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Matt Cutts announces Feb 6 update of its "Page Layout Algorithm"
Robert Charlton




msg:4643974
 9:08 pm on Feb 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

Matt Cutts tweeted an announcement today regarding a refresh of its "Page Layout Algorithm", also called the "above the fold" algorithm.

https://twitter.com/mattcutts/statuses/432940645200588800 [twitter.com]

SEO folks: we recently launched a
refresh of this algorithm:
[goo.gl...] Visible to outside
world on ~Feb. 6th.

Several members here reported seeing changes on Feb 6 in our Updates and SERP Changes Thread [webmasterworld.com...]

Thanks to Danny Sullivan for the alert [searchengineland.com...]

 

EditorialGuy




msg:4644242
 3:33 pm on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

Agree totally Google, so follow your own #*$! advice. Double standards bull#*$! as ever.


Double standards? How so? When I'm looking at Google's SERPs, I don't see any Google SERPs listed in the "10 blue links." For all we know, Google may be filtering its own SERPs from the search results because they're top-heavy with ads.

Besides, Google--like any of us--gets to decide what its criteria are for linking to other sites, regardless of what it may or may not do on its own pages. If I were selling shoes or wigs or waffle makers, I might have a policy of not linking to other sites that sell shoes, wigs, or waffle makers. Other vendors of shoes, wigs, or waffle makers might complain that I'm being unfair, but I could argue (quite reasonably) that it's my site and I get to set my own linking standards.

I'd also point out that, on a SERP, the goal is to help the user find things. Google could argue (and probably would argue) that the person searching for "widgets" who sees and clicks on a widget ad at the top of the page is finding what he was looking for when he entered the search query. That's a different scenario from, say, the person who wants to read about the Kardashian sisters, Pope Francis, or naturism in Croatia and is greeted by a screen filled with ads on other topics.

So forget what Google does on its SERPs and focus on a more reasonable question:

How uniformly does the "top-heavy" algorithm penalize sites that distract or annoy users with intrusive ads?

- Does the algorithm downgrade sites that block or distract readers with pop-ups, pop-unders, interstitials, curtain ads, and other ads that search engines don't see but users do? If not, why not?

- Does the algorithm downgrade sites, such as <snip>, that make users' eyes ski a Winter Olympics-style slalom as they read their way through an obstacle course of ads that are embedded in editorial content? If not, why not?

Finally, I'd love to see more examples of sites that have been affected by these "top-heavy" updates. Google doesn't seem to have achieved much (in terms of improving the user experience) with its first two "top-heavy" updates, and I have yet to see evidence that the third time's the charm.

[edited by: aakk9999 at 4:13 pm (utc) on Feb 11, 2014]
[edit reason] Please no specific site names [/edit]

ohno




msg:4644250
 3:51 pm on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

Double standards? How so? When I'm looking at Google's SERPs, I don't see any Google SERPs listed in the "10 blue links."


Did you read what I posted? Google said :-

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.


If your saying for the majority of your searches you get the info you want in front of your eyes then you are very lucky. I've yet to see a result where that happens. I find myself scrolling down past the slew of ads to see any info. Or being distracted by the ads to the right, or at the bottom.

I want content like Google says. Just like what Google used to serve up prior to selling out.

& as for

So forget what Google does on its SERPs and focus on a more reasonable question:

How uniformly does the "top-heavy" algorithm penalize sites that distract or annoy users with intrusive ads?


I'd like to know why the algo is penalising sites that have no ads what so ever. In short, if what Cutts tweeted is true then he is full of #*$!. Either this algo is totally flawed or they rolled out something else on the same day. If the latter why not tweet about that one? More smoke & mirrors.

Finally....

I'd also point out that, on a SERP, the goal is to help the user find things. Google could argue (and probably would argue) that the person searching for "widgets" who sees and clicks on a widget ad at the top of the page is finding what he was looking for when he entered the search query.


If I search for a RED widget I don't want ads to WHITE widgets. If i search for oranges I don't want ads to apples just because Amazon have paid them a ton of money to be at the top.

