OMG, Google Hits Again – It’s ‘Page Layout Algorithm’ Now!

Google 的貼牌冰箱(Google refrigerator)

After previous year’s Panda smack, Google now gives us the ‘Page Layout Algorithm’. But kindly hold your patience until I explain to you what this algorithmic change is all about. As the name suggests, Google (via its crawler) will evaluate the overall layout of a page, in regard to the density of ads displayed on it. It’s a Google update that aims at penalizing ad-laden websites.

You know what, I’m not very taken aback at this algorithmic update. Why? Because Google has already been talking plenty about how to build high quality websites. In one of its May month posts, the Google Webmaster Central Blog listed an array of criteria to define top quality websites.

If you go through the bulleted list in that post, you will read this (5th last point) –

“Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?”

That’s exactly why I’m not very surprised. Google has already made it clear to website publishers that articles (read pages) with excessive ads will not be considered as top quality content.

Let’s get back to the algorithm update thing now (and the degree of its impact)!

To backup its ‘Page Layout Algorithm’ change, Google says that it’s been receiving complaints from people about the quality of content once they click a link in search results. People always expect to see high quality content once they click a result. And if they find ads above-the-fold, it simply frustrates them.

Am I a Culprit?
Yes, this is exactly what you should be interested in knowing – whether or not you’re a culprit. There are two things that you should take note of – ad-heavy and top-ad-heavy sites (ads in the initial part of the screen). The best idea is to think in terms of ‘user experience’. If by clicking a URL, the user doesn’t see a good amount of content above the fold, your website runs the risk of getting penalized by this new update.

Since Google already suggests (in its AdSense program) ad publishers to run as much as three ad units (and not any less), the algorithmic update is certainly not about running many ads. In fact, it’s about the ratio of content to ads displayed. In addition, you need to check out what percentage of content and ads are visible in the initial screen. If the initial screen contains more ads than content (for the commonly used screen resolutions), you might just be in line to suffer penalties due to this ‘Page Layout Algorithm’ change.

What’s the Penalty?
An immediate decrease in traffic! If you run a website loaded with plenty of ads, your search rankings can suddenly decrease as a result of this new Google algorithmic update. According to Matt Cutts (head of Google’s webspam team), however, the update will affect less than 1% of Google’s searches globally.

How Can I Fix It?
There are always recovery exercises that you can follow to get back on your feet again, right? But that takes time. The penalty on ad-heavy websites is not going to lift quickly either. It’s certainly a no-brainer that you’ll need to calculate the ratio of the total amount of content to the quantity of ads displayed on your website. No, Google doesn’t offer you a specific tool for that. It’s all about common sense.

Once you’ve reduced the amount of ads, after being hit by this change, you’ll need to wait for a couple of weeks. The penalties will be removed only when Google notices the changes and integrates the same into its website ranking algorithm.

Best of luck!

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