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Facebook’s Instant Articles are touted as being the fastest way to deliver content on the web. They are even supposed to be faster than Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages, which similarly streamline content to load as quickly as possible on mobile devices.

There’s just one problem: no one seems to be using them.

Even big publishers that initially led the charge to Instant Articles have slowly started dropping the service, opting instead to use regular content hosted on their website or relying solely on Google’s AMP platform.

This week, Facebook made strides to attract publishers back to Instant Articles by announcing new ways to implement ads and monetize content shared on their fast-loading pages.

The ads are designed to be minimally invasive, only appearing within the “Related Articles” section appearing below the full articles. The company has been testing these ads since March of this year, and say they provide an “incremental increase” in the amount of revenue generated by Instant Articles, according to a blog post shared on Thursday.

As you can see in the image above, the ads look similar to most advertisements across Facebook. They put the focus on a large image, with a small bit of descriptive text and a link. For now, videos aren’t allowed but that could potentially change in the future.

The main difference between these ads and standard Facebook News Feed ads is they now appear at the bottom of the page among links to other articles, instead of in your feed.

There is one catch, however. To include the new ads in the “Related Articles” section of Instant Articles, you must also be a part of Facebook’s Audience Network.

Interestingly, Facebook says the ads can be used for virtually anything – not just branded content. The only requirement is that the ads link directly to a landing page.

While the ads may bring publishers back to using Instant Articles, the advertisers themselves may be less happy about the new ad placement. Advertisers who opt-in to placing their ads in Instant Articles can’t control whether they are prominently placed above the ad or within the “Related Articles” section at the bottom. The good news is, they can choose to block specific publishers or types of content from including their ads. That means you can at least be sure your ads aren’t appearing alongside questionable or objectionable content that could hurt your image.

Accelerated Mobile Pages

The celebrate the one year anniversary of the rollout of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs), Adobe Analytics released data showing just how much the stripped-down ultrafast mobile pages have grown in use.

Accelerated mobile pages are designed to deliver content to viewers as quickly as possible. Instead of loading within full versions of the website (with all their ads, navigation, and extra content), AMPs use a stripped-down version of HTML to make speed the top priority.

According to the data, AMPs account for 7% of traffic to all top US publishers as of December 2016. While this may not sound that great, the report shows this is an 896% traffic increase to AMPs from April to November of last year. It also indicates the number of AMPs on the internet has spiked by 405%.

The report from Adobe Analytics is based on an analysis of over 1.7 trillion visits to over 16,000 mobile web pages from January 2014 to January 2017. The data on AMPs specifically is based on traffic to top US publishers between April 2016 to December 2016.

The unsteady growth of accelerated mobile pages is likely due to a disorganized rollout. While the technology first became available in February of last year, the pages were not included in organic search results on Google until September. During this time period, AMP was slow to catch on. However, once Google started indexing organic AMPs, the pages quickly rocketed up in use and traffic.

As AMP continues to be further integrated into organic search results, the pages are likely to continue to rise in prominence. I predict we will be seeing a lot more of them as the year progresses.

accelerated-mobile-pages

The Accelerated Mobile Pages project says it has made its stripped-down superfast mobile pages even more versatile with the ability to support forms in AMP HTML.

AMP uses a simplified version of HTML to provide pages faster than usually possible on mobile devices – where speed matters most to users. However, the format offers limited features compared to full-fledged web pages. Until now, one of those limitations was the lack of ability to include forms.

Now, AMP users can include everything from the standard e-mail address capture form to more complex forms or even interactive polls. In addition to making it easier to communicate or gain information from your visitors, the support for forms can help with allowing customers to select colors or other details on e-commerce product pages.

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As the AMP project says in its announcement, support for forms “enables building experiences ranging from a product color picker on an e-commerce detail page to an email field to capture newsletter signups to an interactive poll to engage readers within an article.”

If you want to start running your own AMP pages to deliver content faster to on-the-go users or you want to start adding forms to your already existing accelerated mobile pages, check out the AMP project’s official guides and documentation.

You can also see live examples of what the forms may look like on your site at AMP by Example.

The AMP project says it plans to continue to expand the functionality of AMP pages and AMP forms based on user feedback, but the overall focus is still on providing functional and engaging web pages to users as fast as possible.

Instant Articles

Facebook is bringing its Instant Articles to all developers and content producers. The social media platform has been slowly testing its feature, which allows publishers to share content on Facebook mobile that is fast-loading and easy to read.

During Facebook’s F8 conference, the company announced that publishers of any size or kind can now publish via Instant Articles while also sharing some statistics showing how Instant Articles have been performing so far.

According to Facebook’s data, Instant Articles leads to

  • 20% more clicks on links to content
  • 70% reduced likelihood of abandoning content once clicking on it.
  • 30% more shares compared to the average mobile web articles.

Instant Articles are Facebook’s response to Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages and other fast-loading content platforms that streamline pages to ensure they load almost instantaneously on mobile devices. Facebook’s Instant Articles are unique though, because they also allow publishers to control ad placements within their content.

Publishers can even publish native ads as Instant Articles, which are distinguished from traditional content through unique styling options and the ability to add your company’s logo.

“Facebook’s goal is to connect people to the stories, posts, videos or photos that matter most to them,” the company says. “Opening up Instant Articles will allow any publisher to tell great stories, that load quickly, to people all over the world. With Instant Articles, they can do this while retaining control over the experience, their ads and their data.”