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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...]

 

deadsea




msg:4643991
 9:29 pm on Feb 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

It hit my site 20% on Friday February 7th at 8:00 AM Eastern Standard Time: [i.imgur.com...]

My site site traffic has fluctuated with each iteratation of this algorithm. The initial January 2012 too may ads above the fold it was down 40%. In October 2012 it recovered about half of that.

I don't consider the ads on my site to be excessive. There are ads above the fold, but all my content is also above the fold. I suspect that Google doesn't recognize my content as "content" because it is dynamic JavaScript functionality. So to their crawler, it looks like mostly ads above the fold.

I know it will likely fall on deaf ears, but I'm calling on Google to provide clearer guidance about this algorithm. How many ads are too many above the fold? What counts as content? What type of algorithm is measuring this? Is the penalty site wide, or on specific pages? How can we test different ad layouts in regards to this algorithm?

Lame_Wolf




msg:4643994
 9:31 pm on Feb 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

This algorithmic change noticeably affects less than 1% of searches globally.
They always say that. :/
dstiles




msg:4643998
 9:35 pm on Feb 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

How many time have they said it? Ten? That's 10% so far, because I doubt it ever goes positive.

nomis5




msg:4644006
 10:04 pm on Feb 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

I've no doubt there is an update, I've also no doubt that none of us will ever know anything of any worth about how it works, who it affects and why.

Really, just ignore the guy, it's a total wind-up because no action can be taken as a result of it. Concentrate on your content and present it it well for your users.

What possible use do announcements of this nature serve?

Oh, by the way, I have changed the favourite colour of my clothes today because the old colour apparently offended some people.

Not telling you the old or new colours, not telling who it is more popular with and not telling you if it might be good for you, although you really should consider doing the same as me.

aristotle




msg:4644008
 10:23 pm on Feb 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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

The % of searches affected depends on how it's calculated. If you only include the top 2 positions in the SERPs, then 1% might be correct. If you include the top 100 positions, then virtually all searches would be affected.

EditorialGuy




msg:4644023
 11:27 pm on Feb 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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


That certainly could be true, depending on:

- How many searches lead users to pages with ads (remember, there are plenty of pages on the Web, both commercial and non-commercial, that don't have ads);

- How uniformly the algorithm is being applied. (Are big news and entertainment sites expected to follow the same rules as your site or mine? Does the algorithm apply only to Web searches, or also to News searches?)

- How strict the algorithm is. (Does it apply only to fixed ads above the fold, or also to overlay ads, interstitial ads, and other "rich media" formats? Also, how is the "fold" defined? And is Google's definition of "excessive" or "distracting" based on percentage of visible space or something else?)

- How an "ad" is defined. (For example, does a widget like a hotel, airline, or product search box count as an ad?)

turbocharged




msg:4644037
 12:18 am on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

What possible use do announcements of this nature serve?

Some see such communications for their face value - communicating with webmasters and offering some level of transparency. Such communications by Google also provide great free marketing. Just about every respected webmaster forum and blog will cover this and the whole community will be talking about Google. Others see these communications by Google as a psychological tactic to reassert their dominance over how individual websites are structured and marketed. And I'm sure there are dozens of other explanations as to why.

Instead of asking why we should be asking who does this update benefit? Google has more top heavy ads then any other website I know of, and it's ok in Google's eyes for their users. Is it going to improve search quality? I doubt it. It just adds another penalty layer that will drop websites based on how they are monetized instead of the content they offer. With only vague information, and no guidance, all opinions at this point are speculative - including mine.

mike2010




msg:4644050
 1:08 am on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

If you've noticed positive differences after removing Ads above the fold...let us know how many you've had up before and after.

also, if the above the fold ads are ONLY on secondary pages...would this effect search engine traffic to the home page as well? (even if the home page had no ads)

BillyS




msg:4644056
 1:34 am on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

We're up around 70% starting around February 7th. The last time we changed our layout was back in February 2012 after being hit with the first penalty. I talk about it back here:

[webmasterworld.com...]

I was wondering back then if this was like being thrown in the sandbox again (which lasted two years). The remarkable part is even back in January 2012, or articles started around 110 pixels from the top of browser window. We never thought we deserved this penalty in the first place.

I don't want to think about how much money this cost us over the last two years. Glad it's over.

besnette




msg:4644076
 2:50 am on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

Feb 6 is also the first day of the Olympics...so I would imagine that would account for some traffic differences too.

mike2010




msg:4644081
 3:04 am on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

What about if there's only 3 Adsense banners above the fold..

same penalty ?

tangor




msg:4644085
 3:46 am on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

I think we need reports of apparent penalties before asking how many ads above the fold. These announcements are generally a head's up that some thing is about to change, and for that, the announcement serves a purpose.