EditorialGuy




msg:4644253
 4:06 pm on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

Ohno, we understand that you're unhappy with Google. But this thread is (or was) about Google's "Page Layout Algorithm." Some of us are actually curious about what that algorithm means, and about how it's being applied to the pages that Google serves up in its SERPs.

mrengine




msg:4644255
 4:09 pm on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

The only thing I see above the fold for a product search that is not paid are Google's search bar/navigation/login links and one Amazon listing. The rest of the content is all paid in full. I'll call this roughly 90% paid ads above the fold.

Searching for an "optometrist," because I think some people need to see one, there are two organic listings and the rest are all paid. I'll be generous here and call it 80% paid ads above the fold.

I get no ads above the fold for "grandmas old fashioned cookies," but I'm not sure how many people are searching for this. Any transactional search term/phrase that I recall looking at recently, both with and without my eyeglasses on, are void of organic listings.

ohno




msg:4644256
 4:15 pm on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

EditorialGuy, I thought you may cop out like that. I'm interested in this algo too seeing as it smashed two domains that have zero ads. If you care to view my posts you will see I mentioned the tweet in the SERP's thread hours before this thread was created.

EditorialGuy




msg:4644265
 4:41 pm on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

The only thing I see above the fold for a product search that is not paid are Google's search bar/navigation/login links and one Amazon listing. The rest of the content is all paid in full. I'll call this roughly 90% paid ads above the fold.


Again, the "'Top-Heavy' algorithm" isn't about Google's SERP layout.

- How does TH3 affect pages that Google Search is indexing and ranking?

- Or, to look at it from another angle, how can we avoid getting hit by the TH3 algorithm?

Those are the things we need to know.

ohno




msg:4644268
 4:49 pm on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

Again, the "'Top-Heavy' algorithm" isn't about Google's SERP layout.


Not directly, no. But the two are intrinsically linked. If sites get hit by this algo update they don't appear in the SERP's, simple. Sites with zero ads have been hit, again simple. Google claim the update is to combat one thing yet it appears to be doing another (while Google rub our noses in it by making their own SERP page top heavy with ads).

mrengine




msg:4644286
 5:29 pm on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

In my opinion, the top heavy algorithm is about force feeding internet standards through policy when the dominant company setting the policy is in violation of its own principals. Therefore, as a matter of relevance, if advertisements on my website are properly targeted why should any algorithmic penalty be invoked when I've used the same care to pick and choose what I advertise to my users?

What Google has done is create an environment where people FEAR linking to each other and being linked to. The subtle message in the top heavy algorithm update, in my opinion, is that even using nofollow on paid advertisements above the fold is to be feared as well and can lead to a webpage being demoted.

I'm still assessing the damage on Google guideline compliant websites (those using highly targeted nofollow ads), but I've seen enough evidence to draw some initial conclusions as noted above.

Whether coincidental or not, this top heavy algorithm update coincides with Google's big comscore deal [webmasterworld.com] and will ultimately result in Google increasing their marketshare to handle more online advertisements then the third they already control. Put in other terms, the most valuable real estate on most websites is found above the fold. If fewer advertising opportunities exist above the fold on independent websites, because of top heavy algorithmic demotions and/or fear of them, through policy Google inches closer to being the only game in town. Ultimately a reduced inventory of independent advertising opportunities is good for Google and bad for the little guys and competing ad brokers.

simonmc




msg:4644287
 5:33 pm on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

It would be amazing if everyone just decided to add rel:noindex to their site. Google would be out of biz pretty sharpish but we all know that is not going to happen so let´s try to understand what google wants here.

Is google calling it a top heavy algo that does not actually mean there needs to be ads. For instance, my site has a big old slider (like a lot of new looking sites) that takes up a fair bit of above the fold. There are no ads on the site but is google seeing these sliders as ads?

Bones




msg:4644291
 6:12 pm on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

For instance, my site has a big old slider (like a lot of new looking sites) that takes up a fair bit of above the fold.


Same here.

