Google Algorithm Change Focuses on (too much!) Advertising Above the Fold

Google Algo change user friendly web page design

Above the Fold

Originally published by myself on Technorati as: Google Algorithm Change Requires User-Friendly Page Layout

Web publishers and bloggers beware: If you’re displaying many ads “above the fold,” Google’s latest algorithm change may swoop down like a Navy SEAL team on your website. You might suddenly find your Web pages buried, six-feet under on the search results pages.

It’s happening to many site publishers around the Web, on sites the search engine bot now deems too ad-heavy up top. When the bot spots sites like this, the offending site takes a hit in page rank. For the site owner, this means fewer people will see your Web pages during searches.

SEO Headline News: New Page Layout Mandate

Announced on January 19th, Google calls it a “page layout algorithm improvement.” Specifically, Web sites will be penalized when the content takes a glaring backseat to the advertisements. If you have too many ads in and around your header, you’ll be sorry. Even if their Google ads.

The search giant says it’s making the new page layout “suggestion” as a result of user complaints. When people click-through and can’t quickly find the content they’ve searched for, they feel frustrated . . . by a barrage of advertisements. As a result, they don’t have a great experience on that website.
Never mind that Google had a hand in creating this ads-first culture, of heavy selling above the fold.

What Does “Above the Fold” Mean?

“Above the Fold” is actually a newspaper industry term, but it’s been adapted as a Web design principle, too. It originally referred to the front page of a newspaper, specifically the top half – the part most visible to customers at a newsstand.

The theory is, when you want to induce sales, place your hottest headlines and news content above the paper’s “fold.” That best practice translated to the Web means to place your best content before any scrolling down is necessary. Information placed in this prime location immediately catches the eye and entices engagement.

What’s the Page Layout Fix?

Make sure your actual content is visible up top. Decrease the number of adverts that greet your visitors. Rearrange your ads, possibly moving some further down on the page, below “the fold.”

For the most part, the SEO community has responded positively to the latest algorithm change. In a phone interview this morning, Ray Grieselhuber, SEO industry veteran and CEO of GinzaMetrics, an enterprise SEO company based in Mountain View, Calif., says, “This is change the Web publishing community should believe in. It’s clearly a quality move, one targeting a more user-friendly environment across the entire Internet,”

Use the Browser Size Tool

Google’s free Browser Size Tool provides a visualization of how different browser window sizes allow your content to be seen. Type the URL of your various Web pages here – Browser Size Tool – and you’ll see a chart that should help.

Google hasn’t gone on record about the ratio of content-to-advertisements the page layout algorithm will penalize. However, the company says it expects about 1 percent of all Google search results to be affected.

Interestingly, Google doesn’t follow its own new rule. Do a Google search for your basic, popular search term, and plenty of above-the-fold Google ads are still displayed.  But putting their “do as I say, not as I do” policy aside, it’s still a virtuous guideline worth following. As Grieselhuber of GinzaMetrics says, “The new page layout scheme should actually benefit Web publishers. If it results in longer user engagement as expected, the bounce rate on many sites should improve.”

The good news is that if your bounce rate decreases, you’ll be in a better position to gain page rank – and ultimately more search engine-referred traffic. So, why look a potential gift horse in the mouth?

About Geoff Simon

Geoff is owner/operator of Simon Search Marketing. He graduated cum laude with a B.S. in Business Administration from California State Polytechnic University in 2003. Geoff immediately secured employment as an account coordinator with Grey Direct West, (now G2 Direct & Digital) working for Bank of Americas online banking division. From there Geoff has worked in a search marketing capacity for companies including Intermark Group, Disney Interactive Media Group, and Toyota Dealers Association. During his time Geoff has worked on brands including Disney Family, Toyota, Lexus, National Geographic, Red Bull USA Events, That '70s Show and Carsey Werner.
Geoff likes ice-hockey, is a Chicago native and proud dad to his almost 1-year old son Cyrus.
Find Geoff on Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, or follow his Twitter handle @geoff_simon


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