The Benefits and Potential Pitfalls of Google AMP for Email Marketing

Mike Arsenault
July 21, 2021
minute read

Google rolled out Google AMP for email last year. And we’ve had some time to see how AMP for email is working and come up with some recommendations for moving forward with AMP for email.

As with any new technology that adds multiple features and functions, a methodical implementation approach is best. There’s some extra weight to implementing AMP for email. So it’s important to ensure that the additional resource investment is going to pay off for your business.

What does Google AMP for email bring to the table?

Google AMP is built around a version of HTML that Google developed specifically to make mobile sites load faster. It’s different enough that you can’t get away with importing standard HTML into a Google AMP environment. And there’s some JavaScript that you must run on any AMP site or email (though it’s only a single script that supports some AMP HTML tags).

On the bright side, the Google AMP HTML isn’t difficult to learn if you already know HTML. And, once your development team is familiar with coding AMP emails, they’ll be able to produce AMP code as efficiently as they produce standard HTML or CSS.

Interactive emails

The proprietary HTML enables Google AMP for email to bring some of the functionality of a mobile AMP site into the email client. This makes AMP emails as interactive as a simple mobile website.

Google AMP emails are very similar to the Instagram ads that let users browse websites without leaving the Instagram app. Google AMP gives users the experience of browsing simple websites in their email client. The potential for enabling users to complete purchases through their email client exists, though the functionality is not in place… Yet.

More display options

As you might expect, many of the custom HTML features in Google AMP emails enhance how images and content are displayed.

AMP emails offer carousel displays to create image galleries, which is handy for showcasing multiple products. There are also lightboxes which users can click to enlarge an image. And captions can be displayed with images.

There are more display features. But the point is that many of the interactive design elements make for excellent eCommerce email marketing and email conversion rate optimization, if they’re employed correctly.

Feedback forms

This may seem minor. But gathering customer feedback can be one of the most challenging tasks for marketers. Filling out feedback forms is inconvenient for customers. So most of them don’t do it.

AMP emails could help you get more feedback from customers. AMP for emails enables customers to complete and submit forms without leaving their email client, which makes it about as easy as possible to give feedback. So feedback requests could get better response rates if you send them in an AMP email.

There are more features offered by AMP for email. But these are the ones that you could implement pretty seamlessly, without spending much time on brainstorming and innovation.

All of this sounds exciting. And it is exciting. The potential for reducing buying friction in marketing emails is huge. But, these features also warrant a careful approach to using Google AMP for email.

Here are a few things to consider as you decide whether or not AMP for email will work for you.

Each email requires a new codebase

If you think about it, each AMP email is essentially a microsite or landing page.

This means that creating a Google AMP email will require at least as much development and testing as a landing page. It might even require more testing and development. There are more email clients and ESPs than web browsers. And, you get less help from an email client than a web browser when it comes to displaying emails correctly across all devices.

So, it could take a lot of development resources to create a Google AMP email. And, most email campaigns perform best when you send multiple emails. The resources required to create a single email campaign could be enormous, compared to plain text and HTML emails.

However, you can mitigate the additional development work with a streamlined process for producing AMP emails. It’s wise to take some time to plan how you’re going to go about shipping your AMP emails before you dive into development.

Using AMP for email requires two versions of each email

Even though AMP for email is compatible with many email clients and ESPs, it’s not ubiquitous yet. And, users can opt-out of AMP emails in many email clients, including Gmail.  In fact, receiving AMP emails is disabled by default in the Gmail app.

That means that Google AMP emails can’t completely replace your standard HTML and plain text emails. So, you need to create three versions of every email you send: text, HTML, and Google AMP HTML. Otherwise, your email won’t work for every subscriber on your list.

When you combine this with the increased workload of developing Google AMP emails, using Google AMP will inevitably increase your email production costs.

However, strategic placement of your AMP emails can minimize the production costs, and maximize the benefit from the additional resource investment. Just because you have AMP emails doesn’t mean that every email needs to be built with AMP.

Your AMP implementation will be more efficient if you identify where using AMP emails will produce the greatest performance improvements. Then add AMP emails to those pieces of your email program, without disturbing the parts of your email marketing that don’t maximize the potential of AMP.

Google’s whitelisting process adds some bulk

You must get whitelisted by Google before you can send Google AMP emails. The whitelisting process can take a matter of weeks, though Google aims to respond to all whitelisting requests within 5 business days.

