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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...]

 

tangor




msg:4646389
 3:06 pm on Feb 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

It might also be that the new algo version is correcting an over reach from the previous iteration... ie. lowering the bar a touch, and was not revealed until the new version rolled out.

ohno




msg:4646393
 3:12 pm on Feb 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

If it lowered the bar in any way shape or form I wouldn't expect two totally innocent sites to get hit. Unless of course they rolled out something else big that day.

gachet1




msg:4647239
 7:35 pm on Feb 20, 2014 (gmt 0)

Maybe we'd be seeing more complaints here if Webmaster World attracted an Arabic- or Russian-speaking audience:


here my 2 cents from europe (austria, switzerland and germany) sorry for my english

I have some big forums. Each forum has arround 50k members and arround 500k topics. (all indexed)
The forums are very active and have all the same design and ad placement. So its easy for me to compare whats happend.

I had 2 ads (adsense) on top of the forum for each website. Members surf without ads.

First update in January 12 I thought "ohh.." this update is for me...but then I saw, phew...nothing happend
Next update in Oktober 12 I thought again, now this will give a drop..but again, nothing happend...

2 years past..everything fine..I thought, well, google like fresh forum content and big forums with quality links have maybe a better status / trust? I dont like the 2 ads on top but they were good to monitize the site and servercost..

Not really...

6 October > I monitored a 20% drop of 1 forum. I searched arround..but found no reason..then I saw the discussion and the note from cutts..."Page layout, top heavy algorithm updated"...It was about time. :(

Interesting is, that 1 forums have the drop..the other not but both have the same layout..only different colours. I dont think that colours matters so there are more triggers...not only the ads above the fold.

Next thing is, that I lost only few Positions..but they all together is a drop of 20%...ads earings went down to the half. It was a bad day :(...

I worked one week to change the ad position. before I had one fixed 120x600 left and on top a 300x250. The 120x600 is gone and the 300x250 is floated (still left).Content is arround.

I hope this is enough change...I have to place ads again, because Its better to have a 20% drop with a hit in the earnings instead to have my rankings back but place the ads to the bottom...I already tested it some years back.

To count 1 and 1 together for me are some things clear..please correct me if I am wrong

1. Cutts said recover depends on crawl speed and reprocessing...for a big site it needs longer!
2. When nobody have a update during the 2 years period, a on the fly change like they said, is not possible. right? We have to wait for the next update? Or do we all missunderstood mr. cutts?

3. I read alot in differnt countries about the penalty..in germany, in us, in french and russia. I can read some languages...In every country is the topic the same. The algo hits not only ads-sites but mostly. But nobody knows anything about the real trigger and space and place....

Kind regards

[edited by: aakk9999 at 12:05 pm (utc) on Feb 21, 2014]

sjd256




msg:4647331
 2:27 am on Feb 21, 2014 (gmt 0)


Just a question from a newbie regarding the discussed above
the fold ad layout changes.

If this is now being penalized why is Google Adsense forever
sending emails reference improving click thru rates and
suggesting that we move our ads to the top?

BTW I came across this thread as I noticed quite a few of
my sites have seen traffic drop during February.

Ralph_Slate




msg:4647338
 3:29 am on Feb 21, 2014 (gmt 0)

gachet1, that is really insane. Having 2 ads on a forum page should not result in a Google penalty. If Google truly is penalizing based on that, they are ripe for a lawsuit because they are using their search domination to force people to remove ads that compete with them.

EditorialGuy




msg:4647504
 3:56 pm on Feb 21, 2014 (gmt 0)

If this is now being penalized why is Google Adsense forever sending emails reference improving click thru rates and suggesting that we move our ads to the top?


Google's Search Quality team and AdSense team are entirely separate, with different responsibilities, agendas, and hiring standards.

IMHO, it's never a good idea to outsource editorial judgment--especially to people who are trying to sell you something.

If it's any consolation, the Google Search team hasn't said anything about "no ads at the top." Here's Google's official explanation of the Page Layout Algorithm (v.1):

This algorithmic change does not affect sites who place ads above-the-fold to a normal degree, but affects sites that go much further to load the top of the page with ads to an excessive degree or that make it hard to find the actual original content on the page.


Source:

[googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com...]

sjd256




msg:4647672
 3:51 am on Feb 22, 2014 (gmt 0)

Thanks EditorialGuy for the clarification - appreciated!

I will have to review my sites again - some were hit a
few days before the 14th with one of my biggest hit on
the 14th.

The site that dropped the most is a well established site -
13+ years old with no Google ads so it's a worry as to what
has caused it.

