Google Refresh The Page Layout Algorithm


It does kind of feel like we have been locked in the stocks and pelted with flurry of ripe Google updates and algorithmic search changes over the past couple of weeks. Yesterday Google again rolled up its algorithmic sleeve and let another update loose; this time a refresh of the Page Layout Algorithm initially launched back in January 2012, said to affect 0.7% of English search queries.

Page Layout Algorithm Update History

In January 2012 Google announced an algorithmic change to the way in which Google evaluates the layout of web pages, said to affect less that 1% of global searches. The update algorithmically evaluates the level of visible content “above the fold” and the intensity of ad placement. Web pages which dedicate a “large proportion” of the visible page to adverts and web pages which hold little in terms of text-based content were deemed to suffer from the update.

Obviously there has the been the usual sulking in the corner, drawing macaroni pictures of how unfair life is, and groaning like moody teenagers, ‘so what constitutes a “large proportion” of a web page?’

Like the sophisticated and aloof deity Google is, they were not quick to provide any definite answers however they stated on the Webmaster Central Blog:

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

Therefore the update was suspected to affect only web pages which hold unusually high levels of adverts above the fold, with limited visible text based content. So looks like the Million Dollar Homepage is in trouble, sorry Alex Tew, you had a good run [and a million dollars apparently].

What’s up with October’s Update?

The bell tolled yesterday to announce the next round of corporal update punishment in the shape of Google’s Matt Cutts announcing the update to the Page Layout Algorithm; quoted to effect approximately 0.7% of English search queries:

Already the SEO townsfolk are huddled together with hushed murmurs speculating as to how Google can justify this update, with some people calling Google hypocritical when they themselves place a vast amount of adverts above the fold in their search results pages. Obviously we would never say such a thing, but we kind of just did. Oh yeah, and there’s this:

Apparently websites with this poor ad to content ratio provide a poor user experience and need to be PUNISHED! In many cases this is true, but there are conspiratorial pockets in amongst the SEO townsfolk who are of the opinion that Google are kind of disobeying their own guidelines.

The impact of the latest Page Layout refresh remains to be seen; however the update may mean that those who were hit by the previous Page Layout update and have since cleaned up their act may potentially be released from the persecution.

What do you think?

Do you agree with the Page Layout Update? Do you think Google themselves are too ad heavy with the excessive use of ads above the fold? We’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject so please tell us your thoughts on the Page Layout update!

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About Chris Ainsworth

Chris Ainsworth is Senior SEO Consultant and Head of the Technical Team at High Position boasting 9 years experience within digital marketing. As technical team leader Chris has a wealth of technical SEO knowledge in a search verticals, and has helped business of all sizes and all industries achieve digital marketing success! Get involved with Chris on Twitter @chrisains or via Google+. Alternatively Chris's professional profile on LinkedIn or visit his website at

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