Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Webspam team, recently tweeted a confirmation that, on February 6, 2014, Google released an update to their Page Layout Algorithm. This algorithm was originally released back on January 19, 2012, and another confirmed update on October 9, 2012 makes this the third official release of this algorithm.
Unlike when a big Panda or Penguin update hits, there hasn’t been a lot of buzz or chatter in the SEO community, so this algorithm change likely didn’t affect a large percentage of search queries. However, the update serves as a good reminder that on-page experience is an important part of SEO.
What Is the Page Layout Algorithm all about?
In a blog post published when the Page Layout Algorithm was originally released, Google explained the reason for this addition. Users had complained about clicking on a result and then having a hard time finding the actual content that made the site relevant to the search query in the first place.
Google further stated:
Rather than scrolling down the page past a slew of ads, users want to see content right away. So sites that don’t have much content “above-the-fold” can be affected by this change. If you click on a website and the part of the website you see first either doesn’t have a lot of visible content above-the-fold or dedicates a large fraction of the site’s initial screen real estate to ads, that’s not a very good user experience. Such sites may not rank as highly going forward.
What can you do to survive the changes?
This update isn’t about pleasing Google. It’s about creating a website to please your customers. Make the content users expect to find easy to find.
First, if your website has any ads, don’t put them front and center, as they can distract from the material your customers really want to see.
This Page Layout Algorithm update also emphasizes the indirect ramifications of having the right content above the fold, which is the impact on your website’s search engine rankings. See our previous blog post about featuring the right content above the fold.
Any on-page changes should focus on producing the best user experience for your visitors. Getting feedback on your website from your clients can be a great way to know how to adjust and tweak your website. Over time, as you make positive changes to your site and visitor interaction improves, you can not only expect to see happier customers, but also more of them due to better ranking in the search engine results page (SERP).