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Understanding the above the fold algo update

     
12:37 am on Mar 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Good evening webmasters, it appears my website was hit by the update.

I've experienced a 25% loss in traffic. The pages that appear to have been effected, don't have much textual content, as it's comparable to DeviantArt. I can't do much about this, unless I force my users to write articles to go with their artwork, which obviously isn't going to happen.

All of the effected pages, also have a left hand sidebar, which in the code, appears before the main content.

Visually, it's obviously alongside the main content. How exactly are Google judging "above the fold".

Any recommendations on what I can do to help the situation?
8:11 am on Mar 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Good evening webmasters, it appears my website was hit by the update.

realmaverick - Several questions, to determine why you feel it was the above the fold algo that hit you, and to get a sense of your site.

When did your traffic drop? Do you have any ads at the top of your pages? Are any of your images likely to be mistaken as ads?

If you have ads at the top of your pages, how far down are the ads pushing those?

Do you have any user generated comments on your pages? Do you have much social traffic? How do visitors generally interact with your content?
8:19 am on Mar 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

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How exactly are Google judging "above the fold".


Only Google knows for sure but I have worked with sidebars above the main content and sites with sidebars below the main content within the code. Short answer is that it made no difference where in the code the sidebars are.

It appears Google is using visual cues to judge what is above the fold, as in an actual screen capture of the page, instead of relying on source code. Again, only Google knows for sure.
6:03 pm on Mar 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

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When did your traffic drop? Do you have any ads at the top of your pages? Are any of your images likely to be mistaken as ads?


The day of the update, traffic took a sharp decline and has now settled at about -8,000 per day. It coincided too, with a message from Google via WMT, asking me to update my wordpress installation.

If you have ads at the top of your pages, how far down are the ads pushing those?


1 advert on the pages, the ad appears about half way down the page.

Do you have any user generated comments on your pages? Do you have much social traffic? How do visitors generally interact with your content?


Yes most of these pages do have comments from our members. Users can download, like, comment etc with each of the downloads. The downloads are users artwork.

We get a reasonable amount of traffic from Facebook, from users sharing the downloads.
6:15 pm on Mar 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

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1 advert on the pages, the ad appears about half way down the page.

Half way down the top screen?
How much of that ad is above the fold on the top screen?

Is the artwork above the ad?

Relative to the ad and artwork, where are the user comments on the page?

This doesn't sound like an "above the fold" at first glance.

.
6:21 pm on Mar 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

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On my Macbook Air, half of the ad is visible. My competitors have 7 ads, excluding popups. One of which is before any content, right at the top of their page and they appear totally uneffected. I would rather be poor, than spam my website in such a manner.

The problem appears to have started January 18-19th.

The advert is to the right of the artwork.

The comments come below the artwork and ad.

Hope that makes sense.

I always hoped some day, Google would penalise websites that spam their pages with ads, and I could then take credit, for doing the right thing for my users.

When this drop happened and coincided with the update, it was like somebody kicked me, full force, right in the balls.
6:34 pm on Mar 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Hope that makes sense.

That paints a pretty good image of what the page layout is.

What is the image size and what size ad are you using? I'm wondering if the ad is smaller than the image.

How has traffic to your other pages on this site held up compared to these artwork display pages? Have any other pages taken a bigger drop in traffic as a percentage?

.
6:44 pm on Mar 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Are you serving the artwork from the same domain as the text content?
6:50 pm on Mar 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

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The image is a max of 200px in width, but usually a greater height than width. 200x340 for example. The ad is 300x250 and appears to the right of the image.

I did have an Adsense rep, who said this layout was fine, this was in early 2011. We discussed these pages in depth, during a visit to Google in London. But he moved to another department and I didn't get assigned a new rep.

The other pages, appear un-effected. The other pages are gallery pages, that list the artwork. These still rank well. Though these pages have zero ads. My entire website is extremely low on ads, which doesn't appear to help with rankings.

The traffic to each download page, even before the drop, was actually low. But as there are tens thousands of them, together they bring in a large percentage of the traffic.

