Earlier this month, Matt Cutts, the head of search spamming at Google announced that Google has made changes to it’s page layout algorithm, effective on February 6th.  This change affects the ranking of sites with too many advertisements above the fold, or ads that can interrupt the user experience.  Website administrators must react quickly to not have their page ranking downgraded.


Why Was this Change Necessary?

Google implemented this change because they’d been receiving a good deal of feedback regarding user experience.  When a user clicked on a search result, and had to scroll to find the content of the post, they found it annoying.  Users would much rather see the content immediately before scrolling past a plethora of advertisements.

Sites that have more advertisements, or stuff (including sliders) above the fold can be negatively impacted by this algorithm update.  If you’re surfing, and you encounter a site that doesn’t have a good deal of content toward the top of the page, or worse, appropriates a significant portion of the site’s landing view to advertising, it’s not a good user experience, and it’s going to be penalized.

Recovering from a penalty like this should not be too difficult, though avoiding it altogether is much more preferable.  If you’re developing new sites, keep the top of your site free of ads.


What Should I Do?

If your site is top-heavy with advertisements (even ads served by Google’s Adsense), it might be time for an overhaul to your design.  Focus heavily on generating high quality content, and placing it where your users will have a great experience reading your content.  Don’t rely on old tricks like masking your ads, or wrapping them in your text.  This might be a great time to move all of your advertisements to your left sidebar, or in between paragraphs of your content.

Just because you should move your advertising doesn’t mean that you should give up on PPC advertising.  If you provide content that people will want to read, you’ll still draw views and clicks on your advertisements, and you’ll still make money.  This update makes content marketing even more important in 2014.

This algorithm update is an important lesson to website administrators – Google’s search algorithm can change at a moment’s notice without warning.  To maintain your hard-earned ranking, you must remain diligent and be able to react to changes extremely quickly.