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Google’s new anti-ad algorithm update

Author's avatar By Dave Chaffey 20 Jan, 2012
Essential Essential topic

Page Layout Algorithm update to affect a small proportion of sites

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Recommended link: Google : Page Layout Algorithm improvement

Our commentary on the Page Layout Update

A minor update compared to the major announcement last week of Google Search Plus Your World update (still only available on Google.com). This release seeks to penalise sites which have a high proportion of ads above-the-fold, according to Google:

“This algorithmic change does not affect sites who place ads above-the-fold to a normal degree, but 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.

This new algorithmic improvement tends to impact sites where there is only a small amount of visible content above-the-fold or relevant content is persistently pushed down by large blocks of ads”.

This change is expected to effect just one percent of sites globally. It's similar in intent to the "Panda" updates of 2011 intended to remove sites with low quality content from the search results.

The change has been greeted with scepticism: you’ll appreciate the irony in this statement by Matt Cutts in the official Google explanation:

“Rather than scrolling down the page past a slew of ads, users want to see content right away”.

Sounds familiar? This is why most people still click on the natural listings in Google’s search results...

It seems that Google sees ads as acceptable within in its own site, but not when as the self-appointed “user-experience police” on other sites. This lack of balance has understandably annoyed many. That said, no one, other than their owners likes “Made for Adsense sites”, so if this helps most users will be happy with this change.

Marketing implications of the change

As will all Google algorithm changes, there may be “false positives” that weren’t intended, so it’s worth keeping a close eye on your analytics over the next couple of weeks.

We recommend using an audit approach as described by Dan Barker in his post on Using Google Analytics to Audit and Improve SEO or using the newish SEO Queries tools in Google Analytics.

Author's avatar

By Dave Chaffey

Digital strategist Dr Dave Chaffey is co-founder and Content Director of online marketing training platform and publisher Smart Insights. 'Dr Dave' is known for his strategic, but practical, data-driven advice. He has trained and consulted with many business of all sizes in most sectors. These include large international B2B and B2C brands including 3M, BP, Barclaycard, Dell, Confused.com, HSBC, Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft, M&G Investment, Rentokil Initial, O2, Royal Canin (Mars Group) plus many smaller businesses. Dave is editor of the templates, guides and courses in our digital marketing resource library used by our Business members to plan, manage and optimize their marketing. Free members can access our free sample templates here. Dave is also keynote speaker, trainer and consultant who is author of 5 bestselling books on digital marketing including Digital Marketing Excellence and Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. In 2004 he was recognised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have helped shape the future of marketing. My personal site, DaveChaffey.com, lists my latest Digital marketing and E-commerce books and support materials including a digital marketing glossary. Please connect on LinkedIn to receive updates or ask me a question.

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