Before the update, we'd rank for lots of long tail searches such as Black circular widget, usually number 1 for thousands of terms, but most are now pushed to the second page or not even ranking at all.

I have gone over and over and over competitors websites with a fine tooth comb. Through their source code even. Logically, they all appear to be doing stuff wrong, i.e lots of ads above the fold, not to mention some of them are made up completely, of stuff they have stolen from my website. Yet I am the only one that appears to have been hit.
6:51 pm on Mar 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Are you serving the artwork from the same domain as the text content?


Hi Ted, yes the artwork is served from the same domain.
7:05 pm on Mar 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Before the update, we'd rank for lots of long tail searches such as Black circular widget, usually number 1 for thousands of terms, but most are now pushed to the second page or not even ranking at all.

Based on what else you have told us in this thread, I'm going to guess that this, the Long Tail, is the real issue. I could easily be wrong, but I think there is some recent conversation about that. I'll look around and see if I can find it.

I have gone over and over and over competitors websites with a fine tooth comb.

Yeah, it's almost impossible to understand why pages that seem to scream out their violations of some standard or another get by unscathed and pages that seem to be at least inside the lines get nailed.
.
7:12 pm on Mar 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Thanks Ken, I did wonder about the long tail. But because the other results, are all long tail, I dismissed it. With the dates coinciding so closely to the above the fold update, I did wonder.

One of the possibilities, I thought, was perhaps lack of textual content above the fold. There's a description of the artwork, along with number of downloads, some social stats etc. But without forcing members to write more about their work, it's a difficult one to get around.
8:13 pm on Mar 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Here's a link to a recent (Feb 2012) thread with some talk about the long tail and traffic loss.

[webmasterworld.com...]

Starts with a comment by Wingslevel, msg:4416593. I don't how to link to taht exact post.
.
9:19 pm on Mar 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Thanks a lot Ken, off to have a read now.

I'm praying I get to the bottom of the problem, and remedy it, before I have to give up on it. So much hard work and passion has gone in to the website. I guess in reality, we shouldn't put all of our eggs in one basket, but too late for that now hah.
9:56 pm on Mar 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I'm beginning to thing that there was something other major than the above the fold algo that launched on Jan 18th. So many reports of non-recoveries even after removing ads for over a month.
7:18 pm on Mar 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I was considering removing the ad to test, but I'd lose more money than I can afford to lose.

Could it be the ad being opposite the screenshot of the artwork perhaps?

Hmmm
7:31 pm on Mar 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I've been thinking about removing ads entirely from a few pages that lost specific keywords (as opposed to all of the thousands of pages that use template that got hit).

I haven't done it because it would be a bit of work to implement and I'm not sure what I would do with the result. If the ads are the problem, I can't afford to remove ads entirely. If traffic doesn't come back with NO ads, is the algo really slow at updating, or is it something else entirely?
7:43 pm on Mar 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

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It's really not nice, not knowing. I have doubts about it being the ads, largely because I have 1 ad on the pages that are hit. All pages that use the same page layout, have been hit, minus a handful. We're talking tens of thousands of pages.

The reason I am doubting ads, is because nearly all of the SERPs, have several ads. One has 7 plus popups. If it were ads, I cannot imagine those with a single ad, being hit.

Unless it's down to placement of the ads.

Or as you say, it could be something else entirely. I'd love to see the data Google has on my site, and see what it is, that they don't like. Because I've not breached any rules, it's an aged domain, 1 ad per page max, natural links etc etc.

I do know that it's driving me slowly insane though. I'm tweaking like crazy, looking for any slight possible problem and yet knowing, it's likely I'm not going to find it.
8:02 pm on Mar 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

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One thing I have noticed, is that I have a snippet of text at the top of each of these pages, that uses php replacement to give some details on the file. i.e file name, number of downloads, the artist and date it was uploaded.

None of the other sites in the SERPS have this, actually many have no text at all. One of the websites, which appears not to be effected by whatever has hit my pages, is doing the same thing.

The sentence is easy to remove, but it's full of useful stats. Plus I fear removing it, might make matters worse.

