It’s interesting to see Google really pushing AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) and featuring sites that are AMP-ready more prominently in its mobile search results.

What’s AMP? Good question. It’s one I’m going to let my friend and colleague Jen Lombardi, owner of Kiwi Creative, explain, as she did in this blog post for the EdUI conference. She says:

With faster cellular data networks and increased access to Wi-Fi, people have come to expect that websites will load quickly and be easy to explore. But what if pages didn’t just load fast…but instantaneously? That was the goal of a group of publishers and technology companies that started the open source initiative named The AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) Project.

Introduced by Google on February 24, 2016, AMP pages now load 85% faster than standard mobile web pages…and this speed matters. According to one study, mobile pages that load one second faster experience up to a 27% increase in conversion rate.

Google says this:

The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project is an open source initiative that embodies the vision that publishers can create mobile optimized content once and have it load instantly everywhere.

It’s interesting to watch Google reach into this space. Many of our sites today are responsive, but I find that even when responsive, the sites are huge, often unoptimized messes. This is especially prevalent in WordPress, where each plugin adds its own javascript and CSS files, and it doesn’t take long for a simple one page website to be well over 1MB in size. That’s crazy, especially on mobile.

AMP is forcing developers to reconsider the information they’re presenting, but the reward is more visibility in Google.

While AMP pages are getting pushed big time by Google, implementing this new technology can be tricky. For example, all your CSS must be inlined and not in external files. One more thing – that CSS has to be less than 50k. Search Engine Land has a deep dive into how to create these pages.

Want to see an AMP page in action? Here’s a post I did about Instagram a few months ago, but in AMP format. Have a look not only at the design but at the code inside it. You’ll get a taste for how much you have to shift, style wise, from external files into the actual HTML file.

As this site is created in WordPress, I turned to an AMP plugin created by Automattic.

Spoilers: there’s no setup or config for this. You install it, turn it on, and that’s it. It does all the work in creating the correct template, inline CSS, and body copy in all the ways Google wants it to be. My pages are also passing the AMP Validator tests. Yay.

AMP validation results for this site

This plugin also adds a meta tag to your regular WordPress theme, again with no added work on  your part, alerting Google that an AMP version of that page exists. It looks like this:

<link rel="amphtml" href="https://highedwebtech.com/2016/06/07/instagram-breaketh-their-api/amp/" />

That’s enough for Google to know there’s and AMP version and present it, if necessary, to site visitors via search.

Now, if you’re like me, you’re mind is traveling down the rabbit hole of all sorts of web development issues – issues like SEO, analytics, design, and more.

Read Jen’s post above as she covers SEO and design nicely, but AMP does allow developers to do analytics, ecommerce, and even advertising. This post from Google talks about how to integrate Google Analytics into AMP pages. If you use Jetpack and WordPress stats, this is another thing that the AMP plugin sets up automatically for you.

If you use WordPress, you should try this plugin. If you don’t use WordPress, the process to implement AMP can be more difficult and time-consuming, but if you rely heavily on Google, the reward may be worth the effort.

Barracuda Networks is a company most of us in the tech industry have heard of. In case you haven’t, here’s a bit about them:

Barracuda Networks, Inc. offers industry-leading solutions designed to solve mainstream IT problems – efficiently and cost effectively – while maintaining a level of customer support and satisfaction second to none. Our products span three distinct markets, including: 1) content security, 2) networking and application delivery, as well as 3) data storage, protection and disaster recovery.

They’ve launched a new cloud storage service called Copy, which is similar to existing programs from Dropbox, Box, Google and other storage services which I’ve talked about here.

Copy screenshotCopy is marketing itself as more secure and protected than other cloud services, since they can leverage the security background and experience of Barracuda. Given the recent issues with Dropbox and larger issues like Heartbleed, it’s an interesting marketing angle.

Copy gives you 15GB of free storage to start with, which is well above the 2GB you get with Dropbox.

The service itself runs via the web, Mac app, Windows app, iOS, Android and Linux.

On my Mac, Copy works just like Dropbox with a folder I can install and drag files to and from. Syncing happens quickly and the files and their transit are encrypted using AES256.

Copy ScreenshotLike other services, you can right-click on an item and get sharing and public links for items, which is handy. We’re always sharing files, screenshots and more in the office using a myriad of different services. I didn’t see a feature like Dropbox’s “automatically be the place for screenshots and put the public link in your clipboard,” it’s not that big a deal to find the file and right-click to get the link.

