Posted January 20, 2012 10:24 am by with 4 comments

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The SEO community is all atwitter (that’s an actual word folks that even existed long before 2006) about the latest change to the Google algorithm. There is the usual “Name the Change” stupidity but that’s just a distraction. Apparently, so are too many ads above the fold on a website according to Google.

From the Webmaster Central blog yesterday

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.

As we’ve mentioned previously, we’ve heard complaints from users that if they click on a result and it’s difficult to find the actual content, they aren’t happy with the experience. Rather than scrolling down the page past a slew of ads, users want to see content right away. So sites that don’t have much content “above-the-fold” can be affected by this change. If you click on a website and the part of the website you see first either doesn’t have a lot of visible content above-the-fold or dedicates a large fraction of the site’s initial screen real estate to ads, that’s not a very good user experience. Such sites may not rank as highly going forward.

This change shouldn’t surprise anyone at all and if you have been following some of the basic rules of understanding how a user actually experiences a website rather than trying to create something that is self-serving, this shouldn’t even create a hiccup. And this coming from a blog that has ads above the fold!

I think Alan Bleiweiss said it very well over in a post at Search Engine Journal

And for goodness sake people, please get out of your own heads long enough to step into your users (and your client’s users) minds. And think about how THEY would react when they come to a page on your site or your client’s site. Everybody will be better for it.

We can try to over think this one as much as we want but in the end it’s just an attempt by Google to help people do good business on the web. Matt Cutts assures people that a small percentage of sites will be impacted. It’s business as usual. Unless you are not coloring within the lines this shouldn’t bother you in the least.

OK Google haters, now it’s your turn. Where is this update “evil”?

  • mikefromolney

    I find this very hypocritical to be honest. On one hand Google is increasing their own paid ad space, Google Map locations and pushing organic search results lower and lower, often off to a second page. Then on the other hand, penalizing us for having ads too high on the page? This is a classic example of “Do as I say, not as I do.” I guess the only one allowed to make money on the web are the mutli-billionaires.

    Secondly, I find it hypocritical for Google to take a stance against SOPA by exclaiming they won’t cower to “big brother” antics from Congress yet we are confined to live within their definition of the web. Again, “Color in the lines or I won’t let you play.” Seems very true to say “Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten.”

  • Cynthia Boris

    “As we’ve mentioned previously, we’ve heard complaints from users that if they click on a result and it’s difficult to find the actual content,”

    That’s interesting because I recently wrote about an ecommerce study where folks said that one of their biggest complaints was search results that don’t lead them directly to the item they searched.

    I didn’t realize this was such an issue but apparently it’s a bigger problem than I thought if Google is making changes to help fix it.

  • I agree with Mike. I just did a search on Google. There was nothing but ads above the fold on the search results. That is a really poor user experience. They really do need to look in the mirror.

  • Its getting tougher keeping up with all these updates, but suprise suprise, they do make it easier for themselves to make money from search advertising, whilse penalising anyone else for doing it…