In an ongoing effort to help users find higher quality websites in search results, Google has launched an algorithmic change that looks at the layout of a web page and the amount of content that is visible once users click on a result. This update is said to impact websites where only a small amount of content above-the-fold is visible.
In an ongoing effort to help users find more high-quality websites in search results, Google has launched an algorithmic change that looks at the layout of a web page and the amount of content that is visible once users click on a result. This new algorithmic update is said to impact websites where there is only a small amount of visible content above-the-fold or when relevant content is persistently pushed down by large blocks of ads.
What does this mean for website owners? In a nutshell, if you maintain a cluttered website above the fold - to the point where site visitors are not able to locate the content that Google has promised they would find - then you risk annoying Google users, and thus Google. And, as we all know, Google doesn't take to well to websites that annoy them. We're talking penalties.
Why the Change?
As I alluded to above, it all comes down to user-experience. If search engine users aren't happy, Google is not happy. Google has said to have received numerous complaints from their users who have become annoyed with not being able to find their desired content after clicking on a listing. Personally, I can relate to this. I cannot begin to count the number of times that I've landed on a website, only to utilize a "Control+F" (find) to locate the information I was originally looking for. Needless to say, this leads to a poor user-experience to which Google is now trying to avoid.
Google is quoted as saying:
"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."
What to Do if You Find That Your Site Was Affected
According to Google, this algorithmic change will noticeably affect less than 1% of searches globally - that's less than 1-in-100 searches. However, if you believe that you've been affected by this recent algorithm change, consider how your pages use the area above-the-fold and whether the content on the page is obscured or otherwise hard for users to discern quickly.
If you decide to update your page layout, consider using Google's Browser Size tool, among others, to see how your website will look under different screen resolutions. Find the solution that works for you, and roll with it.
How Should You Move Forward?
First things first, do not just sit back and ignore this update... not if you value your site's high rankings! As an Internet Marketing professional, it is my recommendation to be proactive. Pool the resources of both your design and marketing teams, and create an adequate solution. The goal is simple. Satisfy Google's need for a high quality user-experience by ensuring that each pages' most relevant content is found above the fold.
Furthermore, if you haven't given much thought in the way of user-experience, I'd strongly suggest that you start. Google is hell bound on delivering the best possible search user experience and, as this update proves, that means taking care of their users even after the click. Google has said that this is one of over 500 improvements expected to roll out this year. I'm not a gambler by any means, but I'd wager that "user-experience" will be the basis for more than a few of them.