is very safe to use on your site without worrying about breaking anything. Basically, it finds and replaces rules that are executed AFTER a page is generated by WordPress, but BEFORE it is sent to a user’s browser.

If you are a developer, you could, of course, do a normal search and replace. And we normally we would recommend doing changes in the database long-term, but in this scenario, it works great to temporarily remove the AMP code while things are re-indexing. It also means you can easily do this without a developer. Although we always recommend still taking a backup!

Real-Time Find and Replace WordPress Plugin

Real-Time Find and Replace WordPress Plugin

The plugin currently has over 20,000+ active installs with a 4.5 out of 5-star rating. You can download it from the WordPress repository or by searching for it within your WordPress dashboard under “Add New” plugins.

Step 2

Click on Real-Time Find and Replace under tools in your WordPress dashboard. Click on “Add” and add the following code into the Find: field:

<link rel="amphtml" href="(.+)" >

Click on the box next to “RegEx” and then click on “Update Settings.” This will replace/remove that important AMP tag as Google recommends on your canonical non-AMP pages and or posts.

Regex in Real-time find and replace

Regex in Real-time find and replace

Step 3

The next step is to mark the AMP pages as no-index. Click into the AMP for WP options panel and on the “SEO” section. In the Additional tags for Head section input the following code and hit “Save Changes.”

<meta name="robots" content="noindex,follow"/>

This will tell Google to no longer index your AMP pages in search and therefore it will start re-indexing your original URLs for mobile.

No-index Google AMP pages

No-index Google AMP pages

We recommend leaving the AMP plugin enabled until all of your AMP posts/pages have re-indexed over to the original URLs.

Step 4

We also recommend following the 301 redirects in option 2 below just to be safe!

Option 2 – Disable and Add Redirects

The second option is a little messier, but we’ve also seen this work fine. We recommend this option only if you have any issues implementing the following method above. This involves simply disabling the AMP plugin and adding 301 redirects. Thanks to the AMP for WP for originally posting this.

Step 1

The first step is to simply add 301 redirects for everything that has an AMP URL. First, you will need to download and install the free WordPress Redirection plugin. You could use your own redirect solution or plugin, but the reason we recommend this one is because you will need one that supports regular expressions. You can always uninstall the plugin after everything has re-indexed.

Redirection WordPress plugin

Redirection WordPress plugin

The plugin currently has over 800,000+ active installs with a 4 out of 5-star rating. You can download it from the WordPress repository or by searching for it within your WordPress dashboard under “Add New” plugins.

Step 2

Click on Redirection under tools in your WordPress dashboard. Then add the following code into the Source URL field and ensure you check the “Regex” box:

/(.*)\/amp

Then add the following to the Target URL field (updating the domain with your own):

https://yourdomain.com/$1

Ensure Redirections is selected and click on “Add Redirect.”

Redirections regular expression

Redirections regular expression

After adding this we recommend browsing to a couple of your AMP blog posts or pages and test to make sure they are redirecting properly. Also, if you are a Kinsta customer, you can skip installing the above plugin and simply add the global redirect from the redirects tool in your MyKinsta dashboard. Our tool supports regular expressions.

AMP redirect in MyKinsta dashboard

AMP redirect in MyKinsta dashboard

Alternatively, if you are running Apache, you could also add the following to the top of your .htaccess file:

# Redirect from AMP to non-AMP path
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} (.+)/amp(.*)$
RewriteRule ^ %1/ [R=301,L]

Step 3

You can then deactivate and uninstall the AMP for WP plugin.

Deactivate AMPforWP plugin

Deactivate AMPforWP plugin

Make sure to check out our additional tips further below to monitor the re-indexing process.

Monitoring Re-Indexing

You can monitor the progress of removing Google AMP in Google Search Console under “Search Appearance > Accelerated Mobile Pages.” As you can see below, the moment we implemented the above strategy our AMP URLs started to de-index. You can also try resubmitting your sitemap file to speed up the process. Depending upon the number of AMP pages you have indexed this process could take anywhere from a couple days to a couple weeks.

Google Search Console - Google AMP removal

We also recommend utilizing a keyword rank tracking tool. For example, we monitor our desktop and mobile keywords here at Kinsta using Accuranker. It allowed us to easily see the history of each keyword and that the /amp/ URLs on mobile were re-indexing over to the original URL. This can be a quick and easy way to verify that everything goes smoothly.

re-indexing Google AMP keywords

re-indexing Google AMP keywords

Summary

We all love faster mobile sites, and we applaud Google for trying to make the web a better place. But as we discussed above, perhaps you aren’t seeing the results you hoped for with Google AMP. We always recommend testing it as it could vary per industry. The amount of mobile traffic your site gets could also greatly impact your results.

