Page Layout Algo : Too Many Ads Above Fold Bad for SEO [Update]

11th Feb 2014:

On 6th February 2014, Google rolled out another refresh of Page layout algo targeting websites which is still showing too many ads above the fold section and have too little or almost no content at the above fold. If you are seeing a drop in your search engine traffic after 6th Feb 14, you should check if your website have too many ads. If yes, you should work on placing the ads below fold. Do read the complete post to learn how you can optimise your website to avoid too many ads alto penalty. Here is the official tweet from Matt Cutts confirming new refresh in the algorithm:

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Page layout algo is the term given by Google search team for the new tweak they added in their search engine algo today. We all know that, too many advertisements above the fold or when you have to scroll down a lot to see the content or when content is full of advertisement and you find it hard to see the real content, it’s a bad user experience. Google new Page layout algo, will lower down the ranking of site which doesn’t give good user experience in the term of ad placement.

Page Layout Algo
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As Added by Matt Cutts in an official Blog post today:

This algorithmic change noticeably affects less than 1% of searches globally. That means that in less than one in 100 searches, a typical user might notice a reordering of results on the search page. If you believe that your website has been affected by the page layout algorithm change, consider how your web pages use the area above-the-fold and whether the content on the page is obscured or otherwise hard for users to discern quickly.

As it’s a small tweak but I believe it’s going to affect websites which is using too many advertisements above the fold or content falls down below the fold. Though, actual data will come in upcoming days when we will see what ad placement works best and what ad placement can lower down your site ranking. Even after Panda update last year, on Webmaster forum many SEO expert suggested to lower down the ads above the fold to recover from Google panda. But, an official post now confirmed the same.

How to Test your site against Page Layout Algo:

You can use Google Browser Size tool (Now part of Google analytics)  to see if your site content is coming below the fold or above the fold. You can always tweak your theme and make changes or you can wait for some day and see if your ranking or traffic drops. If it does, it’s high time to tweak your theme and make It more reader friendly.

When I check ShoutMeLoud using this tool, I feel it might not fit the best ad guideline suggested by this new algo, but for now I’m planning to wait and watch for any change, as  I already replaced major 350 ad box above post with 468*60 and it makes post look more cleaner. Though, I might get rid of 728*90 ad @header in coming days, but before that I will love to see any change in traffic.

Well, it’s a good idea to provide better user experience, but at the same time there is no denying the fact that ad placed above the fold perform much better and pays well.

In case, if your site get penalized due to Too many ads above the fold, you can make changes and wait for Google bot to re-crawl your site with less ads and your penalty will be removed. It’s similar as last year back to back panda updates, where some time we won and some time we lost. Over all, I’m happy with panda and these new SEO quality guidelines Google is putting up for everyone to create a better internet experience. As mentioned by Matt Cutts, this new algo change will impact not more than 1% of search results, which is not lot but might be epic for many Bloggers who are running too many ads above the post. One thing, which Google didn’t made it clear about the Blogs running ads between the blog posts. I have noticed many premium blogs with premium AdSense account, are running ads in between blog post and it’s always a bad user experience for me.

Do you think Google will penalize such pages too? What’s your opinion about new Page layout Algo?

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Authored By
A Blogger, Author and a speaker! Harsh Agrawal is recognized as a leader in digital marketing and FinTech space. Fountainhead of ShoutMeLoud, and a Speaker at ASW, Hero Mindmine, Inorbit, IBM, India blockchain summit. Also, an award-winning blogger.

25 thoughts on “Page Layout Algo : Too Many Ads Above Fold Bad for SEO [Update]”

  1. Gautam nagraj

    i have two ad slots above the fold on my blog 300×25 at sidebar right top and another is 336×250 below post title so is it right to place two ads above the fold

    1. Harsh Agrawal

      Hello Gautam,

      Yes, the ad placement is right.

  2. Peter Parks

    Google algos always do best for their search engine users and think little of webmasters that trying hard to earn some cash out of it

    1. Harsh Agrawal

      @Peter Such alto do make out life of web masters (us) tough, but in a way it actually helps us. Google is trying to give an edge to websites which give good user-experience, and if we do the same, it will help us to get more loyal readers.

  3. Gaurav Singh

    it’s very important to follow all of the quality guidelines of Google algorithms to save your site from any kind of penalization. i have a site which is affected by Page Layout and now I’m trying to recover from it but finding hard to recover. so i suggest everybody to follow each and every quality guideline of Google


  4. Aaron

    Harsh you always deliver such good info. I just wish I had found this post much sooner since the Google browser size tool is no longer available. I do think I am following a good layout format by keeping my articles to the top and left with few ads within the body, and only in the blog posts and tips pages, and mostly on the right side of all my pages.

