11th Feb 2014:
On 6th February 2014, Google rolled out another refresh of Page layout algo targeting websites which is still showing too many ads above the fold section and have too little or almost no content at the above fold. If you are seeing a drop in your search engine traffic after 6th Feb 14, you should check if your website have too many ads. If yes, you should work on placing the ads below fold. Do read the complete post to learn how you can optimise your website to avoid too many ads alto penalty. Here is the official tweet from Matt Cutts confirming new refresh in the algorithm:
Page layout algo is the term given by Google search team for the new tweak they added in their search engine algo today. We all know that, too many advertisements above the fold or when you have to scroll down a lot to see the content or when content is full of advertisement and you find it hard to see the real content, it’s a bad user experience. Google new Page layout algo, will lower down the ranking of site which doesn’t give good user experience in the term of ad placement.
As Added by Matt Cutts in an official Blog post today:
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. If you believe that your website has been affected by the page layout algorithm change, consider how your web pages use the area above-the-fold and whether the content on the page is obscured or otherwise hard for users to discern quickly.
As it’s a small tweak but I believe it’s going to affect websites which is using too many advertisements above the fold or content falls down below the fold. Though, actual data will come in upcoming days when we will see what ad placement works best and what ad placement can lower down your site ranking. Even after Panda update last year, on Webmaster forum many SEO expert suggested to lower down the ads above the fold to recover from Google panda. But, an official post now confirmed the same.
How to Test your site against Page Layout Algo:
You can use Google Browser Size tool (Now part of Google analytics) to see if your site content is coming below the fold or above the fold. You can always tweak your theme and make changes or you can wait for some day and see if your ranking or traffic drops. If it does, it’s high time to tweak your theme and make It more reader friendly.
When I check ShoutMeLoud using this tool, I feel it might not fit the best ad guideline suggested by this new algo, but for now I’m planning to wait and watch for any change, as I already replaced major 350 ad box above post with 468*60 and it makes post look more cleaner. Though, I might get rid of 728*90 ad @header in coming days, but before that I will love to see any change in traffic.
Here is a video by Matt Cutts, in which he shared about how much ad and content should be above the fold. Forward the video to 20.00t minutes to see his point on Ads above the fold:
Well, it’s a good idea to provide better user experience, but at the same time there is no denying the fact that ad placed above the fold perform much better and pays well.
In case, if your site get penalized due to Too many ads above the fold, you can make changes and wait for Google bot to re-crawl your site with less ads and your penalty will be removed. It’s similar as last year back to back panda updates, where some time we won and some time we lost. Over all, I’m happy with panda and these new SEO quality guidelines Google is putting up for everyone to create a better internet experience. As mentioned by Matt Cutts, this new algo change will impact not more than 1% of search results, which is not lot but might be epic for many Bloggers who are running too many ads above the post. One thing, which Google didn’t made it clear about the Blogs running ads between the blog posts. I have noticed many premium blogs with premium AdSense account, are running ads in between blog post and it’s always a bad user experience for me.