Algorithm Update - Is Google Being Hypocritical?

26/01/2012 10:48 GMT | Updated 25/03/2012 10:12 BST

Do you have loads of ads at the top of your web pages? Time to make some changes.

Google is continuously making changes to its search algorithm in order to provide users with a better experience. For web masters who rely on getting their traffic from Google, these updates can be quite scary and can sometimes result in a loss of traffic and income.


Google has recently made a simple, yet significant change to its search algorithm. The "Page Layout Algorithm Improvement" is all about the placement of adverts on sites. Websites that have too many adverts "above the fold" will be penalised and will not rank as highly in search results anymore.

When we say "above the fold", we mean the part of the website that you see without needing to scroll down. This can vary depending on screen size and resolution. We've all clicked onto a website and been bombarded with adverts, before having to scroll down to find any useful content. This is because most information websites rely on "pay per click" adverts to generate income. In most cases, having the adverts above the fold can result in more clicks.

As a user, seeing nothing but adverts when you're looking for content can be quite annoying. On the Google web masters blog, they put it this way:

"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"

This algorithm update is here to tackle the issue and is said to effect only 1% of websites. Even though I put advert's "above the fold" on some of my niche sites, I think this update seems fair. It's only the websites that have an excessive amount of adverts above the fold that will be penalised. To regain their rank, web masters would simply need to re-organise their sites layout. This doesn't seem like too much to ask.

My only concern is that Google themselves seem to be breaking their own rule. As an example, when I search for "credit cards", I see eight Google ads and only one organic search result above the fold. Surely they can't consider this to be good for user experience.


If they're trying to encourage web masters to focus on the users by putting more useful content above the fold, maybe they should start by making some changes to their own site.

As Matt Cutts puts it: "Rather than scrolling down the page past a slew of ads, users want to see content right away".