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.