Marshall - 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.
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
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.