Google limited the speed of AMP pages, created a format to hamper header auctions, antitrust claims

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New unwritten complaints against Google claim that the search giant’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which the company says “dramatically improves” mobile web performance when it was launched in 2015, was actually a ploy to coerce publishers into using the format in order to limit unspent ad dollars on their own ad exchanges.

The complaint, which is run by the state of Texas on behalf of 12 mostly Republican states, goes so far as to claim that Google has even limited the loading speed of pages not using AMP in order to give a “better shot.” comparative inch ”to AMP.

“Limiting non-AMP ads slows down header bids, which Google then uses to disparage header bids for being too slow,” it read. “Header auctions can often increase web page latency and create security holes when executed poorly,” Google falsely claimed. Internally, Google employees asked themselves “how [publicly] to justify [Google] do something slower, ”according to the complaint.

The lawsuit, which cites internal Google documents, was originally filed on September 9 and has been heavily redacted. However, a decision by a Manhattan judge forced the release of the mostly unredacted version on Friday.

Google had not responded to Search Engine Land’s request for comment at the time of this article’s publication.

Header auction targeting. At the heart of the problem is header auction, an advertising practice where publishers can place their ad inventory on many ad exchanges at once. This is a method designed to bypass Google’s “waterfall” bidding approach, which often favors Google’s ad servers. Publishers generally love header auctions because of their potential for increased revenue and transparency.

However, header auctions require publishers to place JavaScript on their pages to trigger the auction, and AMP pages do not support this JavaScript.

“To respond to the threat of header auctions, Google created Accelerated Mobile Pages (‘AMP’), a framework for the development of mobile web pages, and made AMP essentially incompatible with JavaScript and online auctions. -head. Google then used its power in the search market to effectively force publishers to use AMP, ”the complaint alleges.

A damning indictment of AMP. The complaint is not false that the publishers had a love / hate relationship with AMP. The premise itself goes against the instincts of the publisher. AMP requires us to create versions of our content on servers we do not own using templates over which we have limited control. The trade-off meant an improved user experience on mobile and a greater likelihood of appearing in top stories, a location that can generate significant traffic. The use of AMP also wreaks havoc on internal analytics, as it makes it very difficult to track users migrating to AMP and non-AMP pages of a site.

The complaint, however, claims that the speed benefits are both overstated and manipulated due to Google’s alleged limitation on non-AMP pages.

“All these years, all these Googlers, developers and SEOs defending AMP… And that’s just the tip of the iceberg”, wrote SparkToro founder Rand Fishkin on Twitter, sparking a thread of indignation and disgust at the allegations.

Earlier this year, Google stopped requiring publishers to use AMP in order to mark Top Story placements. But it also rolled out its page experience update this year, which it says made factors like site speed a ranking factor. The combination surely made publishers fearful of tearing up their AMP architecture (we certainly do).

Why we care First, these are allegations made in a highly politicized trial, and without access to all of these internal documents, it is difficult to say whether any of these allegations represent misinterpretations. But Google’s lack of transparency has always worked against it in terms of public trust.

This lawsuit, one of four antitrust complaints currently, highlights much more than the possible manipulation around AMP. It also highlights an alleged collusion with Facebook to give the social media giant an unfair advantage in ad auctions. All of this supports a growing concern about the toxic relationship between Google, the only search platform that frankly matters to publishers, and content creators and search marketers looking to compete fairly for placement on its website. platform. Whether it’s favoring Google properties in results, gaining control over the SERP’s advertising position, the rise of items on SERP that choke clicks to true content creators and rewrite. clumsy publisher titles, creators are fed up.

“I’m so sick of Google. And unfortunately I earn a decent part of my life working with it. It makes me sick to the stomach ”, wrote SEO Sam Insalaco in response to Fiskin’s Tweet.

AMP’s claims also affect publishers, including businesses have experienced incredible disruption Over the past decade, advertising has shifted to search and social media and reach has become so dependent on Google. AMP was touted as a way to give publishers a chance to keep up with their competition. If these claims are true, it’s hard to believe publishers will trust Google again.


About the Author

Henry Powderly is vice president of content for Third Door Media, the publishers of Search Engine Land, Marketing Land, and MarTech Today. With over a decade in editorial leadership roles, he is responsible for content strategy and event programming for the organization.



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