Over the years I have tended to do very little when these
updates happen and most of the time things tend to resolve
themselves. However that is usually with my smaller sites so
wondering how to move forward this time.

Thanks again.

viral




msg:4647684
 4:50 am on Feb 22, 2014 (gmt 0)

Interestingly Danny Sullivan's site has ads way above the fold but that doesn't get hit.

So do we just follow his site and we are ok?

EditorialGuy




msg:4647691
 5:36 am on Feb 22, 2014 (gmt 0)

sjd256 wrote:

I will have to review my sites again - some were hit a
few days before the 14th with one of my biggest hit on
the 14th.


Maybe a Panda refresh? (There's been a lot of talk about an update around the 14th.)

viral wrote:


Interestingly Danny Sullivan's site has ads way above the fold but that doesn't get hit.

So do we just follow his site and we are ok?


It's easy to find the content on SEL's pages, so based on what Google has said, the site shouldn't be affected.

goodroi




msg:4647773
 11:12 am on Feb 22, 2014 (gmt 0)

What if Google isn't analyzing your page layout?

What if Google is simply measuring how fast someone clicks on your listing in the serps, visits your site and then bounces back to the serps? If your site has a higher bounce back to serps than the rest of the industry, it could be seen as a bad site.

I don't think Google is doing this, I am just showing there are different ways to measure user satisfaction and page layout effectiveness.

deadsea




msg:4647812
 2:21 pm on Feb 22, 2014 (gmt 0)

Google is trying to measure both ads above the fold and content above the fold. They want to make sure that users can see your content when they land and that users don't get distracted by too many ads.

It also appears that penalty is site wide. The crawler evaluates its metric across all your pages and then scores your site as a whole.

If you want to copy a site that isn't hit you have to put both the ads and the content in the same place that they do. You also have to ensure that this layout is the one that is used on the majority of pages on their site. You have to use this layout on the majority of pages on your site.

My guess is that when Google measures "content" they discount the header, navigation, white space, and any "boilerplate" text that is found on multiple pages on your site. From previous threads regarding this algorithm it appears that text, images, and flash can all count as content.

Here is a list of things that I am doing after being hit by this algorithm:

- Tighten the layout to reduce navigation, header size, and whitespace above the fold
- Move some boilerplate to below the fold
- Reduce the size or number of ads above the fold
- Remove ads from seldom used pages altogether

Ralph_Slate




msg:4647818
 2:31 pm on Feb 22, 2014 (gmt 0)

deadsea, I don't know what Google is doing or what it isn't doing, but I can't figure out why, if people like a particular page or site, Google feels justified in removing it from the SERPs because Google thinks it has too many ads.

That is seriously into anti-trust territory because that page's ads are competing with Google's SERP ads.

EditorialGuy




msg:4647837
 3:35 pm on Feb 22, 2014 (gmt 0)

What if Google is simply measuring how fast someone clicks on your listing in the serps, visits your site and then bounces back to the serps? If your site has a higher bounce back to serps than the rest of the industry, it could be seen as a bad site.


Google may be measuring that, too, as a signal in its main algorithm. But that isn't what the Page Layout Algorithm is based on.

Google has explicitly said that the Page Layout Algorithm targets sites that "load the top of the page with ads to an excessive degree or that make it hard to find the actual original content on the page."

I can't figure out why, if people like a particular page or site, Google feels justified in removing it from the SERPs because Google thinks it has too many ads.

That is seriously into anti-trust territory because that page's ads are competing with Google's SERP ads.


First, you're assuming that people like sites where, in Google's words, ads "make it hard to find the actual original content on the page." That's a pretty big assumption.

But never mind that: Let's move on to your antitrust argument. That argument makes no sense, because Google isn't competing with ad-saturated pages for rankings in the SERPs. Other sites are. And if Gabe Greedy's page about widgetology gets bumped to page two of the SERPs because it's loaded with ads above the fold, another page will move up to take its place. Google won't earn more ad income because of the change; the owner of the page that moves up will.

If anything, Google may be sacrificing revenue (at least in the short run) by demoting ad-saturated pages. After all, Google owns two of the largest ad networks and ad-serving platforms: AdSense and Doubleclick. For all we know, Gabe Greedy's widgetology page may be replaced by a Wikipedia page that has no ads at all.

viral




msg:4648398
 11:57 pm on Feb 23, 2014 (gmt 0)

I have a client who has 1 ad per page in side bar half way down the page and his site got hit?

