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Matt Cutts Announces "Above The Fold" Algorithm Launch
tedster




msg:4408781
 11:48 pm on Jan 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

In our ongoing effort to help you find more high-quality websites in search results, today [19 January] we're launching an algorithmic change that looks at the layout of a web page and the amount of content you see on the page once you click on a result...

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.

- Matt Cutts

[insidesearch.blogspot.com...]

 

lucy24




msg:4409561
 6:14 am on Jan 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

Many sites, including the big one, are not content oriented above the fold. It's typically photo, name, price, and add to cart button. In fact, on the big one, I go down two folds before I get into product description but could be because of my monitor settings.

Isn't that begging the question? Not just you. Half the people in this thread are assuming that "content" means text. The other half are assuming it means "anything other than advertising". Does anyone know?

Thaparian




msg:4409565
 6:32 am on Jan 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

My site had authority ranking for more than two years now and I lost the rankings (sitewide), 2-10 places down on 19th January 2012.

My site has a blog layout, 70px header, main content (650px) on the left and two sidebars on the right. I had 336 unit (above the fold) in main content area, float to the right side. And in one sidebar, two 160 units.

Is that a lot of advertisement?

I now replaced 336 unit with a 300 one, and on many inner pages removed the 336 block. Google hasn't crawled my site since the changes were made. Should I be removing more ads, I already see a decline in CTR.

Also, does Google penalize specific pages or the whole site?

Reno




msg:4409577
 7:25 am on Jan 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

Half the people in this thread are assuming that "content" means text. The other half are assuming it means "anything other than advertising". Does anyone know?

Ah, now we get back to the basis of my general complaint about Panda and it's aftermath. Speaking for myself, and raising the same issue I've raised here no doubt way too many times, I've never seen an official Google explanation of "quality content" (which we've been led to believe is a Panda priority), much less their view on regular "content". I'm taking it to mean mostly text with supporting graphics, though I can see lots of circumstances where it would be graphics with supporting text.

Whatever it means, if their past behavior is any indication of what we can expect, we almost certainly won't see anything from MC or anyone else clarifying all that. They seem to throw these hand grenades out from time to time, but never tell us where they're going to roll.


...............................

shri




msg:4409584
 9:09 am on Jan 22, 2012 (gmt 0)


@universetoday - did you notice a ranking drop on the 19th which you feel came from this new algorithm component?


We lost a lot of rankings on the 19th on a site that had three adsense units above the fold.

Our ranks have been solid for the last couple of years on this site.

Unique content (maintained by a Hollywood script writer .. ) and pretty engaging in my opinion as we average about 5-6 pageviews per visitor and the bounce rate is usually 30-40%. Dwell time was and remains about 3 mins per user.

There is one page which answers a specific question and the bounce rate on that page is about 90% - to be honest, I don't care much about that page anyways as it does not add much value to the site other than give us exposure within this niche.

Unfortunately this has happened right as we go into what is usually a high revenue month for us in Feb.

Have made some tweaks (moved the ads a fair bit, although we do see the leaderboard and the other units above the folks - there is a fair bit of content there too ) - lets see how well Google responds. Hopefully this is not a long term filter and something that ensures that the penalty is revaluated on a weekly or per crawl basis.

Time will tell ....

deadsea




msg:4409593
 11:19 am on Jan 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

potentialgeek: the 336x280 box is on the left, content is on the right.

I've removed the 728x15 link bar sitewide. That will be a 22% ad revenue hit, but that's better than a 30-40% traffic hit. I'm hoping the penalty won't apply with a single 336x280 above the fold.

rollinj




msg:4409594
 11:53 am on Jan 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

Nice point, Marshall.

Screen resolution plays a massive factor, however I assume they will simply use the ratios of screen resolutions that they find to be common from all of the information we freely give them by using google analytics.

cr1t1calh1t




msg:4409599
 12:56 pm on Jan 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

I can't remember where, but I read that the googlebot is basically chrome. The article focused on how it could now render and crawl javascript and ajax - but this would play right into the above the fold changes.

