Google Could Penalize for Too Many Ads Above the Fold

For many of us natural search is how we attract many of our web site visitors. We depend on Google to help steer new consumers to our pages based on their interests and search queries. As we’ve seen in the past Google’s algorithmic changes can affect traffic instantly – and not always for the better.

Last week Google announced a change to their “Page Layout” Algorithm that penalizes web sites with too many adds above the fold:

“As we’ve mentioned previously, we’ve heard complaints from users that if they click on a result and it’s difficult to find the actual content, they aren’t happy with the experience. Rather than scrolling down the page past a slew of ads, users want to see content right away. So sites that don’t have much content “above-the-fold” can be affected by this change. If you click on a website and the part of the website you see first either doesn’t have a lot of visible content above-the-fold or dedicates a large fraction of the site’s initial screen real estate to ads, that’s not a very good user experience. Such sites may not rank as highly going forward.

We understand that placing ads above-the-fold is quite common for many websites; these ads often perform well and help publishers monetize online content. This algorithmic change does not affect sites who place ads above-the-fold to a normal degree, but affects sites that go much further to load the top of the page with ads to an excessive degree or that make it hard to find the actual original content on the page. This new algorithmic improvement tends to impact sites where there is only a small amount of visible content above-the-fold or relevant content is persistently pushed down by large blocks of ads.”

While Google says they won’t provide any official tool that tells you how many ads are too many, they do recommend using the Google Browser Size Tool to see how much of a page’s content versus ads are visible to users of various screen resolutions.

Google stresses that this new change will affect less than 1% of all searches, but it’s certainly something to be aware of if your site leans a little too much on top-heavy ad placement.

Danny Sullivan over at Search Engine Land wrote about this in-depth and we suggest you head over to get a deeper dive on the change and what you can do to make sure you’re protected. Of course, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Have you seen any effect from this change? What changes are you making to your site?