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Matt Cutts Announces "Above The Fold" Algorithm Launch

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

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



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...]
1:20 pm on Jan 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Has anyone reported any site that has recovered from the page layout algo on Jan 19th following ad change and recache?
3:54 pm on Jan 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

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My site has not recovered, despite drastic ad changes.

Before: 728x15 below header, 336x280 to the left of the content.
Now: 300x250 to the right of the content

I've lost 30-40% of my traffic and 50% of my ad revenue on the remaining traffic. There is no way that you could say that the ads are in any way obscuring the content on my site now. I'm hoping Googlebot gets its act together and reclassifies my pages quickly. On the other hand, I'm beginning to think the algorithm isn't measuring the ad to content ratio properlry on my site.
5:19 pm on Jan 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



I expect that it'll take a while to recover (as with anything Google, it usually does)
5:43 pm on Jan 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Today's Alertbox on "chrome" in user interface design seems relevant: [useit.com...]
9:29 am on Feb 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member sem4u is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



One of my sites seems to have suffered a -20 style penalty for one keyphrase. The page has a large ad (not Adsense), which I have now removed. I am just waiting for the page to become cached again to see if the ranking returns.
3:44 pm on Feb 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Is video condidered content? For example, is a video sales presntation above the fold content? Is a youtube video covering something like "today's" weather above the fold or content?
3:32 am on Feb 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I have concluded that the drop in my rankings was not caused by the single large ad at the top.

I changed the ad about 10 days ago, my site should be completely recrawled (according to the crawl rate in webmaster tools) every day or two, so there should be some improvement by now.

The SERPS seemed to have changed for other reasons. In my niche the general pattern seems to be that small niche sites have lost to big sites.
4:02 am on Feb 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I was also affected on Jan 19th. Steady 25k unique daily visitors for many years went down to 15k. Tough loss, also 65% down in revenue. Site was never touched by Panda, only grew year after year.

I too had a LOT of ads above fold, following past years urging to have 3 ads on page. Completely my fault.

I redesigned in about 2 weeks, all ads above fold gone, others are pushed down, lots of good content is now back on top where ads used to be. Also aligned site to left. It was aligned center and looked horrible in browser size tool when I previewed it right after Jan 19th hit. 99% area was just site header and ads, NOTHING else, not one word of content.

No recovery whatsoever. I see pages ranking above me where I used to be #1. Googlebot has re-indexed most of the site. My plan - to continue to update and add more content.
4:53 am on Feb 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Also aligned site to left. It was aligned center and looked horrible in browser size tool when I previewed it right after Jan 19th hit.


Why would you do that, it will look horrid and unprofessional. Do you really think that tool is for real ?
10:35 am on Feb 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member sem4u is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



My site that was affected has now been cached. The cache date says 1st February, but I have not noticed that until now, and I have been checking most days. Ten places have been recovered for my main keyphrase. Again I will wait to see if the ranking comes back to previous levels.
11:04 am on Feb 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member zeus is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



I have a site I dont pay that much attention to it has 6 banners at top, no change at all in ranking
2:14 pm on Feb 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Does this algorithm penalizes your whole network of sites?

My main site is ugly, that much I concede.

But two other sites using Wordpress with solid aesthetics were also hit the same time as my main site.

One site only has a leaderboard above the fold, featured content slider, and the signup newsletter box. No 468x60 banner and other ad above the fold; under the signup newsletter box is a medium rectangle which is not that visible above the fold for many browsers. It cannot even be remotely considered as stuffed with ads that pushes down the content below the fold.

Another site also has a leaderboard, but has a 468x60 banner next to the logo.

Does this mean I should stop using leaderboards?

Will the recovery of the two Wordpress sites hinge on the recovery of the main site?
4:55 pm on Feb 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Two online flash game websites I own with two 336x280 above the fold and the actual game below those two ads seems to be hit by this change.

Steady unique visitors (15,000/day) in the past years but since jan 20th I lost 50% of my traffic.

So I was searching for SERP changes and found this topic.

I will change my layout and update here if it has any effect.
11:21 am on Feb 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

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We can't be 100% sure yet (because we have been yo-major yo'ing for the past 6 months) but after google recaching 66% of our 450k page site without adverts, we recovered this morning - still trying to work out whether its a re-evaluation of page layout or our constant yo-yo.
12:59 pm on Feb 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I will change my layout and update here if it has any effect.

Did you learn your lesson, though? Did you think this would be a good experience for your visitors?
4:54 am on Feb 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I've had most of my website re-crawled (95%) but still a few pages yet to be crawled. They had too many ads before. My site haven't recovered yet. I read this somewhere:

"It should also be noted that the new page layout algorithm punishes entire websites for placing too many ads above the fold, even if there’s just one offending page."

Is it true?
4:56 am on Feb 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I have a site I dont pay that much attention to it has 6 banners at top, no change at all in ranking


What is the size of those banners? Are those banners sitewide?
11:20 am on Feb 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Did you learn your lesson, though? Did you think this would be a good experience for your visitors?
I'm not making websites for my visitors, I make websites to earn money and rank high in serps to get visitors. If I was making websites for visitors I should remove all ads. :)

I have learned that by placing two ads above a Flash game instead of below made me in the past five years about 4 times more money.

Worked great in the past years but now I have to follow new rules (I don't have a problem with that).
2:24 pm on Feb 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

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< moved from another location >

Does this [above the fold algorithm] apply just to sites with ads? Does this apply to regular ecommerce sites with no ads?

