Google page layout algorithm; page segmentation gets a new twist
A while back, the folks at Google were talking about their 'Page Layout Algorithm' which by and large discusses how users might not be all that keen on having ads above the fold;
"... we've heard complaints from users that if they click on a result and it's difficult to find the actual content, they aren't happy with the experience. 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. "
And what is acceptable?
"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. "
This is certainly going to ruffle a few feathers, that's for sure. They've mentioned it only affects some 1% of queries, so it seems one would have to be fairly egregious to get nabbed. Of course we might find that this number increases as they turn up the dial in the coming weeks.
The Panda Connection
First off, a little birdy told me earlier this afternoon that, "Google's going to be announcing a Panda update today around 3 PM PST". And then of course this news broke.
Secondly, when we had a (private) gathering of folks intimate with Panda experiences, one of the elements we found (and reported to SEO Dojo members) was that ads in above the fold contextual spaces seemed to be causing a problem. One participant was from a very large and well known website, so their testing was substantial.
All of that means that while this announcement is fresh, it really has been going on for some time. By and large Panda has been about the user experience, and that's a stated goal in this one. Regardless, I for one am happy it has a name (page layout algorithm change) other than Panda.
Page Segmentation; page layout algorithm
Right away I started thinking about some of the reading I'd done over the years on page segmentation. For those not familiar, see;
Essentially it is an approach where by the search engine might break the page into it's various components. This can be handy for pages with multiple topicality, for link valuations, for spam detection and more. This is key. The more uses a method has, the more valuable it becomes to Google.
We really had no idea if these types of approaches were ever adopted, but given their multipurpose abilities, it seemed a safe bet. And now we have a name even; the page layout algorithm. If you haven't consiered it in the past, be sure to read those posts listed above. Now they we have further evidence that page segmentation of some kind is indeed in play, we can also revisit it for link valuations (certain parts of the pages being more valuable than others for links).
If they truly are after the worst offenders, then think more about your website's usability and less about this algorithm change. A bunch of crap above the fold does neither of you justice.
Added; we (in the office) have dubbed it; GooPLA - the Google Page Layout Algorithm.
Google Page Segmentation Patents;
- Systems and methods for analyzing boilerplate
- Identifying relevant portions of a document
- Identifying transient portions of web pages
- Determining semantically distinct regions of a document
- Document segmentation based on visual gaps
- Methods and systems for improving text segmentation
- Segmenting Printed Media Pages Into Articles
Stuff from Bill;
- Breaking Pages Apart: What Automatic Segmentation of Webpages Might Mean to Design and SEO
- Google's Page Segmentation Patent Granted
- Google and Document Segmentation Indexing for Local Search