With Google, it is just like summer rains: always surprising and never really knowing what to expect. The SEO businesses had some time to relax and enjoy the Christmas holiday and the beginning of the year promised to be a relaxing one. However, that was just the calm before the storm, as in the first days of January, Google introduced new rules regarding the number and size of the ads typically posted on web pages. The change, dubbed as page layout algorithm, consists of penalties for the websites filled with ads and poorly inserted content. Google’s initiative seems to have come from users’ complaints on the increased difficulty to find the actual content they searched for.
Does your site fit Google’s wanted list?
From the beginning, it is important to clarify the fact that the penalties will be applied solely for static ads that affect user experience and do not apply for pop-ups, overlays or pop-unders. To be more precise, the category of pages that will be impacted and will receive penalties are those that include large portions of above-the-fold ads, while the content of the site is positioned in the lower part of the page. In other words, if a site contains none or very little content above the fold for typical resolutions, then it will be penalized. However, Google representatives expect the new algorithm to only affect less than 1% of the currently active sites.
With regards to how many ads a website should contain, the explanations of Google representatives are quite vague. While they are strongly encouraging webmasters to use sizing tools, such as the Google Browser tool, they let site owners make their own decisions. Via the sizing tools, webmasters will have the opportunity to experience first-hand what their page looks like under various screen resolution. In addition, it helps clarify how much of the content is visible at first glance.
The consequences of the page layout algorithm
If the site has been penalized, Google will not recognize the changes immediately, but rather in a few weeks. It is worth mentioning that if the heavy ads are found in one page, the entire site will suffer the penalties. The best thing the site owner can do when he realizes the site suffered penalties is to make the necessary modification right away and wait. In fact, Google will leave a note announcing the date of the next visit. Even though it sounds fine and perfectly understandable, the next visit is usually scheduled a couple of weeks later, time during which the traffic and profit will decrease.
For many, it is inexplicable why the rules only apply to top ads and not ads in general. Basically, since they cannot be placed above the fold, then they will be located around the content and hence, the inadequate user experience problem will persist. In addition, given the confusing nature of certain ads many people click on them involuntarily. The smart thing to do regarding ads that are affecting user experience would be to impose a “content to ads” ratio.
Robin Gupta is an ace link builder and promotes websites using many organic link building methods.