Does anyone know the screen resolution of the googlebot?

This is only the beginning with above the fold and other visual factors. If google can show show a user different results based on their connection speed, then they can show different results to users based on their screen resolution.

HuskyPup




msg:4409610
 1:45 pm on Jan 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

@rlange

It's not exactly reasonable to inform each of those sites individually.


And why not? If they are so confident that their systems and analyses (correct spelling) are so accurate then they surely have the ability to inform those they deem to be of lesser quality?

<snip>

[edited by: goodroi at 3:58 pm (utc) on Jan 22, 2012]
[edit reason] Let's keep the discussion on-topic and professional [/edit]

tedster




msg:4409634
 4:35 pm on Jan 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

Does anyone know the screen resolution of the googlebot?

Googlebot does not have a screen - it retrieves the source code from servers, which is then processed by the various algorithm components.

It seems clear from the screen resolution tool that Google now publishes that they are considering various screen resolutions in this new change. But no, they haven't said exactly how.

We lost a lot of rankings on the 19th on a site that had three adsense units above the fold.

It sure sounds like you are affected by this change, both from the timing and the characteristics of your layout. Please keep us posted bout this, shri - any changes you make as well as ranking shifts that happen.

graeme_p




msg:4409641
 5:14 pm on Jan 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

@deadsea, I also had a 336x280 on the left with content on the right. It was not a site on which visitors had to scroll to see content, except on very small screens (say 400 pixels wide or lower) which suggests that Google is targeting that.

My main loss is of a many first or second places in the SERPs places to Wikipedia and/or a competitor whose ads are lower down the page.

I have replaced it with a skyscraper lower down the page. Now to wait for Google to re-crawl the pages.

This is the first time I am changing a site to suit an algo change, and it does not feel right - when I have lost ground before I have waited a few weeks and my losses have reversed, but in this case it looks needed.

potentialgeek




msg:4409654
 5:38 pm on Jan 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

> potentialgeek: the 336x280 box is on the left, content is on the right. I've removed the 728x15 link bar sitewide. That will be a 22% ad revenue hit, but that's better than a 30-40% traffic hit. I'm hoping the penalty won't apply with a single 336x280 above the fold.

> deadsea, I also had a 336x280 on the left with content on the right.

The only way I can see that differs from conventional sites is their ads of the same size are on the right, not the left. I'd bet the link bar isn't offending Google's algo, just the 336 location. Otherwise Google would have to target every site with 336s on the top right, which isn't going to happen, IMO.

Any ad on the left side, I imagine, is risky.

londrum




msg:4409660
 6:04 pm on Jan 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

how can screen resolution come into it?

if the ad ratio is okay for a 1024 res, but not okay for a 800 res (which is easily possible), are they going to mark the 1024 res down too? there would be no reason for it.

so they'd have to show different SERPs for people using different resolutions, which isnt going to happen.

if they're going to mark sites down for this, then it would have to be on a ratio of the entire page. that is how their bot would see it as well

cr1t1calh1t




msg:4409662
 6:11 pm on Jan 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

@tedster - I don't think they're considering each searcher's screen size, at least not yet, but rather the lowest common denominator, or at least an average or 'typical' screen resolution that they've determined. My reasoning for this is based on:

1. It looks like sites with top left placement of the largest ad units (336x280) are getting hit particularly hard (I know - very small sample size, anecdotal, ...)
2. My site has a top-left 336x280 ad unit, and over 85% of my visitors have a screen width of 1024 or greater, which leaves lots of content above the fold.

I know this is thin, and I have to remember that this above-the-fold change is only one factor in many. Sites that aren't as strong in other ranking factors and/or ranking well against other less than competitive sites, will probably get hit harder on the ATF factor than otherwise...

What is the mobile browser width on the typical android phone?