What would be more useful from G is what constitutes content and how much they want to see above the fold!

matrix_jan




msg:4644101
 5:08 am on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

Did anyone else get the AdSense above the fold ad warning? Some sort of a warning before the storm or something.

seosutra




msg:4644107
 5:55 am on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

I am wondering if the BOT can actually understand Above the Fold? If I fetch the page as bot, its the main navigation that occupies the 1st screen followed by the content. Will this be bad now?

matrix_jan




msg:4644109
 6:24 am on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

It's a bit tricky. But if they actually used GA or Chrome data, they'd monitor whether user activity (clicks) is happening above the fold or not. But since they say they don't, then what's left is that the algo decides whether the content that user came for is above the fold or not. Like I said it can be very tricky because how would the algo know (other than the bounce rate) that the user didn't like what was above the fold? Just a thought.

Say you have an article page, and a picture is displayed above the fold followed by the article (below the fold)... Obviously most of the users like to see an attached picture to a piece... So in that case users have to scroll down to find the keywords they came for. But it doesn't mean that they didn't enjoy what was above the fold.

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

ohno




msg:4644127
 8:15 am on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

What about if there's only 3 Adsense banners above the fold..

same penalty ?

What about if there are ZERO ads? We have never had any ads of any shape or form yet on the 6th we get hit. Me thinks the algo can't detect an ad full stop. The only external links we have are to our Twitter & Google+ pages.

CaptainSalad2




msg:4644131
 8:38 am on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

Looking at WMT I see a large drop on the 6th for my personal site. Never had any adds on the site, at the top I have our logo, our mascots and a nice image changing JQUERY effect left to right. 250px in height then a related image for each pages content.

I suspect then this is for any above the fold content design or adds that isn't text?. Can someone tell me in PX what above the fold actually is?

Martin Ice Web




msg:4644146
 10:35 am on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

I saw on several other blogs that poeple tend to think that this is not only ads related but generall layout related. If so, then sites with much navigation on top or left with light content aside could be affected too.

ohno




msg:4644147
 10:39 am 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.


Yes the message is very clear....

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.


The #*$! irony from these #*$! is unreal. I can't find any content in the SERP's as the page is FULL of ads. Ads at the top, ads to the side, ads in the middle for good measure & don't forget the ads in the footer too!

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.

Agree totally Google, so follow your own #*$! advice.

Double standards bull#*$! as ever.

[edited by: aakk9999 at 12:16 pm (utc) on Feb 11, 2014]

turbocharged




msg:4644173
 12:12 pm on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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

To achieve a means to an end is what these updates are about. To Google, they are the only ones permitted to monetize their properties. Since Google wants to monetize our labor/content as well, and be the funnel where all money flows through, they must employ these hypocritical policies.

I'm tracking with you on these double standards. However, I strongly believe most of Google's actions are intended to drive profits higher and to tighten the stranglehold they have over eCommerce even more.

ohno




msg:4644175
 12:19 pm on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

I agree with that however one thing really bugs me. If you want a slice of the ecom cake why on earth did they switch Google Checkout off? It was the easiest way to get a cut from every sale, & pretty fair IMO. I mean, Google got the customer to us why shouldn't they have a tip in return? No, they made Checkout crap from day 1, me thinks it was more about data mining than being a real Pay Pal alternative (which it never was).

aakk9999




msg:4644176
 12:19 pm on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

I saw on several other blogs that poeple tend to think that this is not only ads related but generall layout related. If so, then sites with much navigation on top or left with light content aside could be affected too.

Interesting! Are you saying having a website where a heading, nav and big photo is all that you can see above the fold can also get caught in Page Layout Algo?

CaptainSalad2




msg:4644202
 1:12 pm on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

Maybe this should be called the “design penalty”?

Eventually all sites could end up looking the same on G with the same layout, boring mobile responsive designs that leave no impression on the user other than they didn't have to scroll 400px to see the text...

ohno




msg:4644204
 1:22 pm on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

Eventually Google will only have two sites to serve up anyway :p

turbocharged




msg:4644206
 1:25 pm on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

If you want a slice of the ecom cake why on earth did they switch Google Checkout off?

I think it would have raised antitrust concerns. As you noted, Google is all about data, and they are acquiring this data pre and post transaction now anyway (for the most part). Google Analytics goals helps to accommodate that.

ohno




msg:4644214
 1:38 pm on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

I wonder if it is more to do with from pressure from Pay Pal(eBay). Afterall they are practically in each others pockets these days. I wouldn't be surprsied if data was shared behind close doors (infact I am convinced it is).

n00b1




msg:4644218
 1:46 pm on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

Yup well done Google. I've seen this affect my traffic and I don't have any ads above the fold. In fact I don't have any ads full stop on most pages.

samwest




msg:4644224
 1:57 pm on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

To me, "Above the fold" means if you're above the fold in the serps, you're pushed out in favor of G ad network sites or G ads. We don't have any ads on the top of our page, but we got slammed.

They are also busy throttling our traffic...I sent a mass email out three days ago, saw a huge bump in traffic due to the mailing, G also seems to have noticed the bump and reduced our organic traffic in equal measure to our mailing increase. Evil is as evil does.

netmeg




msg:4644231
 2:39 pm on Feb 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

I have one and a half ads above the fold on a lot of sites. None of them lost traffic; a few of them gained bigtime. What does it mean? I have no idea. But I don't think *one* ad is likely to send you over the line; but maybe one ad in conjunction with something else.

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