Google to Penalize For Excessive Above-the-Fold Ads
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Every marketer knows that anything “above the fold” will attract the most attention. That’s why many advertising-supported websites put lots of ads near the top of the page. Now these ads are attracting some possibly unwanted attention from Google.
You know that the search giant focuses on getting users to the sites that best answer their queries. If you’ve been trying to rank for a while, you probably also know that Google cares about the user’s experience once they arrive at the site. This fact drives most of their algorithm changes. It’s why Panda devastated content farms; the thin content these sites often provided helped relatively few searchers, and cluttered the search results with low quality pages.
Google’s newest algorithm change also stems from searcher concerns. You can read their blog post covering the issue. But you almost don’t need to read it to understand why they’d do it. Think like a searcher. You’re looking for meaty content. How do you feel when you click a promising link from a search result, hoping to find the answer to your query – only to find what appears to be a page full of ads? Sure, there’s real content on the page, but you can only see about an inch or two of it visible, and you must scroll down to make out the rest.
You can curse Internet-shortened attention spans and laziness all you want, but the fact of the matter is, that’s a frustrating experience. And Google has chosen to do something about it. The search company changed its algorithm to look “at the layout of the webpage and the amount of content you see on the page once you click on the result,” it explained in the blog post. Google has heard complaints from users who click on a result and can’t find the content: “Rather than scrolling down the page past a slew of ads, users want to see the content right away. So sites that don’t have much content ‘above-the-fold’ can be affected by this change…Such sites may not rank as high going forward.”
It’s important to note that Google is singling out sites that place excessive above-the-fold ads; they’re not trying to penalize advertising-supported publishers who use a normal amount of this kind of advertising to help monetize their content. The search giant stated that this change “noticeably affects less than 1% of searches globally.” If you believe your site has been affected, you can try out Google’s Browser Size tool to check the appearance of your site under various different screen resolutions.
Maybe you figure that this change won’t affect you; it’s less than one in a hundred sites, right? As Alan Bleiweiss explains on Search Engine Journal, “that’s a big mistake…With billions upon billions of searches taking place, that’s an awful lot of searches impacted.” Which brings up the following questions: how do you know if your site got dinged by this algorithm change? And what can you do about it?