  5. Tim

    Are you saying that adding Google Advertisement at your website above the fold could hurt your rankings? This doesn’t make sense.

    Google is making money from those Adsense publishers/advertisers. Now with this new rule they are destroying their own income.

    It makes sense for Google to get rid other online advertisement such as Adbrite, Bidvertiser, chitika, but Adsense is their own money generator. Is Google cheating?

    Can anybody confirm that they want to get rid of those Adsense above the fold?
    If that is true I will have to remove all my advertisements.

  6. Info

    Im really annoyed about this algorithm change. We have no adverts on our website at all and yet we have been hit by this page layout penalty. I changed our video from autoplay to visitor chooses to play (or not) and it was taken as an advert. I have since changed it back and they have since spidered my website and have the newest version in their cache, but they havent restored my rankings. Im guessing it is down to the layout of my website with the main text being top right and the corresponding image being top left (right where Google say the text should be)

    What gives them the right to dictate if your text should be on the right or the left? To lose your rankings that you have held for years because they decided the text should be on the left is disgusting, and would require the website be totally redesigned. How many companies can afford to do that on the whim of Google?
    They have gone too far this time.

  7. Elin

    As we can see, judging from comments on this blog post, it’s not affecting just 1% of the traffic as Google stated, but a lot more. I’m seeing big drops in traffic starting on Jan 19th and I run one ad per page. When I use the Browser size tool there is indeed some content above the fold but apparently not enough.
    Interestingly, I have a lot of websites that share the same layout and they were not all affected. So once again with Google, competition comes into play here.
    Forget 1%! 😉

  8. DHost

    Google’s past explains this more:
    1) If you decide to update your page layout, the page layout algorithm will automatically reflect the changes as we re-crawl and process enough pages from your sites to assess the changes.
    2) How long that takes will depend on several factor’s including the number of pages on your sites and how efficiently Google bot can crawl the content.

  9. Saurabh Mukhekar

    Harsh I think my blog is affected with this,from last few days my traffic drastically goes down & I want to know some key point from your side,to get recover from it.

  10. Arun rana

    After this algo updation my traffic reduced drastically ,can u tell me after doing changes in my page layout after how much time penalty will be lifted and my traffic retains its original state…

  11. kuldeep singh

    My Traffic went half , i served Google and people a lot and they give me this new ad algo

    This is third time when i want to shout on Google , I suggest all blogger to never rely on Google , always avoid Google centric business

    1. You can make email list , that is a great traffic source
    2. You can remove adsense and use aff. marketing instead , CPA and selling ads is also a good choice , what i mean is instead of selling ads , create own ad and sell via them

  12. Rahul

    I got one email stating you are running less the required ads allowed in your site. Why google still sending these mails to adsense publishers. Because these website can have far more potential to earn, if ads are optimized best as per theme.

  13. Tushar

    It is good to use adsense link unit as u are using which bit confusing users with navigation and Google ads.

  14. Kimi

    Interesting about this new SEO update from Google, since as long as I remember, a few months ago, I got email that recommends about above the fold adds, but now it is updated..

    Sigh, this is when we are too dependable to Google 🙂

  15. Raj

    So according to this new update, I think it should be better if I remove the ad (336*300) after post title or better replace it with 468*60.. what do u say..?

  16. Scott Kelley

    I went to check out my blogs. Three in all. Two I run adsense on and one I do not. All three had the same rating as far as i could tell. So I must be okay. I also use a tool through HostGator for SEO, it can be found in the c-panel. About every two weeks or so they send an email for me to see if i am on the Black List on Google, Bing and Yahoo. I don’t know what i would do if i were on that Black List. Keep it clean, keep it simple and always remember your reader…value…value…value

  17. Karan Batra

    Irrespective of whether Google penalises Bloggers who insert Ads in between content or not, I feel inserting ads in between text is a bad user experience and your repeat customers would be directly impacted by this as they may feel reluctant to come back again……

    A Blogger may be writing quality posts, but if the reader has to make an effort to read it, he may shy away… Just a personal view… waiting for more views from other bloggers….

    1. Kartik

      Hey I agree with you Karan, placing text ads just kills the reading experience.

    2. Ngan

      Yup, I agree. This is why I limit myself to only 1 ad.

      I rather earn less than to give a bad user experience.

  18. Tushar

    I have no fondness for ads as i never find them profitable for my readers. And making a fool of them will be the worst thing you could do

  19. Eddie Gear

    If Google is going to implement this then they will have to chance their adsense ad placement suggestions as I just checked it out and they do not meet the criteria that this rule brings.

    1. Ngan

      Well, do as I say, not as I do…. is the new slogan.

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