@potentialgeek - maybe it is time to do exactly the opposite of what Adsense suggests, as here is their advice for optimizing your placement: "Higher placement is better than lower and left is better than right." Source: [url]https://support.google.com/adsense/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=187696&topic=30002&ctx=topic[/url].

cr1t1calh1t

ken_b




msg:4409663
 6:18 pm on Jan 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

Any ad on the left side, I imagine, is risky.

I wondered about that when this thread first started.

But I've got a bunch of pages with a 160x600 right under the site logo in the left column and a 120x600 in the right column right under a site nav button. There is a 728x90 leaderboard at the top of the page [above the logo and nav bar].

So far tose pages are doing fine. Maybe they just haven't got to me yet.

On the other hand, when talking to the AdSense Optimizer person about those pages they mentioned the right hand 120x600 as the ad to (re)move if any.

On pages where I don't have ads in the left column they suggested moving the skyscraper from the right column to the left column.

My biggest group of pages has the leaderboard at the top of the page above the Logo and nav bar. The in the left column there is the H1 followed by a short paragraph of text, then a 160x90 adlinks unit the more text. In the center column is an image followed by a 300/336x250/280 adblock then another image (on some pages). Then some boiler plate disclaimers etc.

Then in the right hand column I have more site nav. The pages in this section are getting more traffic. The rest of the site is stable as far as traffic goes.

Maybe I've just been beaten so far down by Panda that they are leaving me alone... :)

I'm waiting for a while to see what happens before I make any changes.

I do actively manage the ad to content ratio on my pages though.

The 728x90 stays on all pages, but how many other ads appear depends on how much content is on that particular page. That sounds like a pain, but I build all my pages manually and the ads are in the template, I just delete the ads when I think it is appropriate.

Marshall




msg:4409666
 6:29 pm on Jan 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

Isn't that begging the question? Not just you. Half the people in this thread are assuming that "content" means text. The other half are assuming it means "anything other than advertising". Does anyone know?


Draw your own conclusions from this.

The e-commerce site I manage for one of my clients was generally ranked in the top five SERPS before Panda. The design of the site has not changed much over the years and the site has been active for 12 years.

Layout:
Top 20px - Link to Mobile Friendly version, Client Login and Cart Contents Summary
Next 150px - Header with title being the product on the page
Next 42px - Dynamic Horizontal Navigation by product type
Then main body:
Left column, 150px - Search Box & Navigation by brand
Center, about 700px - Product - Picture, description, price, add to cart button
Right, about 180px - On-site promotions, SSL certificate
Then footer.

There are no ads on this site yet it went from the top five to, in some cases, page 5.

There is absolutely nothing "above the fold" that should have any negative impact as to "content." The "content," that being the product, is only 212px from the body top. In fact, there is nothing on the pages that is not related to the pages or site.

Bottom line: I don't believe anything Google says and that they are trying to make everyone dance to their tune. And I will repeat, especially for e-commerce sites, if you don't advertise on Google, you don't rank well in SERPS regardless what you have above the fold.

Marshall

Play_Bach




msg:4409668
 6:40 pm on Jan 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

> And I will repeat, especially for e-commerce sites, if you don't advertise on Google, you don't rank well in SERPS regardless what you have above the fold.

One of the sites I manage is doing just fine on Google. We don't advertise.

tedster




msg:4409672
 6:58 pm on Jan 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

I agree with Play_Bach. Most of my small to medium clients are ranking well but they do not advertise on Google now and they never have. It takes just a small amount of research to disprove any connection like that.

There are a multitude of ranking factors and we don't know the full recipe for how they combine. This algorithm change is, so far, not having all that big an impact, even if it is causing concern for some.

We are not being lied to when some new change is publicized. At this point we even get a monthly article for all the changes that Google launched in the past month - and so far, it's a pretty big list for one month's work. We just don't get an exact recipe book, and it's become so complex that a true reverse engineering isn't likely.

brinked




msg:4409676
 7:14 pm on Jan 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

from the looks of it...I would assume this would only effect websites that display an overwhelming amount of ads stacked from the top which would make it very hard to find the content down below.

