The hot topic surrounding Google this past week or so is a change they made that they are calling a layout algorithm improvement. 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:
Cross post with tons of comments:
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:
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.