Ads Above the Fold Don’t Get Hit by the Google Hammer

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The hot topic surrounding Google this past week or so is a change they made that they are calling a layout algorithm Googleimprovement. Whether it is truly an improvement has yet to be proven accepted. I guess it depends on who you ask.

Page layout algorithm improvement by Matt Cutts:
http://insidesearch.blogspot.com/2012/01/page-layout-algorithm-improvement.html

Cross post with tons of comments:
http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2012/01/page-layout-algorithm-improvement.html

A snippet from the post:
[quote]In our ongoing effort to help you find more high-quality websites in search results, today we’re launching an algorithmic change that looks at the layout of a webpage and the amount of content you see on the page once you click on a result.[/quote]

It goes on to say:
[quote]This algorithmic change noticeably affects less than 1% of searches globally. That means that in less than one in 100 searches, a typical user might notice a reordering of results on the search page. If you believe that your website has been affected by the page layout algorithm change, consider how your web pages use the area above-the-fold and whether the content on the page is obscured or otherwise hard for users to discern quickly.[/quote]

If your site had a noticeable drop in traffic since or around January 19th, 2012 you might want to check this post and do some additional research and checking.

Basically what this new Google Algorithm change involves is lowering a site or page in search results if it has too much ad space occupying the area above the fold.

Above the fold generally refers to the part of a webpage that is visible without scrolling. Check out Wikipedia’s: Above the fold for an explanation and more details.

This itself can be a topic of heated debate because where exactly is the fold on a webpage? In a newspaper we know where the fold is. There is no doubt or variation. But, when you are talking about webpages there are many different possibilities or scenarios involving where the actual fold is located.

The visible part of a webpage will vary considerably depending on what you have your monitor resolution set for on your computer. For example, the top 10 screen resolution visits here on my site are:
1. 1366×768
2. 1280×800
3. 1024×768
4. 1280×1024
5. 1920×1080
6. 1440×900
7. 1680×1050
8. 1600×900
9. 1920×1200
10. 1360×768

Browser Resolution

If you were to set your resolution on your computer to each of these settings the fold would be different on each of them. Some of them substantially different.

So which one is the right one? Good question. I can’t answer that and I have yet to see anything from Google that clearly says which resolution is the right one. Google says you can use their Browser Size tool, or many other extensions for Chrome, but they still don’t say which resolution is the one they go by. Their browser tool link kind of implies that a resolution of 1000×500 falls in the 90% usage range, give or take a little. They do not mention anything about mobile devices, which are heavily on the rise.

Something else to consider when talking about the fold is your web browser toolbar. Some toolbars consume a fairly big chunk of space in the top portion of your web browser, which will also push the page down and show you a smaller area of a page than one that doesn’t have a big and bulky toolbar. If you are using toolbars that consume a lot of space near the top of your browser the fold will appear much different.

At any rate what Google is getting at is that when you visit a webpage you should easily see and identify the primary content without the need to scroll. If all you see are ads or mostly ads they think your page or site should be demoted somehow by their new algorithm. They do claim that only 1% should be affected by this, which is also debatable.

I am all for spam reduction and rewarding quality sites and content, but there are a lot of “what if’s” and “what about’s” with this new change that I can’t say I am in favor of it at the current time. Who is to say a webpage may not have any ads above the fold, but the rest of the page could be littered with ads all over the place. Does that mean it would pass the algorithm and rank better? I don’t know if that is fair either. Just because a website has advertisements above the fold doesn’t necessarily mean that it is not a good site. Do a search at Google.com and notice that advertisements they plaster all over the search results. Apparently it is OK if you are Google.

Hopefully Google knows what they are doing with this one. It is a little early yet, but I have read several posts where people said their sites lost 20%-50% of their traffic from this change. It is certainly possible that there is a good reason that it happened to those sites. I know there are a lot of people ticked off about this one, but that is expected. The same thing happened a while back when article sites and directories were hit hard by Panda.

So far I haven’t noticed any changes in traffic or pageviews on any of my sites since Google implemented this change on or around January 19th, 2012.

Google seems to be saying you can have ads above the fold, but be careful and don’t overdo it. That is my take on it anyway.