Email addresses must be individually whitelisted by Google. So, you have to send an email and a whitelisting application for each email address that you send emails from. Also, the email must be a live email with real AMP HTML content. Test emails and “hello world” type emails are not acceptable.

The whitelisting process itself adds some bulk to your email production process. However, it’s only a one-time inconvenience for each new email address that you need to send AMP emails from. So, it’s more of a time investment than a time expense.

AMP for email gives Google more control over your email program

One potential issue with Google AMP emails is that if you use Google AMP for email, you must also use Google’s analytics. Or, at least, Google has more control over which analytics and email marketing metrics you can access.

Additionally—and this is no secret—Google makes most of its money by collecting consumer data and selling ad space that targets those consumers. Skeptics may say that Google AMP for email is just another way for Google to control more of the value chain and create another ad space to sell.

This skepticism about Google’s motivation in creating AMP for email is legitimate. Google is a business, and they have to make money somehow.

However, most of us use Google’s tools pretty seamlessly, regardless of the embedded ad space. And many businesses use Google analytics anyway. So, you may not even notice this.

And, from a marketing perspective, getting Google more involved in your email marketing might be a good thing. Google collects and stores far more consumer data than they announce publicly. An email program that’s closely coupled with Google’s ad targeting infrastructure could offer more personalized emails, better subscriber list segmentation, and other benefits.

Both the pros and cons here are somewhat speculative. We don’t know if or how Google will monetize AMP for email, or if they will offer any sort of ad targeting data to email marketers.

But the potential for both of these things exists. And it’s best to be comfortable with them if you plan to fully implement AMP emails.

There are surprisingly few email marketing case studies for Google AMP

So far, most of the examples of Google AMP are for apps like Doodle and Pinterest. This makes sense because an app delivers some sort of utility. And it’s convenient for the end-user to access that utility from where they are, rather than having to leave their inbox to go to their browser or an app.

On the other hand, there are surprisingly few case studies that show a brand significantly increasing their email marketing performance with Google AMP.

That’s not to say that it’s impossible to improve your email marketing performance with Google AMP emails. But, so far, there’s not a ton of evidence that suggests Google AMP is a game breaker in email marketing.

However, if it becomes possible for email subscribers to make purchases from their inbox, that could be a big deal on the email marketing front.

Also, the optimistic view is that the lack of marketing emails that use AMP creates an opportunity to differentiate themselves by using AMP to create more interactive and attention-getting emails.

What you should do with Google AMP for email

There are ups and downs to using Google AMP, and Google AMP for email program isn’t a one-size-fits-all email solution in its current form.

The experience isn’t seamless or universal as the Instagram ads that enable users to browse websites in the app. Every Instagram user is on the same app. Not every email subscriber uses the same email client.

Not all email service providers and email clients are optimized for AMP emails yet. And some email clients, like Outlook, have Google AMP functionality disabled by default, though users can turn it on if they want.

So, you can’t send AMP emails to every subscriber the same way that you can show an Instagram ad to every Instagram user.

That means that it’s best to implement Google AMP for email alongside your current HTML and plain text emails to ensure that all of your subscribers get your emails.

Additionally, if you don’t start using Google AMP for email right now, the negative impact on your email marketing performance will be minimal, if any. At the moment, there’s very little end-user demand for Google AMP emails. So, your subscribers won’t complain if you keep sending standard HTML emails, and you’ll be fine with your current HTML and plain text emails.

If you want to start using Google AMP for email, it’s best to integrate AMP emails into your email program very deliberately. Take your time and ensure that the benefits don’t get eaten up by email production costs:

  1. Start with a single campaign.
  2. Create a test group.
  3. Build the emails.
  4. Test the emails and work out the bugs.
  5. Once your Google AMP emails are working perfectly, start sending them to more of your subscribers.

This way, you get your Google AMP emails up and running without negatively impacting your current email program.

Right now, it’s difficult to say whether or not it will be profitable for you to start using AMP for email. Google AMP for email is cool, and it has a lot of potential. But, it’s not going to change everything, yet.

We’ll keep watching how AMP email develops. And, we have no problem using and recommending Google AMP for email as soon as we know for sure that AMP emails will generate significant revenue growth as an email marketing tactic.

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Mike Arsenault

Founder & CEO

For the last 10 years, Mike has worked with brands like Moosejaw, Hydroflask, Peak Design, Triumph, Hearst & Guthy Renker to provide the strategy & technology with which they use email to drive revenue growth. He's also the Founder of Rejoiner, a SaaS marketing platform built for ecommerce businesses.

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