Warning! Google’s New Page Layout Algorithm Could Affect Your Rankings


If your site is very ad-heavy above the fold, you may start to encounter problems in Google’s search results.

Google recently announced a change in their “page layout algorithm” that is designed to penalize pages that are stuffed with ads and light on content, especially in the area above the fold (i.e. the screen area that you see before you scroll down the page).

Google says in their post, “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.”

Matt Cutts, Google’s most public software engineer, also spelled this out to some degree in a Q&A last September.

Browser Size Tool

In order to help you determine if you have too many ads above the fold, Google has also provided a rather sloppy looking Browser Size tool to help you see your website under different screen resolutions.

Do As I Say

While this move is obviously meant to improve user experience, and will no doubt be a good thing overall, many in the SEO community could not help but giggle/roll their eyes/shake their head/pop a vein at the announcement. Google, you see, makes the rules. But that doesn’t mean they always follow the rules.

A popular little trick to illustrate this point is to go to Google and search for “credit cards.”

How much content do you find above your fold?

Another irony that a lot are pointing out, and that I too experienced, was an email from the Google Adsense team on the very same day of this announcement encouraging me to put MORE Adsense ads on my pages.

The diagram below is from Google itself, recommending possible places to put your Adsense ads.

Funny or Not

Whether you find all this ironic, funny, or infuriating, the fact still remains that the Page Layout Algorithm is a reality, and if you depend on traffic from Google, you will need to pay attention to it.

Google has told us for years that it looks at site structure. It wants to see logic and ease of use for the visitor. So now it turns out that this means more than simply naming your categories well; it also means you need to make sure to lay your site out to highlight the content, not the ads. Presumably, this also applies in-house ads (for your own products or services).

Photo: Internet Search from BigStock