One feature I think is interesting is if you are sharing a large file with multiple people, you can split the size “hit” with each user. If you’re sharing a 1GB file with someone on Dropbox, you both download it and are charged with 1GB worth of space. Copy lets you split that storage hit so the 1GB file you are sharing with 4 people only counts as 250MB towards each person’s quota.

So where does Copy make its money? They’re banking again on the Barracuda name and the hope that IT organizations will see the security experience Barracuda has and let it be an approved cloud sharing service. Teams can be as small as 5 people (using the free accounts) all the way up to 30 users for $2,697 per year, total. As of last fall’s prices, those same 30 users would cost $3,920 at Dropbox and $5,400 at Box.

You can sign up for Copy and try it out using this link and you’ll get an additional 5GB of storage once you install their app, and I’ll get some extra storage as well.

Provider2GB5GB10GB15GB20GB50GB100GB1TB
Google DriveFREE$1.99$9.99
Barracuda CopyFREE
DropboxFREE$9.99
Apple iCloudFREE$1.66$3.33$8.33
Box.netFREE$5.00$15
Microsoft SkyDriveFREE$2.08$4.16
SpiderOakFREE$10.00
SugarSync$7.49$9.99$55.00

I’m going to be honest here. I haven’t been swept up in the Google+ hype of the last few months. I just haven’t, I don’t know, gotten it. To me, thus far, I haven’t seen the killer app or need that Google+ fills that Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn doesn’t. So, I haven’t spent a lot of time there, and have seen lots of duplicate content across my various networks.

This week, Google allowed brands/companies/schools to start having their own Facebook-Fan-Page-ish Pages inside Google+. I, like many other web and marketing folks, created a page for my University. The setup process was fairly simple, and I had the profile setup in a few minutes.

Now what?

Do I re-post content we’re already posting to over 5,000 fans on Facebook, or should we be creating content just for Google+? These are the types of questions that I guess many teams are now wrestling with.

Having just spent a small amount of time, I have some questions about managing a Google+ page.

1. Am I the only person who can administrate this page? I see that one the circles/streams available on my Page is one called “Team Members,” but its not clear if I add people to that stream/circle if they are given the right to post on the page.

2. My page displays the 2 people I’ve put in the Team Members circle on our home page, and shows that we have 11 followers, which isn’t bad for two hours. Unfortunately, I’m not seeing a way to see who the followers are.

I can now see who is following me, and choose to add them to one of my circles. This is a marked difference from Facebook’s model, which is more one way the two services are different. If you’re a fan of JCU on Facebook, as an administrator I don’t have access to your page and personal info. Not sure what the right model will be here on Google+.

What circles should I put them, since I’m encouraged to do that in the Google+ model. Students? Alumni? Faculty? Friends? Parents? Sounds like a minefield and a timesink having to determine what bucket a person should go in.

3. Where are the analytics? Facebook’s insights are pretty decent, but so far, I’m not seeing anything in terms of analytics for my Google page. How many times are my posts being viewed? What are the demographics, broadly speaking, of my audience on this site? What are the trends. Google has a killer app in Analytics, it should be really tied in here. If there isn’t marketing stats available here, I don’t see us really spending a lot of time focusing on our Google+ page if we can’t determine the ROI or value of having it.

4. I can add video and photos, but wouldn’t it make sense if I could link my institutional YouTube account and have videos I share there automatically get pulled in here? I could manually share them, but that’s an extra step that seems unnecessary. I should be able to hook the two together.

Honestly, at this point, I’m rather unimpressed with Google+’s page offerings. I think Farhad Manjoo said it well in his post at Slate:

I know this sounds unfair: Facebook had years to add all the features it has now, so why should we demand that Google create a perfect substitute at launch time? But that’s just the thing—taking on a behemoth like Facebook is an unfair fight. Google seems to think about its social network in the same way it thinks of any other kind of software—as a “product” that it can design step-by-step, starting with a small number of innovative features and working up from there.

We as web and marketing folks have been spoiled by Facebook and their fan page offerings, so much so that we expect any competing, new product to have all the same, if not better, functionality.

I’ll be keeping an eye on our Google+ page and placing content there, but it won’t be the first place I think to post content, which Facebook is now for us.