My slider images are linked directly to products/special offers within the site, social media etc. Whilst it's an 'ad' in some sense (most things on an ecommerce site are!) - it's a pretty sad state of affairs if sliders are now a no-no too.

Is it more likely that a Panda is lurking in the background and muddying the waters?

Ralph_Slate




msg:4644304
 7:33 pm on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

Anyways... No matter what you do, stay away from above the fold ads. That message from G is as clear as it gets


If you work with a CPM network, you'll know that it is not permissible to push your ads below the fold. You don't get paid CPM if people don't see your ads, and even if you're in a CPC network, if people don't see the ads they don't click on them.

The "Top-heavy" algorithm was described as penalizing sites where "you can't find the content among all the ads". I have certainly seen sites like this. It does not say "you can't have ads above the fold".

Take a look at any newspaper website - they have a lot of ads, but not so many that the content is buried. Then look at a software downloading site - that is usually a perfect example of a site where you can barely find the content (and often the ads try to mimic the content). I think that it is fine for Google to penalize sites like the latter, where the ads obscure the content, but I think that if they are making their judgement based on "that site has advertising above the fold", they are ripe for an anti-trust lawsuit because they are restricting advertising on the internet and they just happen to rely on people buying advertising from *them*.

ken_b




msg:4644305
 7:37 pm on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

I'm curious how this applies to mobile devices? On my Samsung tablet the fold moves down a few hundred pixels depending on which way you hold the device.

Anyone have an opinion on this?

TyMax




msg:4644309
 8:15 pm on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

If a page or site does not use ads does that mean they will do better in the serps? Most of my sites do not have any ads from any source.

EditorialGuy




msg:4644316
 8:35 pm on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

I'm curious how this applies to mobile devices? On my Samsung tablet the fold moves down a few hundred pixels depending on which way you hold the device.


I was wondering the same thing about responsive layouts, where ad locations and ad sizes can vary with the dimensions of the viewport.

deadsea




msg:4644324
 9:00 pm on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

For what it is worth, I just removed a ton of ads from my site. Before this I had two ads above the fold on pretty much every page. (The content that users interact with most is also above the fold, and is powered by JavaScript.)

Now I have no ads on 50% of pages, one ad on 25% of pages and two ads on 25% of pages.

I was also hit by a too many ads algorithm in January 2012 and ran my site with 1 ad on all pages for a month but didn't see any recovery. At that point I put the ads back on and just took the hit to traffic. In October 2012 my site made a partial recovery when the algorithm was updated.

I should be able to let the current reduced ads run for up to three months before I pull the plug on the experiment.

roshaoar




msg:4644334
 9:30 pm on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

I can understand why Google did this, but it seems a bit incomplete. As in, with a top banner or two, even if big, all I need to do is scroll down. Popups and popovers are not affected by this algo update, but from a user pov they're significantly more distracting for the user as they require clicking on the x then also scrolling down. I hope Google finds a way to have less of these around, especially popovers.

aquanaut




msg:4644376
 2:23 am on Feb 12, 2014 (gmt 0)

So does anyone know if this is a sitewide filter or does it work on a page by page basis? Has anyone seen a big improvement after removing ads, if so what did you remove?

BillyS




msg:4644378
 2:48 am on Feb 12, 2014 (gmt 0)

So does anyone know if this is a sitewide filter or does it work on a page by page basis?
It's affect the entire site. Not just sections.
drhowarddrfine




msg:4644535
 7:15 pm on Feb 12, 2014 (gmt 0)

Hm. Never had a negative problem on any of our client sites. Every change has been positive for them but the only ads they have on their sites are for selling their own stuff. They also exist for their own purpose. iow, they don't exist to have ads on their site so they are legitimate businesses.

Martin Ice Web




msg:4644544
 7:43 pm on Feb 12, 2014 (gmt 0)

@aaak, yes i think having a heavy loaded navigation over the fold is a trigger for this update.
For a while i see dump blogs and landing pages rise with every quality update. All of them don´t have any navigation beside 2-5 links to the main site. If you think mobile then this sites do have all good criteria for small screens. And "information" is in left upper corner if you see it with the bots eyes.