I really have no idea on this one. I think Google is just throwing out red herrings by calling this above the fold. It is kind of hard to get the page layout wrong with a wordpress blog running a standard theme.

EvilSaint




msg:4648456
 7:11 am on Feb 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

This algorithmic change noticeably affects less than 1% of searches globally.


So in 2012, Google had an average of 5.134 Billion Searches Globally per DAY.

1% is still 51.3 Million affected searches PER DAY!

How is the "less than 1%" meant to be comforting at all?

ohno




msg:4648491
 11:10 am on Feb 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

It's their idea of glossing over these massive impacts. Less than 1% sounds like nothing, if they'd said it affects 51.3 million searches a day people would wake up!

speedshopping




msg:4648512
 12:13 pm on Feb 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

a site we own was recently hit with something on Feb 13th. What's the chances it could be this page layout algo, since this release happened around the 6th?

The site has never been hit by any google algo since it's birth in 2007.

deadsea




msg:4648527
 12:26 pm on Feb 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

There are a bunch of people hit by something on Feb 13th. That appears to be something different. Unless you were hit on Feb 6th or 7th, I don't think it was the page layout algorithm.

Ralph_Slate




msg:4648573
 2:25 pm on Feb 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

EditorialGuy, here how it is an anti-trust issue.

There is a fixed pot of advertising dollars spent each year. Google is reducing the amount of places that these dollars can be spent by penalizing sites that run advertising, and/or scaring others from even putting the advertising on their sites. They're also forcing sites to push down the position of the advertising on their page, which gives it worse response.

What is an advertiser to do if the advertising on sites is either performing worse, or is not as available? Perhaps run more Google ads? After all, those aren't being pushed down. They're right on the top of Google results.

It is a red herring that Google is saying that they're going to push down sites that have "too much" advertising because "people don't like those sites". Why? Because if Google can tell the sites that people don't like, then they can just push those sites down - regardless of whether they don't like them because of too much advertising, or whether it is because of a bad font being used. So either Google can't really tell the sites that people don't like, or they have a different goal, which is to reduce the amount of advertising on sites.

Google has shills on their webmaster forums telling people to remove all advertising from their sites, or telling them to push it all below the fold. This is contrary to their guidelines, but Google never corrects their "Top Contributors", probably because it is beneficial for them to spread this misinformation.

EditorialGuy




msg:4648613
 4:36 pm on Feb 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

Ralph_Slate, anyone can play jailhouse lawyer, so let's look at a real case: Search King, Inc. v. Google Technology, Inc.

In that case (decided in 2003), a U.S. District Court ruling held that "Google's ranking of plaintiff's site was deemed privileged speech" (i.e., it was protected by the First Amendment as an editorial opinion).

But don't take my word for it. Here's what the court said:

[internetlibrary.com...]

You may not like what you think Google's motives were when it introduced the Page Layout Algorithm, but that's beside the point. Under the First Amendment, Google gets to determine the criteria for its search rankings--at least in the USA.

deadsea




msg:4648645
 5:14 pm on Feb 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

Advertising dollars is not a fixed pot. I've run a number of "unlimited budget" campaigns. As long as you can make money from the visitors you are paying for, there is no reason not to pay for as many visitors as are available.

The fixed pot is the number of users that can be referred by advertising. The amount of money spent on advertising to those users is only bound by what those users each spend.

goodroi




msg:4648690
 7:41 pm on Feb 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

If you want to discuss anti-trust, ad revenue or any other business or legal issues then please start a thread in the Google Business & Finance forum [webmasterworld.com].

Please keep the focus of this discussion on the page layout algorithm. Thank you.

EditorialGuy




msg:4648700
 8:05 pm on Feb 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

Less than 1% sounds like nothing, if they'd said it affects 51.3 million searches a day people would wake up!


On the other hand, if those 51.3 million searches a day are yielding better results because of the Page Layout Algorithm, a lot of users are going to be happy.

mlemos




msg:4648703
 8:28 pm on Feb 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

gachet1 forums are very dangerous for Panda. That is user generated content and over time, most of the forum threads lose relevance, especially topics with very few or now answers.

If you have lots of forum threads getting no search traffic, that along with other Panda factors, like above the fold ads, may get you a serious penalty that is hard to recover unless you do very aggressive work to remove or noindex those pages.

I had that problem and could not figure a solution that I could apply manually with a lot of work.

So I figure an algorithmic solution. I am a developer, so I created a PHP component that accesses Webmaster Tools API and retrieve the whole list of pages that are getting search visibility even if they had no clicks.

