If you are tired of swimming through all those ads on top of the screen when landing upon a certain page, then you have a reason to be happy as Google announced on January 19, 2012 that it will be identifying sites which are doing this practice and will be penalising them accordingly. Sites identified as violating this page layout algorithm will be tagged by Google and shall not be ranked as highly as they used to or should be in succeeding searches.
Google refused to set a firm guideline however as to how much ads on top of a page is really “too much” so to speak, instead they are letting the individual publishers decide for themselves and encouraged them to use their Google Browser Size Tool and other similar tools to make a decision as to how much of their page’s content should be left unobscured by ads at first glance.
Google further stressed that this new algorithm will only be affecting those pages which have an abnormally high number of ad placements above-the-fold such that it eventually makes it difficult for users to find the actual content. Sites which are placing ads above-the-fold in a normal manner don’t have to worry, as they will not be affected, especially since Google also recognises that these are prime real estate for advertising spots which make up a major part of the monetisation program of most sites.
By Google’s own estimate, there are not that many websites that would be affected by this change however. They reckon that it will only affect less than 1% of all searches globally. Website publishers will know if they have been tagged for violating this algorithm if they suddenly see a drop in traffic to their site and they know that they have been top-heavy with ads all along then chances are they have been tagged because of this new algorithm. Their site’s ranking will be decreased once they are tagged which explains the sudden drop in traffic to their site.
If a site is already tagged, publishers can actually implement the necessary changes in order to gain Google’s good graces once again but the penalty may not be immediately lifted as fast as they would want it to be. Google explains that even though the page layout algorithm automatically detects any changes that may be adopted, it will still take as much as several weeks for their system to assess the overall changes of an entire site depending on the number of pages in the site and how efficiently Google bot can crawl the contents.
While this news is a welcome development for most users, some would still contend that much is still to be desired as far as regulating these advertisements are concerned as there are still way too much advertisements in some sites which cannot be categorised as above-the-fold per se but are very annoying still the same.
Google closed their announcement by saying that this change is just one in about 500 improvements that they expect to implement within the year in their continuing effort to deliver the best possible user experience.