EditorialGuy




msg:4644549
 7:49 pm on Feb 12, 2014 (gmt 0)

Never had a negative problem on any of our client sites. Every change has been positive for them but the only ads they have on their sites are for selling their own stuff.


I don't think Google ever said that the "Page Layout Algorithm" applied only to sites with an excessive number of third-party ads (as opposed to ads in general).

Chances are, your clients haven't been affected simply because they haven't gone crazy with ads. To judge by how many ad-heavy sites do just fine in the SERPs, I'd guess that it takes pretty extreme behavior to trigger the Page Layout Algorithm. Unlike Panda or Penguin, the Page Layout Algorithm appears to be more like a .22 target rifle than a 12-gauge shotgun.

BillyS




msg:4644617
 12:49 am on Feb 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

I'd guess that it takes pretty extreme behavior to trigger the Page Layout Algorithm. Unlike Panda or Penguin.

Not true in my experience. You'd be surprised. For example, this site has more above the fold ads than our site did and we got hit. Personally, I don't think Google interpreted our drop down menu correctly and thought our content was much lower on the page then it really was...

mopek




msg:4644619
 1:03 am on Feb 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

Honestly!

I got hit on the 6th and have a couple ads at the absolute bottom of my pages. The top 90% is all content.

Above the fold my a**.

EditorialGuy




msg:4644628
 1:53 am on Feb 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

Not true in my experience. You'd be surprised.


No algorithm is perfect, and Google waging war with so many algorithmic penalties these days, there's probably a fair amount of collateral damage--in real numbers, if not necessarily in percentages.

My point was simply that there are a lot of sites that are doing fine with plenty of ads above the fold, so I'd guess that the intended threshold of the Page Layout Algorithm is set pretty high.

(Of course, big-name news and entertainment sites may be cut more slack than mom-and-pop sites are.)

drhowarddrfine




msg:4644650
 3:58 am on Feb 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

Like I said, they're all legitimate businesses and both Panda and Penguin helped them while everyone else was crying about it.

I thought I had noticed a slightly better ranking on one of them lately. Maybe I should look into it more.

dannyboy




msg:4644711
 8:32 am on Feb 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

I wonder if above the fold "featured images" could be considered a problem? I'm referring to how some blog posts will have a large image before the content begins.

CaptainSalad2




msg:4644716
 8:35 am on Feb 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

EG if you are claiming that these updates are in the name of improving “user experience” id question why none of these rules are enforced for PPC websites?

If G’s cares so deeply about their “user experience”, if it was at the heart of their concerns then a universal policy would be in place for PPC and organic websites, say....I dunno, an incentive of 1% lower PPC for sites that followed the guidelines?

Unless your suggesting G only cares about its users *organic* experience and user experience doesn't matter on G PPC?

ohno




msg:4644720
 9:00 am on Feb 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

Or it's own "homepage" that is nothing more than ads once a search term has been entered, ie, the SERP's. That's OK though, the self appointed Internet police can do what they like. Some people on here need to think about social responsibility.

netmeg




msg:4644766
 1:17 pm on Feb 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

Requirements are (necessarily) completely different for PPC landing pages; that's a whole different conversation. But you don't want to apply the same standards to landing pages as to organic results.

mike80




msg:4644797
 2:00 pm on Feb 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

What is your opinion about interstitial banners?

I’m talking about a single banner that pops up once every 24 hours, and all you have to do in order to continue browsing is to close it once.

Once the banner pops ups, it does cover most of the content of the page, most big sites use it.

Also Google offers such a placement in their DoubleClick ad system.

So what do you guys think?

ohno




msg:4644802
 2:09 pm on Feb 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

I'd be very carefull. We had such a banner running over the Christmas period to advise about delivery timescales (so no one could say they missed it!). It was cookied so only appeared once per browser session. Our traffic was well down in that period. Could be 100% coincidence but won't be risking it again! They are annoying but we did it because people don't read these notices otherwise.

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