I’ve long been aware that Google looks at the layout of web pages to identify sections that might be advertising, ROS links, static content, dynamic content, etc. They’ve used the information they found in those sections to either give “extra” credit to the content in the sections, or ignore the content all together. Google announced, via Matt Cutts, on the 19th that they are going to start “demoting” pages that don’t “have a lot of content above the fold.” According to Google, this change won’t affect sites that have a normal amount of ads above the fold, just sites that stuff the top part of their site with advertisements. I always cringe a little when an algorithm is used to interpret website designs.
Google say that if you decide to update your page layout, the layout algorithm will automatically reflect your changes the next time they index your website. Unfortunately, it can take weeks for Google in index large websites.
Google used this opportunity to promote their Browser Size Tool which allows you to check your site in several different resolutions. When you enter your URL your site is brought up with an overlay that shows what percentage of people can see the content. For example, in the screenshot below, 90% of the people that visit my site can see about 50% of the page. Not bad. It will be interesting to see where Google decides the cutoff is for websites that have “too many” ads.
A very interesting little nugget at the bottom of Matt’s blog post said that Google plans on rolling out over 500 improvements for search this year. 500 is a lot. It’s going to be an interesting year