There’s been a lot of chatter on the boards over the past week or two about a possible Google update rolling through. Site owners have been reporting some considerable traffic dips and sporadic search ranking fluctuations. It was pretty obvious that Google was up to something with an algorithm tweak, but nobody knew exactly what. Matt Cutts put an end to the speculation with this tweet last week:
SEO folks: we recently launched a refresh of this algorithm: http://t.co/KKSXm8FqZW Visible to outside world on ~Feb. 6th.
— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) February 10, 2014
According to Matt’s tweet this was a refresh to the “Page layout” algorithm update that made it’s first appearance in 2012. This is commonly known as the “Above the fold” update in the SEO community as it’s primarily designed to improve user satisfaction by ensuring sites that prioritise content over ad placement get higher search rankings. As the name would suggest, this update actively targets sites that have big adverts above the fold or make it hard for the user to find the actual site content with obtrusive banner placement or poor page layout.
..affects sites that go much further to load the top of the page with ads to an excessive degree or that make it hard to find the actual original content on the page
Here’s a quote from the Google page Matt mentions in his tweet detailing the update and what sites it will affect. I think it sums up perfectly what Google is rightly targeting here. They want to give their searchers the best sites and quickest way to find the answer to their search. If you site is loaded with adverts and getting in the way of a user finding the content – you’re going to be hit badly by this.
Have you been hit by this update?
If you’ve been hit by this update and have seen a dramatic drop in traffic just after the 6th February, then you’re doing something very wrong. This is an update designed to improve user experience and Google has flagged your site as being particularly bad for users – this is bad.
If a customer came to Progressful and needed help getting this type of penalty removed – I would offer the following advice:
- Remove all banners from your site – this is drastic, but you need to get the penalty lifted asap
- Seriously re-think your page layout – get the content to the top of the page and make it easy for users to find
- Re-think your adversing strategy. Your current approach is actively de-valuing your content.
- If Google is signalling your site is bad for users then it is. Get a friend or family member to browse through your site. Ask them what they think? Was it hard to navigate? Is their too many banners?
- This may be the perfect opportunity for a change. Talk to a design company or look into completely re-designing your site. You’re seriously not going anywhere with your current design if you’re getting slapped by page layout algo updates like this
If you have been hit by this algorithm update and need some professional help from us. Feel free to get in-touch. We’re more than happy to help you out.