Are you tired of landing on websites with massive banner ads crammed into the top of the page – the kind that push the content so far down the page you need to scroll to get to any of the content you’re there to find in the first place? Well, so is Google. It recently implemented the ‘page layout algorithm,’ penalizing pages with too many ads above the fold. ‘Above the fold’ refers to the portion of the page that is visible before scrolling down to view more content. This will pertain to websites that either do not have a lot of visible content above the fold or those that dedicate a large portion of it to ads.
How do I know if I will be affected?
Sites that do not comply with this Google algorithm change have probably already been tagged. If you’ve recently seen a sudden drop in traffic to your site, you may be too top heavy. Google suggests using its Browser Size tool to understand how much content your users can actually see.
Overall, Google is leaving the choice up to the page owner. It understands banner ads perform well and help monetize online content. So this should only affect pages that use top of the page ads aggressively or make it hard to find the original content of the page.
I’ve fixed it, now what?
Unfortunately, it may take Google a few weeks to recognize the change. Similar to last year’s Google Panda update, the penalty will not instantly disappear. Google will take note next time it visits your site, but effectively removing penalties from the site will take a few weeks. How long it takes depends on a few other factors, including the number of pages on your site.
Criticism toward Google searches
Is it too early to call Google a hypocrite? How often have you run a Google search and found mostly sponsored ads in the yellow tinted box and side banner ads ‘above the fold’? If you are like me, it’s the majority of the time. Though often helpful and relevant to what I’m searching for, it leads to a few eyebrow raises. In response to an almost immediate backlash of criticism, Google released a statement clearing up the distinction:
“This is a site-based algorithm that looks at all the pages across an entire site in aggregate. Although it’s possible to find a few searches on Google that trigger many ads, it’s vastly more common to have no ads or few ads on a page.
Again, this algorithm change is designed to demote sites that make it difficult for a user to get to the content and offer a bad user experience.
Having an ad above-the-fold doesn’t imply that you’re affected by this change. It’s that excessive behavior that we’re working to avoid for our users.”
Though this makes perfect sense, it still irks me the wrong way. Being the sheriff in town, Google holds a lot of responsibility to keep the Internet playing fairly. But with this comes temptation, too. For good or bad, it is a fine line that we at ASQ will be keeping an eye on.
Jeff, thank you for the article. Having one of the websites (autoleak.com) that was impacted by this recent Google change it is good to find explanations of what it was all about. It may be good to point out to your readers that it is also the size of the adverts above the fold that impact search position, probably more so than the number. My site was guilty as charged by Google and my top rank pages went from #1 to #2 and other lesser pages disappeared from the top 10 and ended up above 100. I think my site’s biggest issue was having a large advert at the top of the page and another large advert at the top left. With the browser size tool you provide in the article, I basically had two large adverts in the 99% part of browser window and another small link advert. Have since modified the site to only have 1 advert appear there and I am now waiting on Google to accept my changes. Thanks again for providing the information on this impact and I agree we have to hope that Google does not abuse their power to change search results.