Thankfully there are easy ways to disable Google AMP if you want to resort back to your original setup. Both of the options above don’t require a developer and will ensure your visitors don’t see nasty 404 errors, while retaining your rankings in SERPs.

Have any questions or have you encountered your own issues when trying to disable Google AMP? If so, we would love to hear about them below in the comments.

This article was written by Brian Jackson

Brian focuses on our inbound marketing efforts; everything from developing new online growth strategies, content creation, technical SEO, and outreach within the WordPress community. He has a huge passion for WordPress, has been using it for 8+ years, and even develops a couple premium plugins. Brian enjoys blogging, movies, bike rides, and flipping websites.

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  1. Gravatar for this comment's author
    LiewCF September 11, 2017 at 9:47 am

    Thank you! This is helpful! I use the Redirection method.

  2. Gravatar for this comment's author
    Gulshan Kumar September 13, 2017 at 8:07 am

    Hello Brian,

    Thank you so much for sharing the eye-opening case-study, and the safest ways for taking down the AMP pages. I am pretty sure; most users will find it helpful.

    After implementing the Search & replace method, later after noindexing, a redirect can be setup from AMP to the non-AMP path to avoid possible 404 at old AMP permalinks. Below is a rule for it.

    # Redirect from AMP to non-AMP path
    RewriteEngine On
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} (.+)/amp(.*)$
    RewriteRule ^ %1/ [R=301,L]

    For little performance gain, getting hit by AMP is a loss for the business. In real, delivering the best user-experience at the mobile site should be the top priority to compete with AMP version pages. :)

    Thanks & Regards,
    Gulshan

    1. Gravatar for this comment's author
      Brian Jackson September 13, 2017 at 3:54 pm

      Great thanks, I have updated the above post with the snippet :) Always good to have additional options.

  3. Gravatar for this comment's author
    Zvi Chazanov September 15, 2017 at 6:09 am

    Thanks for the info. I made a mistake of using the AMP plugin and then simply deactivating it, which created a lot of 404 errors. If I want to use one of the solutions, which you have wrote about, do I need to re-install the AMP plugin?

    1. Gravatar for this comment's author
      Brian Jackson September 15, 2017 at 8:22 am

      Solution #2 above doesn’t require the AMP plugin being installed.

  4. Gravatar for this comment's author
    Sandeep Kelvadi September 15, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    Brian, thanks for sharing this. I think the key takeaway is that you don’t necessarily need to jump on the AMP bandwagon unless you’re a high frequency news publisher and already have a reasonably fast mobile optimized website.

    1. Gravatar for this comment's author
      Brian Jackson September 15, 2017 at 1:01 pm

      You nailed it!

  5. Gravatar for this comment's author
    Edwin / Laman7 Web Design September 19, 2017 at 8:34 pm

    I’ve used AMP, but didn’t really like how it works on my business website. You are right, the conversion rate drops a lot.

    I removed AMP and use the redirection method. This post has helped me. Thanks for this.

  6. Gravatar for this comment's author
    Ahmed Kaludi September 27, 2017 at 11:49 am

    I totally respect your opinion. I’m just curious, Did you optimize your AMP for the conversion rates as you did for your blog?

    1. Gravatar for this comment's author
      Brian Jackson September 27, 2017 at 11:54 am

      Hey Ahmed, we did some optimization, but nowhere near what we could have done. It came down to the issue of, since there is no SEO benefit at this very moment, why maintain a separate AMP setup? For ad-heavy sites and news sites wanting that carousel, it might be a different story… but for us, it wasn’t worth the extra effort, compared to simply optimizing our main site for both. We are also launching a brand new site soon, so this also impacted our decision. Our new site has very well placed mobile CTAs, etc…

      However, you can guarantee I will be keeping my eye on AMP. Because Google one day could give extra SEO ranking benefits… and if they do, well, that would definitely play into a big part of the equation for us as whether or not we should bother with AMP :)

  7. Gravatar for this comment's author
    Mintukan Rabha October 4, 2017 at 11:51 am

    Very informative. Thanks a ton.

  8. Gravatar for this comment's author
    Visualmodo WordPress Themes October 14, 2017 at 6:16 am

    ¡Buen contenido!

  9. Gravatar for this comment's author
    Kingsley Felix November 7, 2017 at 9:28 am

    Seems like a lot of stress just to remove it

  10. Gravatar for this comment's author
    Kingsley Felix November 7, 2017 at 9:31 am

    I own a Health site not like the big guys but would you recommend i use it? i publish daily though

    1. Gravatar for this comment's author
      Brian Jackson November 12, 2017 at 5:56 pm

      Hey Kingsley, it all depends on your site. Also, if you are a Google News site, the carousel in SERPs might be very important for you. However, we haven’t seen any increase in rankings in SERPs due to AMP. This might change in the future, but currently, there is no SEO advantage. Unless perhaps your mobile site is very slow.

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