Google Page Layout Algorithm Updated

Scott Lambert


Google has updated its page layout algorithm, and web designers should take note. Over the last week site owners have been speculating about mysterious drops in traffic; in many cases the reason could be that Google has penalized them for what it sees as too much top-heavy advertising.

While previous versions of the page layout algorithm have reduced sites’ ranking if they have too many ads, this one is more concerned with where ads are placed and whether they interfere with user access to content; in this case, Google may decide that the real purpose of the site is advertising rather than producing the quality content it favors. According to Google's Matt Cutts, the company’s focus is on user experience and his team does not want to see ads get in the way of this. Google will also be penalizing sites whose ads take up too much space, even if there are not very many of them.

Google claims that applying the new algorithm has only affected 1% of sites across the world and that it will not affect all sites with advertising at the top. A good rule seems to be that if at least two-thirds of above the line space – what average computer users can see without scrolling – is content, the site will be safe; therefore, it still possible to use traditional banner ads. Google’s browser size tool is handy for getting an idea of just what the average user’s experience is. It is a useful tool to apply in web design more generally to make sure that what the designer sees corresponds with how the site actually affects the people it is aimed at.

The update is also expected to negatively affect sites that feature lengthy blocks of text or pictures, meaning that users have to do a lot of scrolling to access it all. This could be particularly problematic for publishers and for businesses with long illustrated product lists. The solution would seem to be to split articles into short chapters, each on a separate page, and to break down product lists into tighter categories. Illustration space can be saved by using clear thumbnails that can be clicked to bring up pop-ups so that users do not have to leave a product list to take a closer look at an individual item.

As with earlier Google algorithms, it will probably take some time for the full impact of this one to become clear; however, early action by designers on likely risks could give their sites a chance to get ahead.

Scott Lambert

Written by Scott Lambert

For 35 years, Scott has been at the forefront of digital transformation and how it is effectively applied in businesses and organizations to market, sell, and support customers and members more successfully and cost effectively. Scott is President and Co-Founder of Xcellimark, an award-winning digital marketing agency serving clients throughout the U.S., Canada, Central America, and Germany. Xcellimark helps businesses succeed through the implementation of its unique digital marketing and sales approach specifically designed to meet their specific goals and objectives. Scott’s marketing, sales, and operations experience have included key management positions at industry leaders including AT&T, iXL (now SapientRazorfish), eSchool Solutions (now TalentED), and BellSouth, where he led the product development, marketing efforts, and market launch of BellSouth.net, the second public ISP developed in the U.S. Scott is the author of articles highlighted on leading online publishers such as LinkedIn, Business 2 Community, and he was recently featured by LinkedIn in the Entrepreneur magazine article on “No Time for Marketing? Hire a Freelancer.” His engaging personality and wealth of real-world and business experience make Scott a frequently requested speaker. Some of his engagements include being the featured speaker in a series of Orlando Business Journal seminars on Digital Marketing, speaking at the WSI London conference, and at international conferences in Belize. Scott has a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from the University of Mississippi and a Master’s of Science in the Management of Technology from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). Scott has been active in global mission efforts and is a board member of Global Teams, a Christian outreach organization. He lives in Winter Springs, FL with his wife Nancy and dog Sadie.

Topics: Website Development

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