But perhaps the sentence is giving Google reason to believe it's an automatically generated page, which it's not.

Thoughts?
8:27 pm on Mar 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Googlebot gets text content at the top of the page, right? Is it stable content - or would it change with every googlebot request? If it's relatively stable, then I can't imagine what kind of problem it would be. I certainly wouldn't remove useful content

FWIW, I work with several sites that have big chunks of image content above the fold and this new algorithm has not impacted them negatively at all.
9:44 pm on Mar 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Hi tedster, the text is stable other than the changing number of downloads and likes the file has received. This will change for some files on a minute to minute basis. The rest of the limited text is stable.

My concern is Google perhaps thinks these pages are being automatically generated.

I feel like I'm chasing my tail. I can't do nothing, as it won't survive. But I can't do anything as I cannot pin point the issue.
9:57 pm on Mar 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I can't imagine that Google would ding sites that are dynamically generated. Auto generating text is one thing, but having stats and other continuously updated information that users are looking for should only be a positive.
10:00 pm on Mar 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

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What about the SERPs? You've lost traffic (I assume to the home page) have you lost it on any keywords (that Google will let you see)? Have you lost ranking? What's replaced you?

I'm wondering how it looks if you forget about the ad algo for a minute.
11:11 pm on Mar 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

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The homepage hasn't lost traffic. The download pages are the only pages that have lost both rank and traffic. In some cases they have lost their ranks entirely. Prior to the above the fold algo, we ranked number 1-3 for almost every term. Since, we rarely rank for any of the target terms.

No obvious replacement, just the usual competitors in the SERPs.
3:41 pm on Mar 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I understand the crazy-making feeling. I was hit around mid-January and removed top ads the first week in February. Now my traffic loss has crept back up to "only" around 10% but I'm still losing out to competitors, one with a more aged but much smaller domain and the other that is running a complicated little link network scheme that Google hasn't caught (yet). For the most part my main keywords have lost 1 to 10 places but that seems to be enough to hurt me. I think the Panda filter was run again also in mid-January and that too many of my pages were tagged as "thin" because I have a large gallery of pages with photos and 150-word descriptions. I also have pictures on a lot of pages, mainly as eye candy. I also have a fair number of "corridor" pages that shepherd my visitors to smaller aspects of the same subject. Neither of my competitors have sites structured in this way so now I'm looking at aspects other than the ad layout which I find it hard to believe was excessively loaded anyway.
1:17 pm on Mar 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I was just reading one of the pages, and something hit me, hard. The keyword I was targeting was extremely heavy on the page.

Keep in mind, the pages aren't text based, they're image. The title, <h1> both had the keyword phrase. The alt tag of the image had the keyword phrase and the generated paragraph also had the keyword phrase, twice!

This wasn't in an attempt to rank higher, or keyword stuff, it was more an oversight. It's possible to keyword stuff, even when you're not attempting to do so and even when you're aware of the damaging effects.

Anyway, I have made some major changes on the pages, lets see what happens now.
1:20 pm on Mar 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I think the Panda filter was run again also in mid-January and that too many of my pages were tagged as "thin" because I have a large gallery of pages with photos and 150-word descriptions. I also have pictures on a lot of pages, mainly as eye candy.


I can't be certain that my problem is going to be resolved by the above. However, it's something small and obvious that you've missed.

Gallery pages IMO are not thin content. Just as a video page isn't thin. If Google see's video and images on a page, as thin, then I'd have to question why almost every single search, brings back Youtube results.

Look at DeviantArt, one of the biggest websites in the world, and their entire website is extremely image heavy and low on text.
1:29 pm on Mar 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I'd have to question why almost every single search, brings back Youtube results.


Ummm. .because Google owns Youtube? But you make an interesting point. My images have alt-tags, titles and descriptions with the same keyword, mainly because I don't know what else to call the picture.
2:14 pm on Mar 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Google do own Youtube, but I think they still have to abide by their own algorithm.

I would try mixing up the alt text etc.

For example if your title is "download blue brand widget"

Your alt text could be "free blue widget brand download"

Obviously you can be much more creative than that.
 

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