About: Jeremy LeSarge - AKA: Ray (209 Posts)

I am the site owner and administrator of DialMe.com. I provide help and tips for Boonex Dolphin on the main part of this website where you will also find an assortment of other resources. Here, on the blog I write about a variety of topics surrounding WordPress, technology, social media/networking, SEO, and webmaster resources.




16 Comments

  1. Reply

    Google had really given me headaches. They keep changing this and that and forcing us to have no choice but to follow. Same goes here, I had no choice but to change my 336×280 ad which used to be located below post title to a smaller 468×60 ad. If I maintained the 336×280 ad, my single post page view will have no content at all above the fold. You happy now Google?
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    • Reply

      I haven’t changed anything yet. So far I haven’t noticed anything out of the ordinary as a result of this. I am going to keep watching for a while though just to make sure.

      • Tan

        Reply

        I also do not change anything as I use WordPress AdSense plugin. Not sure this will cause anything or not. Anyone of you use plugin as well?

        • Reply

          Hard telling. I don’t know that a plugin will have anything to do with it. Apparently it just depends on how many ads and how much space they occupy that will be determining factor.

  2. Reply

    This new algorithm change has caused quite a stir. It’s amusing how people always want to stay on Google’s ‘good side’. And I noticed a lot of redesigns lately, but that started way before this happens. I notice pretty much all the important stuff is above the fold here.

    I was wondering, do you get extra points for placing Adsense ads above the fold?

    • Reply

      Hey Brian,

      I know a lot of people freak out when Google started talking about this. I don’t see the need to go around changing things because they say it might affect your rankings. I haven’t noticed any dip in traffic since they applied this so for the time being I am not going to change anything. I read a lot of posts where people said that it did though. Whether they made changes just because they were worried it might hurt their rankings or whether it really did is a good question.

      I have read many posts over the years where there were suggestions made that having Adsense ads actually earned you some kind of points with Google. The posts are kind of old now and who really knows.

      The amount of ads Google allows you to put on a page is fairly generous in my opinion, but when you have the maximum allowed by Adsense along with other ads it can get ugly and out of hand.

    • Reply

      Sites that don’t rely on advertising don’t have much to worry about if they primarily have a product or service they offer. Sites that rely on ads as their money maker are obviously the ones that tend to be complaining. I don’t have a problem with ads as long as there is not too many of them. It’s a toss up for me. I can see it both ways to some extent.

  3. Reply

    I frown on the changes made by Google on their algorithm. I just got my 2 blogs deranked on the first page. I don’t know if it was a result of my SEO efforts or somehow placing a huge banner of Google ads on my header made it. And then whenever I remove the banner, Google emails me that I am missing 375 opportunities to earm blah blah blah something like that.

  4. Mike

    Reply

    None of my sites got affected because of this Algorithmic change but I did notice ones competitor drop from 2nd place in Google Serps to 10th place because he had vertically aligned picture based buttons that went away from his site. Even on FullHD monitor I couldn’t see any text without scrolling.
    But this could be coincidence as well and this ranking drop could be because of some other reasons.

  5. Alesia

    Reply

    I’m not happy regarding with the algorithm change of Google, they losing our hopes to rank high but still we have to accept that changes. By the way thanks for sharing this information.

    • Reply

      One thing about Google is they are constantly messing with and changing something. They will never make everyone happy anymore. I just wish they wouldn’t mess with things as often as they have been lately.

  6. Ann

    Reply

    Hi there,
    It is strange that these changes came at a time when everyone is just getting over the Panda thing. I know a lot of people have just gotten their rankings back. It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out.

  7. Reply

    The sites with the ads seen above the fold don’t necessarily get hammered. In my point of view, if the content above the fold is still sufficient in such a way that the user can already see what he or she needs despite the presence of some ads, it’s still good. The key here is to NOT overpopulate ads above the fold.

    • Reply

      I know some people moved their ads around after this was rolled out. I didn’t bother. I haven’t noticed anything as a result of it. I never did see anything about what is too much.

  8. Jon

    Reply

    I strongly dislike the algorithm changes by Panda. But adsense above the fold don’t get hammered as much because if you read the webmaster tools and Google articles they recommend them above the fold. But they also ask you to limit your advertising mixing too many ads with adsense will cause them to slap you all together. But this is some pretty good information especially the link to the “page layout algorithm”

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