[edited by: tedster at 5:52 pm (utc) on Feb 14, 2012]
[edit reason] moved from annother location [/edit]

8:44 am on Feb 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Site traffic was hit on January 19 by 40%. The hit was by 40% on ALL pages, so it seems it was a sitewide hit. We had plenty of Ads above the fold...
However, we are concerned that it may have been the Panda Update. Our site is in the category of "reference" (i.e. previous sports results), which means that there is lots of Thin Content. I have heard that the Panda update took place on January 18. Does anyone know more about the recent Panda update and a way to differentiate between the two algorithm changes?
11:10 am on Feb 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I'm hoping it isn't panda at this point too. I don't think it is for me because the rankings dropped for only one of my templates (10,000 pages and 80% of my traffic), while my other templates (300 pages and 20% of my traffic) actually improved rankings.

On Friday, I released a new version of that template that was hit. I had previously reduced the ads above the fold to a minimum, but didn't see any rankings improvement. Now I'm trying to make the "content" as obvious as possible to Googlebot by reducing white space and increasing text
* Reduce the height of the branded header by removing blank space by about 40px.
* Rewrite two sentences of text above the fold that was boilerplate across all 10,000 pages to be unique to each page.
* Reduce margins around most boxes, ads, and other components from 30px to 10px.
* Reduce the size of the content form that I suspect Googlbot isn't actually seeing as content by about 50% by removing white space.
* Introduce a fluid layout that allows more text from below the fold to get pulled up around the ad.

Now I have 90% more unique text above the fold. Hopefully, Googlebot will be see a better content/ad ratio.
3:40 am on Feb 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



The January Panda iteration was not a change to the basic Panda algorithm - only running the existing algo over more recent crawl data. Hope that helps.
9:08 am on Feb 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

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@tedster: Thanks, I know, but one blog said that Panda is such a CPU heavy algorithm that it needs several iterations. Couldn't it be that Panda just missed my content in 2011 and hit me now? The content has been there for over 1 year (200,000 pages, crawled weekly...).
Another possibility is that content/pages that I added in August 2011 was now marked as thin content.

I also hope/think that it is the Page Layout Algo, but who nows or sure?
10:46 am on Feb 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

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@Alika:
>Does this algorithm penalizes your whole network of sites?

I visualize it like this (right or wrong - the simplest explanation is usually the most likely and _I_ think it makes a lot of sense):
If your sites are interlinked, and one of them is penalized, G probably REDUCES (discredits) or REMOVES altogether the amount of outgoing PR from that penalized site. Therefore your other sites WOULD of course suffer in PR (not necessarily because of a recognized ownership association but) because they would LOSE that OUTGOING PR from the penalized site. No magic relationship-determining algo, just simple logic and math. Like someone else recently said, we tend to give G way too much credit for magic that isn't there. I believe the same or similar explanation applies to onsite "page penalties affecting your entire site." Once they decide a page is to be Pandalized (for duplication, ads, whatever) likely all the PR of outgoing on-site links from that page turn to 0 or even into negative PR links (if it was me programming it, on-site link PR transfer would go to -2*n per link and offsite link PR to 0*n. A 2 minute programming change), thus affecting the rest of your site proportionately automatically.
Just my vision.

BTW, Rejoice all! Don't act so glum. The 1 yr anniversary of the 2011 Feb Panda release is coming up in a few days. Should we throw a birthday party and brace for an anniversary sequel?
2:30 pm on Feb 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

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> Two online flash game websites I own with two 336x280 above the fold and the actual game below those two ads seems to be hit by this change.

Where above the fold? Left, Center, Right?
2:45 pm on Feb 20, 2012 (gmt 0)



A long time competitor added InfoLinks (he already had 3 adsense blocks, two above the fold).

Within a few days, he has lost about 5 - 7 places for all the keywords. He quickly removed the Infolinks. Now let's see if he gets those places back.

He was 1/2 for many keywords, while I was 3/4.
2:47 pm on Feb 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Has anyone managed to recover from this algo yet?

As mentioned a few pages ago, my site was penalised and I lost 40% of my traffic. My site wasn't particularly ad heavy, many pages have no ads at all and those that do have rectangle ads half way down the page. The forum on the site, which constitutes 90% of my indexed content, has one leaderboard ad above the fold not unlike the majority of forums.

I removed all ads from the forum for two weeks and it had no effect at all (other than to generate even less revenue). I've added them back in now and pretty much given up on trying to recover.
6:45 pm on Feb 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

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@klark0, I run Vibrant ads, so please let us know if your competitor recover. Has anyone else seen an impact from that type of ad?
7:12 pm on Feb 20, 2012 (gmt 0)



@graeme, I'm hoping never since my traffic has almost doubled. :D

It's about 600,000 worth in search volume per month. Will update if he does recover.
8:32 pm on Feb 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Dlocks: >> Two online flash game websites I own with two 336x280 above the fold and the actual game below those two ads seems to be hit by this change.

potentialgeek: > Where above the fold? Left, Center, Right?


It was like this:

-------------------------------------------------------
[Menu item 1 Menu item 2 etc. (horizontal menu bar)]

[One line Title of the game]
[Thumbnail of game plus two/three lines description of game]

[ad-1 336x280] --- [ad-2 336x280]

[About 150 px white space because AdSense ads are not allowed direcly above/below/next games]

[The actual game width=728]

[About 150 px white space]

[horizontal banner]

[other games list left] --- [other games list right]

[More text]

[Links to game categories]
-------------------------------------------------------

About 1.5 weeks ago I moved the ads to the section below the [other games list], removed white space and removed the horizontal banner.

So at this moment a Flash game is almost on top of a page. However, a game can take up to 728x600. Makes me wonder if Google algo sees a Flash game as content or as something a user should 'skip'. In other words I'm wondering if Google sees the content section below the Flash as the actual content.
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