New Google Algorithm Update: Above the Fold Ads

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Google is continuing its content crusade in order for more sites to meet their expectations of “quality.” While the Panda update was about fighting sites with poor and/or duplicate content, the latest update to Google’s algorithm looks to combat spam in regard to ad-placement. The “page layout algorithm” will penalize sites with (what Google deems to be) too many “above the fold ads.”

What is Above the Fold & Above the Fold Ads:

When you open any page or article and what you see at the first look without scrolling the page or article, is above the fold. “Above the fold” is a graphic design concept that refers to the location of an important news story or a visually appealing photograph on the upper half of the front page of a newspaper, or in case of webpages, the part of a page that’s visible without scrolling.

While such an update seems poised to send search marketers and affiliates into a frenzy, Google’s Matt Cutts, head of Search Quality, has himself stated that the update will impact less than 1% of search results. Regardless of the update impacting a relatively small percentage of the web, the page layout algorithm will certainly raise a few eyebrows in the marketing and affiliate world.

The page layout algorithm is a direct result of complaints from users having difficulty finding desired content in the midst of a sea of ads. According to Cutts, users want to see content first and ads second. Therefore Google’s solution is to penalize sites that present a plethora of ads but little or no true content “above the fold.”

Google suggests you use Browser Size tool  to test your website in different screen resolutions and see how your site space is used and how ads dominate your site.

The update is very much in the same vein as Panda. Google ultimately looks to create a correlation between quality content and search results. Unlike Panda, however, the page layout algorithm cause nearly as many webmasters to hit the proverbial “panic button” as the update impacts such few sites.

It seems inevitable, however, that some innocent sites may be penalized as Google has sent some mixed signals to AdSense users in regards to how many ads they should place on their pages. It also seems that placement is the issue here rather than quantity. Stuffing ads “above the fold” has become incredibly popular for many sites, especially those which require their users to download files. Oftentimes a download link will be stuck in the middle of a pack of affiliates, making it difficult to determine which link is the correct one to click. The new update to Google’s algorithm looks to alleviate such issues.

The update is happening sooner rather than later as sites are already reporting drops in traffic at the hands of the change. Webmasters have a chance at redemption, however, if they change up their ad placement to follow Google’s new guidelines by the time that their site is re-crawled. There is of course a sort of gray area here, as one wonders how many ads are indeed allowed “above the fold?” What’s the proper ratio?

One can only use their best judgment for now, although we may learn the answers over time. It must be stressed again, however, that less than 1% of search results will be impacted by the update. Chances are that you probably are not an offender, and if you are, you probably know it by now. So it’s time to change the ads position if you having too much Above the fold ads.


Vishal Gaikar

Article by Vishal

Meet Vishal Gaikar, the tech wizard hailing from Pune, India, who's on a mission to decode the digital universe one blog post at a time. When he's not tinkering with gadgets or diving deep into the digital realm, you can find him concocting the perfect cup of chai or plotting his next adventure. Follow his tech escapades on Twitter and buckle up for a wild ride through the world of innovation and geekery!

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