User experience has always been in the mind of Google, as far as its latest algorithm changes is concerned.
A recent update from Google’s Matt Cutts mentions that page layout is now part of how the search engine evaluates pages for keyword rankings. We’ve been concerned about content and structure all this time, but not much with how our pages would look like.
But not anymore.
By putting in more ads on top of the page as advised by a heat map application or an AdSense insider tip, we get more ad prominence and higher likelihood of getting clicks. But at the same time, our page ranking could get compromised if we overly populate top sections of our website with these banner or contextual ads.
Cutts’ simple ‘weather update’ tweet:
Minor weather report: Update of goo.gl/OpIDL launching today. ~0.7% of English queries noticeably affected.
— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) October 9, 2012
speaks volumes of how pages with noticeable/significant amount of ads than content above the fold may impact rankings. Let’s remember that towards end of September, Cutts issued another ‘weather report‘ informing everyone that an algorithm update impacting exact-match domains on search engine results. It turns out that it affected quite a number of webmasters, from the volume of reaction from relevant news mentions.
This update, which has been mentioned by Google early this year, explains that it is “launching an algorithmic change that looks at the layout of a webpage and the amount of content you see on the page once you click on a result.” That means if I click on a search result and once I reach a page, I need to scroll down to get a glimpse of what I am looking for. Not necessarily because the page is long and I need to scroll down to reach my desired content but more likely because quality content gets pushed down by ads.
This is similar to what we SEO consultants advise to clients to push quality content like headers and text paragraphs towards the top of page or make target keywords appear prominently at the beginning of page titles in order to emphasize their importance. If ads get in the way, no matter how seamlessly they are integrated into web content, our site could be up for chopping block.
Page Layout algorithm change may not be as hard to fix as the EMD update since we have control on how our page layout will look like, but still it’s going to get some balancing act — would you prefer incremental ad revenue or prominent rankings? — to get things right.