How ads-heavy is your website? Are you about to receive “the slap” from Google’s new algorithm release?
Google’s spam team are not wasting their time, and that’s for sure. Google has recently announced a new algorithm update which is aimed at websites that have a lot of ads above the fold.
The news comes only a week after Matt Cutts announced that guest blogging is considered a spammy practice.
It all started with a tweet on the 6th of February…
SEO folks: we recently launched a refresh of this algorithm: http://t.co/KKSXm8FqZW Visible to outside world on ~Feb. 6th.
— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) February 10, 2014
… and the world of SEO has, once again, been forced to re-adapt to the new rules of SEO. But it is all for the better, I say.
Page Layout Algorithm Update Goes After Ads Rich Websites
Have you ever accessed a website in search of content, but instead you were “welcomed” by a bunch of ads and… well, not much content? Frustrating, right?
This is exactly what numerous other internet users thought, so they filed complaints to Google. What they wanted was to be able to access a website that provides answers to their questions… instead of ads, banners or promotional content.
Google listens to it users’ wishes. So the spam team at Google decided it was high-time for a change in their Page Layout algorithm.
How does the Top Heavy algorithm work?
Imagine the search algorithm as a collection of filters.
When you enter your keywords in the Search bar and hit “Enter”, the first filter of the algorithm selects those websites which are representative for your keywords.
Of those websites, Google then has to decide which have high quality content on them and which are spammy.
So it runs the selected websites through other “filters”: a filter may be for social response, a filter may look at the amount of backlinks that website has, and another filter analyzes the bounce rate. There are a lot of filters, each with its own purpose.
Well, one of those filters analyzes the number of ads on a certain page. It also looks at the ads’ placement on the page. And then it penalizes websites which have too many ads above the fold.
Why penalize websites with ads above the fold?
It all breaks down to the users’ experience on a website. To really understand the reason behind the update, put yourself in the shoes of an internet user:
When you search for something on Google and you click on a link, you expect to be taken to a website where you can find answers to your search queries.
Well, it may come as a surprise to you that a LOT of websites out there are centered around ads. And a lot of these ads are above the fold, plus banners above the fold. It’s all cluttered, noisy, and you can’t find the information you were looking for in the first place. There is no content that is relevant to your keyword search.
So that’s why Top Heavy received an update these days.
But the algorithm is not new; it’s been around for a couple of years now. Here’s the entire story of Top Heavy…
History of “Top Heavy”
Back in 2012, Google was announcing that,
“In our ongoing effort to help you find more high-quality websites in search results, today we’re launching an algorithmic change that looks at the layout of a webpage and the amount of content you see on the page once you click on a result.” – Google Inside Search
That blog post and that algorithm change marked the beginning of a new era for the SEO world. But it was all for the better. Because in time the amount of ads heavy websites which appeared on the first page results of Google searches diminished considerably.
You may be surprised to find out that they haven’t done much to that algorithm since it was released on January 19th 2012. Top Heavy was updated once more on October, 9th that same year, and that was about it.
After all, the filter was pretty straightforward: content buried under tons of ads would not be displayed on first page results.
Until now. On the 6th of February the algorithm was updated and new sites were penalized. However, you may have not noticed any change; according to Matt Cutts the update only affected less than 1% of the searches globally.
How much is too much?
You want your website to rank well on search engine results, and Google wants your website to be as user-friendly as possible.
Yet Google knows that placing ads above the fold is a common practice. The majority of online business owners place their best offers, sales, discounts and strategic alliances above the fold. This is the kind of information that keeps their businesses moving forward. Google knows that.
So they are not going to bust you if you have ads on your website. They are only interested in those websites which are cluttered with ads above the fold.
We don’t have numbers or percentages of “how much”. The basic idea is that you should go easy with ads at the top of the page, and display mostly content.
Did you learn your lesson from the “Top Heavy” algorithm update?
Here’s a list of the things we should keep on top of mind regarding the Top Heavy algorithm update:
- Google never sleeps
- Google knows that when users click on a link they expect to see content
- Efficient SEO is all about providing a good website experience to your users
- You can still have ads above the fold, but don’t cross the line
- Consider rearranging the layout of your pages so the content is displayed above the fold
- Use this tool to see how your website looks on various screen sizes, so you know how much content users receive when accessing your website from different devices
And, as a side note, get ready for more news like this one. It is expected that Google will release at least 500 such updates throughout 2014.