Google’s Above-the-Fold Algorithm Change Will Penalize Many Sites

Continuing its efforts to keep its search results more quality-oriented, Google recently announced a significant algorithmic change.

The change looks at the layout and amount of content on a webpage, if the ads above the fold are excessive, your site can be penalized and downgraded in the search results.

As Matt Cutts wrote on the Google Webmaster Central Blog post.

We’ve heard complaints from users that if they click on a result and it’s difficult to find the actual content, they aren’t happy with the experience. Rather than scrolling down the page past a slew of ads, users want to see content right away. So sites that don’t have much content “above-the-fold” can be affected by this change. If you click on a website and the part of the website you see first either doesn’t have a lot of visible content above-the-fold or dedicates a large fraction of the site’s initial screen real estate to ads, that’s not a very good user experience. Such sites may not rank as highly going forward.

This new algorithmic update will penalize sites with little or no visible content above-the-fold or sites that have deliberately pushed relevant content underneath large blocks of ads.

While placing ads above-the-fold is quite a common practice for many websites; these ads are a good source of money for many online publishers as long as they do it within acceptable limits.

Users will not see much of a change on the front end as Google estimates that less than 1% of the searches globally will be affected by this algorithmic update. Actually, the chances of typical users noticing a reordering of results on the search page will be only 1 in 100.

For webmasters who have recently updated their page layout, the page layout algorithm will automatically reflect the changes as Google re-crawls and processes a sufficient number pages from your site to assess the changes made.

The length of time it will take for Google to reassess your pages will depend on several factors, including the number of pages on your site and how efficiently Googlebot can crawl the content. On a typical website, it can take several weeks for Googlebot to crawl and process enough pages to reflect layout changes on the site.

Put simply, if you have stuffed too many ads into the area above the fold on your webpages , you are going to feel the wrath of Google’s algorithm penalty.

If you believe that your website has been a victim of the page layout algorithm change, its time you review how your web pages use the area above-the-fold and whether the content on the page is obscured or perhaps difficult to be reached by users.

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By Rene LeMerle

Rene is the marketing manager of ineedhits.com - a global search engine marketing company. He also leads the marketing for Gooruze.com - a web 2.0 style community for online and digital marketers. Rene has been in the industry since 1997 with much of that time spent helping businesses embrace the best of the internet and digital world.