I do not know why this is even being mentioned, this should have been a factor long ago, if not at the least should have been bundled with panda.

lucy24




msg:4409693
 10:01 pm on Jan 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

so they'd have to show different SERPs for people using different resolutions, which isnt going to happen.

Why wouldn't it happen? Detecting screen resolution is a heck of a lot less complicated than all those other factors they do take into account.

g1smd




msg:4409699
 10:24 pm on Jan 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

I have an interest in this.

I'm currently looking at a site that has the company banner at the very top of the page, a thin navbar below and then the standard breadcrumb trail. Next there's a huge graphic showcasing each product. Finally, all text is well below the fold, and the bottom of the page contains a box with more navigation links in.

The site has just been converted from using flash graphics to using CSS and jquery. Additionally thousands of HTML coding errors were fixed, massive duplicate content issues were resolved, a huge amount of broken internal links fixed, titles added where missing and the site URLs changed to extensionless. The canonical tag and a bunch of redirects also feature highly.

The new site launches in a few days. Visually it looks little different to the old site. Coding wise it's a huge change. The site does not run any third-party ads whatsoever.

I am interested to see what happens. Traditionally the site should do much better, but with the latest Google changes I am wondering how much the huge graphic will hold it back.

Previews in SERPs currently show a grey box where the flash graphic resides. It will be interesting to see how quick that changes and what effect on SERPs and traffic there will be. With all the other changes it might be hard to tell how much the site is being held back. What is especially worrying is that Google might consider the site changes are in response to their updated system. In fact, work started several months ago primarily to make the site mobile-friendly and to undo the mess inflicted by some previous SEO company.

[edited by: g1smd at 10:30 pm (utc) on Jan 22, 2012]

tedster




msg:4409700
 10:25 pm on Jan 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

In some degree, we know they already do something like that with feature-phones/smartphones/tablets.

deadsea




msg:4409715
 12:27 am on Jan 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

Based on this discussion, I may also move my 336x280 ad to the right of my content. The main content of my landing pages fitss very nicely next to a large square ad for 1024 and higher resolutions (and 100% above the fold, so I feel this algo is targeting my site a bit unfairly.) I had the ad on the left because it tested 1-2% more revenue there. If folks think that right vs left could be a factor here, it sounds like a no brainer to move it to the other side to avoid the penalty.

realmaverick




msg:4409727
 1:11 am on Jan 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

If my own experience is anything to go by, then content means "text".

It appears one of my websites has been hit. Our stores download pages feature a large banner, which showcases the product. The banners hyperlink, opens a larger preview. It doesn't link to 3rd party websites, so is clearly not an advert.

Thousands of these pages have been impacted over the weekend and traffic has taken a big hit.

Content should mean content. Content is not always textual. As Youtube and Android Marketplace clearly demonstrate. Yet their own sites are never hit.

Curious.

realmaverick




msg:4409729
 1:17 am on Jan 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

from the looks of it...I would assume this would only effect websites that display an overwhelming amount of ads stacked from the top which would make it very hard to find the content down below.

I do not know why this is even being mentioned, this should have been a factor long ago, if not at the least should have been bundled with panda.


Your assumption, IMO is wrong. Though it would have made more sense for it to work this way, I don't believe it is. I'm pretty confident my site has been hit and we have 1 ad on the entire page, which doesn't push any content at all, further down.

lucy24




msg:4409754
 3:12 am on Jan 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

If my own experience is anything to go by, then content means "text".

Well, damn and blast. I've been adding pictures to some of my informational pages to make them less visually boring. Would they rather have a background recording of O Canada sung in Inuinnaqtun?* Annoys the ### out of the user, but takes up no space above, below or even behind the fold.

Guess I could take all the illustrations out of perennial favorite {ebook}** and {other ebook} and even {third ebook}. The fact that they're picture books doesn't matter, does it?


