Google Page Layout Algorithm Change

Google recently announced another update to their search ranking algorithm, that now takes the layout of a page into account. This change is specifically targeted at penalizing sites that have too many ads — or content that looks to Googlebot like ads — up toward the top of the page. The idea here is that your site should have important content (not ads or banners or navigation) visible immediately on loading the page, without having to scroll down to find it.

Here’s what Google had to say:

We understand that placing ads above-the-fold is quite common for many websites; these ads often perform well and help publishers monetize online content. This algorithmic change does not affect sites who place ads above-the-fold to a normal degree, but affects sites that go much further to load the top of the page with ads to an excessive degree or that make it hard to find the actual original content on the page. This new algorithmic improvement tends to impact sites where there is only a small amount of visible content above-the-fold or relevant content is persistently pushed down by large blocks of ads.

Potential Impact to Sites Without Ads

While this change is targeting sites with lots of ads up at the top of the site, there is always come collateral damage in Google algorithm updates. Where webmasters and SEO have to be concerned about this change is when the content area of their site isn’t immediately visible without scrolling down (even on smaller screens) Google might think that your site is a bad experience for the user.

This is particularly applicable to sites that like to use a lot of banner images promoting their own products — these site owners often don’t think of these content blocks as ads, since they feature product from their own site — but to Google it’s still a matter of pushing relevant content (which in theory is the reason a person searching for a phrase is led to that page) down where a user can’t find it without searching.

So if your site had featured products and related products and special and deals cluttering up the top of the site, this algorithm change may be the motivation you need to make some changes to the site.

Remember, this change isn’t just about the Google algorithm: getting your relevant content above the scroll is just good site design and will give you happier users and better conversions.

Comments 11

  • Ads should be put where it could not interfere with the user interface. I mean come on, pop ups? Adding another click here and there would only annoy the users.

  • Well, this is not just about pop-ups (and to be fair, ads that scroll out of the side of the screen are essentially the same as pop-ups from a usability/annoyance standpoint).

    One of the big takeaways though is that even when you just have banners advertising your own products or different parts of your site/specials, that is equally as bad as any other kind of ad when it obscurs the content that users are supposed to see on the page (pushes it down the page).

  • I’m really glad they’re doing this. I have some sites beating me out in the SERPs that are nothing but ads — total junk sites. Hopefully this will push them down and let sites actually about the search topic rank a bit better.

  • Thanks for the head up.

  • It’s nice to see Google making an update that puts attention on content again, rather than continuing to focus on links and social links.

  • This is incredibly needed. I can’t believe that when you look on so many SEO forums that SEOs are complaining about how hard Google is making life for affiliates. You know what? GOOD!

    The vast majority of all affiliate sites are a sucking wound on the internet. When I search for shoe stores, I expect Google to give me a list of shoe stores. I do not want a site that gives me a link to a shoe store.

    Sometimes I think that SEOs forget that the whole point of these changes is to, you know, make search results better for people who are using it.

  • Unless of course those ads are Google Adwords 🙂

  • Google strikes again! I know that they’re trying to improve the search experience for their users, but some of their stuff seems to be getting a little too specific.

    What’s next? A Google Font algorithm to penalize sites using those pesky Serif fonts? They’re supposedly harder to read, so I say Google should exterminate them!

  • Lol! Serif penalized – the next google algorithm!

  • It’s really upset that Google plays with SEO people, changing and changing. Is it good for clients? Let’s see it.

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