Forum pages that were not being updated for over 3 months and were not getting any traffic from search, are not good to keep in Google search index. In my forums, that were well above 90% of the total of the pages. That is a lot of "bad quality" content. No wonder Google Panda entered in action.

So those forum pages are being marked as noindex by a script that runs every day.

I suggest that you do something similar if you were hit by Panda and still have lots of dead forum pages.

PS. I have recently published that PHP component as Open Source. If the moderator here allows me, I can share the URL of the component so it helps you solve your problem. Otherwise you can send me a private message and I will tell you the URL anyway.

aristotle




msg:4648727
 9:18 pm on Feb 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

deadsea wrote:
Here is a list of things that I am doing after being hit by this algorithm:

- Tighten the layout to reduce navigation, header size, and whitespace above the fold
- Move some boilerplate to below the fold
- Reduce the size or number of ads above the fold
- Remove ads from seldom used pages altogether

This looks to me like you're letting Google influence the design of your website. I thought that Google has always said that you will be better off if you design your site for visitors, not for Google.

deadsea




msg:4648730
 9:32 pm on Feb 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

The content on my site that users care about is above the fold. It has a yellow box around it that calls attention to it. There is (or was) an ad to the left of it and an ad below it. 65% of my visitors make use of this content (based on an event sent to Google Analytics when users click in there and play around with the dynamic functionality.) I've never had a user complain that my site is hard to use. Just the opposite, I often get feedback that the site is fast and works better than my competitors.

I design for users until Google whacks me. Then I have to try to decipher why Google may think that my site isn't great for their users. My theories are:

- Two ads are just too many above the fold, even when they fit and don't obscure the content.
- Google is having a hard time identifying what is the "content" on my site. Because it is dynamic, has forms, and has my action color on it, it probably looks like a call to action form to their algorithms.

I tried cutting back to 1 ad in January 2012 when I was hit be the first iteration of this algorithm. I let that run for a month and a half. It didn't seem to get out from under the algorithm while cutting revenue on the site in half. In October 2012 my site made a partial recovery when the algorithm was revised. This latest revision has cut my site back down to about where it was after the initial algorithm. My latest changes are trying to "game" the algorithm a little bit without such a drastic effect on revenue.

bluntforce




msg:4648754
 11:13 pm on Feb 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

I have a site that took close to a 50% traffic hit on February 6, it's recovered a bit, but still far below previous traffic.
Wordpress based, but with pages, no blog.

There is a logo and navigation in the upper area, the middle area is 44 words of content and a large image, the only "advertising" is a button for an affiliate offer just above the fold. Below the fold are three different tools, like calculators.

My guess would be 44 words just aren't enough content for above the fold.

ohno




msg:4648835
 7:05 am on Feb 25, 2014 (gmt 0)

On the other hand, if those 51.3 million searches a day are yielding better results because of the Page Layout Algorithm, a lot of users are going to be happy.

& how do you think they know that? Are they asking the people who performed the 51.3 million searches? Forgive me for being pessimistic but seeing as I had two ecom sites smashed to #*$! after this update (which have zero ads) it doesn't seem to yield the results they claim.

CaptainSalad2




msg:4648844
 8:30 am on Feb 25, 2014 (gmt 0)

On the other hand, if those 51.3 million searches a day are yielding better results because of the Page Layout Algorithm, a lot of users are going to be happy.


And on the other... other hand, the fun hand (you know the hand im talking bout) if those 51.3 million searches a day are yielding worse results because of the Page Layout Algorithm, a lot of users are going to be unhappy.

;)

Personally (just my opinion) I don’t want to see ads anywhere, above or below the so called "fold" (sorry ad guys)

ohno




msg:4648852
 9:09 am on Feb 25, 2014 (gmt 0)

I'm going to preempt here as I can hear the replies now. Lets assume they rolled another big update that day. I mean, it can be the only explanation if TWO sites (& others on here) have been hit yet have zero ads? If not the algo is miles out. Anyway, lets assume another big update rolled that day, why not communicate that one to the wider world? Some on here will say its because they don't want people reverse engineering the algo. Funny how they communicate one that relates to ads (supposedly). What will that have webmasters doing when they see their sites hit? Yep, scrambling to remove ads from THEIR pages. The ones with zero ads are left scratching their heads. More FUD.


Hmm......

Martin Ice Web




msg:4648863
 10:57 am on Feb 25, 2014 (gmt 0)

ohno, i would like to see Googles page layout algo has to measure Google own serps sites! It probably would stuck because it couldnīt find any Information but ads.
But like allways they measure in two different ways...

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