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Google page layout algorithm; page segmentation gets a new twist

Today the folks at Google were talking about their ‘Page Layout Algorithm‘ which by and large discusses how users might not be all that keen on having ads above the fold;

… we’ve heard complaints from users that if they click on a result and it’s difficult to find the actual content, they aren’t happy with the experience. Rather than scrolling down the page past a slew of ads, users want to see content right away. So sites that don’t have much content “above-the-fold” can be affected by this change. If you click on a website and the part of the website you see first either doesn’t have a lot of visible content above-the-fold or dedicates a large fraction of the site’s initial screen real estate to ads, that’s not a very good user experience. Such sites may not rank as highly going forward. “

And what is acceptable?

We understand that placing ads above-the-fold is quite common for many websites; these ads often perform well and help publishers monetize online content. 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 is certainly going to ruffle a few feathers, that’s for sure. They’ve mentioned it only affects some 1% of queries, so it seems one would have to be fairly egregious to get nabbed. Of course we might find that this number increases as they turn up the dial in the coming weeks.

Spammy above the fold

The Panda Connection

First off, a little birdy told me earlier this afternoon that, “Google’s going to be announcing a Panda update today around 3 PM PST“. And then of course this news broke.

Secondly, when we had a (private) gathering of folks intimate with Panda experiences, one of the elements we found (and reported to SEO Dojo members) was that ads in above the fold contextual spaces seemed to be causing a problem. One participant was from a very large and well known website, so their testing was substantial.

All of that means that while this announcement is fresh, it really has been going on for some time. By and large Panda has been about the user experience, and that’s a stated goal in this one. Regardless, I for one am happy it has a name (page layout algorithm change) other than Panda.

Page segmentation & Google page ayout algorithm


Page Segmentation; page layout algorithm

Right away I started thinking about some of the reading I’d done over the years on page segmentation. For those not familiar, see;

  • SEO implications of Page Segmentation concepts
  • Page segmentation and link building

Essentially it is an approach where by the search engine might break the page into it’s various components. This can be handy for pages with multiple topicality, for link valuations, for spam detection and more. This is key. The more uses a method has, the more valuable it becomes to Google.

We really had no idea if these types of approaches were ever adopted, but given their multipurpose abilities, it seemed a safe bet. And now we have a name even; the page layout algorithm. If you haven’t considered it in the past, be sure to read those posts listed above. Now they we have further evidence that page segmentation of some kind is indeed in play, we can also revisit it for link valuations (certain parts of the pages being more valuable than others for links).

If they truly are after the worst offenders, then think more about your website’s usability and less about this algorithm change. A bunch of crap above the fold does neither of you justice.

Added; we (in the office) have dubbed it; GooPLA – the Google Page Layout Algorithm.


Google Page Segmentation Patents;




Stuff from Bill;




  1. Deep Breath January 21, 2012

    User-friendly approach of Google’s algorithm is always welcome but I don’t understand when Matt says that websites with less content above-the-fold will be affected. My concern is for Artist/Band/Music websites in which larger images and videos are displayed above-the-fold and this is also for better user experience! There is no other way to do this on such websites. Will these sites also be affected by this layout algorithm update. I’ll be glad to get an answer from Google in this regards and some tips that can help such websites perform better despite this update.

  2. SNCadmin January 21, 2012

    The important thing is the 1% number. I would imagine in query spaces where this is normal (ecommerce sites for example tend to have top graphics) there wouldn’t be a problem.

    Secondly, this is seemingly about ads. A graphic on the site that doesn’t link out. Doesn’t lead to a redirect of aff page. That doesn’t have advertising text in the image (their quite adept at OSC). Isn’t going to be an issue.

    Methinks you’re safe

  3. Barry January 23, 2012

    [quote name=”Dave Harry”]The important thing is the 1% number.[/quote]
    Ah, yes. Are these the same guys that said that, at full roll-out, SSL search would only affect single-digit percentages of searches? Right.

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