Yesterday Google announced a major(!) upgrade to its search ranking algorithm which will drastically change the way designers and more importantly online marketeers will think about their website layouts. In Google’s ongoing effort to help users find more high-quality websites in search results, the company will introduce an improved algorithm. From then on Google will not only analyse content and keywords but also the page layout, more importantly the placements and usage of ads.
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.
In one way or the other Google will penalise websites that place too many advertisements above the fold. While this is good for user experience and actually finding relevant information, other websites such as niche websites, that are heavily marketed (“Adsense Websites”), will probably lose quite an important stream of revenue.
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.
Matt Cutts from Google says that only 1% of global search queries will be affected by this change but I kind of feel that this will have major implications and leave a sustainable scent mark in the world of online marketing.
By the way, Google itself is not really a good example. The search company has a page full of ads above the fold, as you can see in the picture below.
Personally I would like to know about what “above the fold” exactly means since so many different screen resolutions exist. Are we talking about 1024×768, 1280xXXX…? Another question remaining is what Google’s definition of “normal degree” is: two ads, three, four…? We’ll see in the future!