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Google Page Layout Algorithm: Relevance, Impact and SEO Best Practices

Google's Page Layout Algorithm, also known as the "Top Heavy" or the "Above the Fold" algorithm, is one of the many factors that Google uses to rank websites in its search results. This algorithm targets websites that show too many ads above the fold, which is the part of the web page that is visible without scrolling down. Google's goal is to create a high-quality user experience while also rewarding websites that prioritize content above advertisements.

In this blog post, we will answer some common questions about Google's Page Layout Algorithm and its relevance for SEOs in 2023.

What is Google Page Layout Algorithm Update and When Did It Take Off?

Google introduced the first Page Layout Algorithm update on January 19, 2012. It affected less than 1 percent of websites at that time. Google updated the algorithm again on October 9, 2012, affecting 0.7 percent of English queries. The third update was a refresh that occurred on February 6, 2014. The last update was announced on November 1, 2016, when Google's John Mueller said that the algorithm had become automated and would run continuously.

What Inspired Google to Launch Page Layout Algorithm Update and What Does It Mean for SEOs?

Google rolled out Page Layout Algorithm to improve the quality of its search results and to provide a better user experience. Google found that some websites were displaying an excessive amount of advertising above the fold, making it difficult for consumers to find the actual content they were looking for. Google said that this algorithm would affect websites that "make it hard for users to find the actual content of the page" or that "push content below the fold" with excessive ads.

Google also said that this algorithm would not affect websites that use ads in a reasonable way and that provide enough space for content above the fold. Google encouraged website owners to use its Browser Size tool (now called PageSpeed Insights) to see how their pages look under different screen resolutions and to make sure that their content is visible without scrolling.

What Were the Impacts of This Update on Sites and SEOs at That Time?

The impact of this update on sites and SEOs at that time varied depending on how much they relied on ads above the fold. Some websites witnessed a loss in ranks and traffic, while others witnessed a gain or no change at all. Some examples of websites that were affected by this update are:

  • Forbes.com: This website was hit by the first Page Layout Algorithm update in 2012 because it had a large interstitial ad that covered most of the screen before showing the content. Forbes later removed this ad and improved its page layout.
  • Dailymail.co.uk: This website was also hit by the first Page Layout Algorithm update in 2012 because it had too many ads above the fold and below the headline. Dailymail later reduced the number of ads and increased the size of its content area.
  • Ezinearticles.com: This website was hit by both the first and the second Page Layout Algorithm updates in 2012 because it had too many ads above and below its articles. Ezinearticles later redesigned its website and removed some of its ads.

How to Manage Page Layout Algorithm Update and Rise in Local Search and SEO in 2023?

Google's Page Layout Algorithm is still relevant in 2023 for SEOs because it is one of the factors that Google uses to rank websites in its search results. Although Google has not announced any major updates to this algorithm since 2016, it is still running continuously and automatically as part of Google's core algorithm. As a result, SEOs must continue to pay attention to page layout and ensure that they deliver a pleasant user experience and adequate material above the fold.

Some tips for SEOs to optimize their page layout are:

  • Use Google's PageSpeed Insights tool to check how your pages look under different screen resolutions and devices and to get suggestions on how to improve your page speed and layout.
  • Avoid using too many ads above the fold or pushing your content below the fold with excessive ads. Use ads in a reasonable way and balance them with your content.
  • Use responsive design to make your pages adapt to different screen sizes and orientations.
  • Use headings, subheadings, bullet points, images, videos, and other elements to make your content more engaging and scannable.
  • Use white space, contrast, and alignment to create a clear visual hierarchy and to guide your users' attention.

By following these tips, you can improve your page layout and provide a better user experience, which can help you rank higher in Google’s search results and attract more organic traffic.

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