* Not really.
** My Legitimate #1. Doesn't get lot of hits in grownup terms, but when people do arrive, I'm confident it's what they were looking for.

tangor




msg:4409755
 3:22 am on Jan 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

I'm hearing a lot of FUD at the moment. If this truly has rolled out we don't have enough information/feedback, not only from members here but from elsewhere, to know what has been "hit". There's being proactive, then there's being proactive without a direction.

deadsea




msg:4409759
 3:30 am on Jan 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

Sadly Google never releases enough detail to allow webmasters to be pro-active with direction.

How many ads above the fold are too many?
How big can ads above the fold be?
How is "content" measured?

Once again, if Google were willing to give away a few more details, it would help webmasters build websites that Google would like to have in their index. I'm happy to remove ads if Google would not have my site in the index otherwise. I just need to know how many I can have.

Whitey




msg:4409765
 4:46 am on Jan 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

There's being proactive, then there's being proactive without a direction

There's being commercial, then there's being "moral" and then the balance of the two. Google surely possess' a responsibility with it's acquired power to manage this with a duty of care and consideration.

What's preventing Google from providing precise guidelines and samples before they implement a disruption, with sufficient time to remedy sites, rather than creating chaos with action and vague statements, which seem intended to "divide and conquer". With such power, Google surely has an increased duty of care.

Here's my suggestion. In WMT implement a content review system for subscribing websites stating the failure of sites to meet basic design standards, and then provide actual examples, both visual and written of those precise guidelines. Something around this could be built.

Probably the response here would be that the algorithmn isn't perfect in the human editorial sense, and it would leave Google vulnerable to proven contention when loss could be proven [ highly unlikely to be achieved ]. But at least a step in this direction would seem reasonable.

Reno




msg:4409777
 5:49 am on Jan 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

What's preventing Google from providing precise guidelines and samples before they implement a disruption

Short answer: Nothing

But we all know by now that with chaos & uncertainty comes power and control, and that no doubt outweighs any "moral" considerations. This worldwide corporation only needs to be one thing, and that is profitable enough to make the major stockholders happy. End of story.

I'm grateful for WMT and wish thy would consider ideas such as those you've presented, but the fact is, making webmasters happy means less than zero to the corporate charter.

I've been beating the "clarity" drum for years, but it's an exercise in futility. They have no intention of providing meaningful guidelines along with their periodic updates. It's frustrating watching our businesses/incomes yo-yo with every new algo shift, and your suggestions Whitey would help even things out, but I see absolutely no evidence that the Google status quo will change any time soon.

And I'll be genuinely surprised if anyone here has a glimmer of hope to the contrary.

....................................

Rasputin




msg:4409780
 7:15 am on Jan 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

g1msd, our (travel) sites are in a similar position and I had a similar concern - there isn't too much advertising ATF but every article has a large photo of the destination at the top of the page, which means there is very little text visible above the fold.

Certainly the initial run to penalise sites with too much advertising / too little content above the fold had no impact at all on our visitor numbers, so for the moment I am optimistic that they can distinguish 'content that isn't text' from advertisements.

acee




msg:4409787
 9:18 am on Jan 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

'weíve heard complaints from users that if they click on a result and itís difficult to find the actual content, they arenít happy with the experience'

The same can be said for long pages with articles on a range of topics, where individually they don't match your search keywords, but together they do. You end up scrolling or searching through the page only to find that, once again, Google has NOT sent you to the most relevant page.

Google has exacerbated this situation with Panda by actively encouraging webmasters to consolidate content, thereby creating less concise webpages.

Is scrolling past a couple of ads that big a deal, if you think the page has the content that your require? I think not, but if it was that big an issue for you, wouldn't you simply install an ad blocker?

Perhaps the real issue for Google is that the ads are targetting visitors accurately and preventing them from bouncing, whereas a bounced visitor returning to the SERPs is another opportunity for an adwords clickthru!

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