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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How Above The Fold Ads Reduce Google Traffic

This article is written for bloggers and website owners who have lost significant number of visitor on the beginning of 2012 year or finding their traffic reduced after adding large block of ads in above the fold area.

On January 19 2012 Google announced change in their algorithm. This change affects the web sites and blogs which have too much ads in the above the fold area. Change is called "page layout algorithm". Google check how much content is placed above the fold area. More content in above the fold area, better.

Why Google check above the fold area

The reason is complaints from users who have difficult to find the actual content and must scrolling down the page. Users want to see content right away, not bellow tons of ads. So Google wants to improve user experience.

Which sites will have traffic reduced?

  • Google "page layout algorithm" does not affect sites which place ads above-the-fold to a normal degree

  • sites where is hard to find actual original content

  • Google traffic will be reduced for sites where relevant content is pushed down by large blocks of ads

  • on sites where only a small amount of visible content located above the fold

  • "page layout algorithm" change affects less than 1% of globally searches

  • be careful with your header, if it is too big it take precious space and push the contend down

Good tool to estimate do you have content in above the fold area is Google Browser Size. This tool help to understand how much of a page’s content is visible to visitors under various screen resolutions. Type URL of your blog, click Go and take a look does you content is visible for specific resolution.

I learn about this topic from kezanari blog and later one more excellent in depth article at search engine land.

This is how my blog look before I make changes to adapt to push up content in above the fold area

Click on image to enlarge:
My blog with AdSense 300x250 Rectangle in above the fold area. Content is under the ad. It is viewed with Google Browser.

My blog traffic was reduced after "page layout algorithm" started. This image above was taken with the help of Google Browser Size.

From the image we can learn:

  • Only 90% of visitors will see content title ("How To Send Money Online") without scrolling down. So 10% of visitors will have scroll down to see title.

  • Only 80% of visitors will see content title and first sentence without scrolling down

  • 70% of visitors will see content title and first two lines without scrolling

After adjustment to avoid Google traffic reduce

Click on image to enlarge:
My blog after contend moved up in Above the fold area

When you enlarge image and look carefully you can conclude that:

  • 99% of visitors will see the title and first two lines of content

  • 98 % of visitors will see the title and fist three lines of content, "sending money online" is last sentence they will see

  • 95% of visitors will see the title and fist six lines of content...

This is example of my blog which will not get Google penalty from "page layout algorithm". But this is my blog after I make changes on layout to move content closest to above the fold area.

Reduced Google traffic on my blog

My blog had significant traffic loss after January 19 2012, around 25% loss in pageviews. Also, I noticed fall of PageRank on some pages on my blog. I believe this reduced traffic is a result of "page layout algorithm".

Click on image to enlarge:
My blog suffered from reduced Google traffic after Google page layout algorithm change in the beginning of 2012

When traffic will be restored

When reduced traffic will be restored and google penalty removed? Unfortunately not immediately!

If you fix a problem (reduce the number of Ads in above the fold area) Google will make note on first re-crawl. But penalty on site will be removed after several weeks.

It can take several weeks for Googlebot to crawl and process enough pages to reflect layout changes on the site

My intention is to follow the traffic and to update this article after traffic will change.

Please do comment and leave your opinion and experience with "page layout algorithm".


Elin said...

Thank you for this useful post. You didn't have an excessive amount of ads on your blog before you changed it. I don't understand why sites like yours (and mine) have been affected. They said 1% was going to notice but it's got to be A LOT more.

Mark said...

To Elin:
Elin, thanks on commenting.
I am not 100% convinced that cause for traffic fall on my blog is "page layout algorithm". But I think it is the main reason.
On previous appearance of my blog, 20% of visitors couldn't see first sentence of content.
Does it is enough to get Google penalty? I do not know, but I know my blog suffered traffic lost.
Sometimes Google rank your site lower then before and you lose visitors without known reason.
But on the other side, sometimes Google rank your site better then before.
In long term my blog traffic is increasing and I hope for a week or two (or maybee a month) my blog traffic will improve.

cyrax said...

Thanks for this informative article, it really help improve my idea on the behaviors of visitors on a site

Krzysztof said...


did you recover yet?

Mark said...

To Krzysztof:
Not yet.