Google's Above the Fold/ Page Layout Algorithm
Google's above the fold algorithm (a.k.a page layout algorithm) went live last week and while it has not caused Panda-like repercussions, it still has had a significant impact on many sites and it is certainly important to any site that has been hit (of which I know of at least one). Some interesting things to note:
- This really confirms that Panda did not satisfactorily do its job as based on user metrics. If Panda was 100% effective, this update would not have been necessary. Perhaps some sites were slipping through Panda because of the brand protection. More likely some sites have figured out how to avoid Panda (even though they are deserved). Or perhaps there were too many false positives and Google is looking more towards this update to catch certain sites that would slip through if Google will relaxed Panda a bit. Interestingly enough, Google ran a Panda update yesterday (1/24) and I have been hearing of Pandalized sites getting boosts. I think perhaps a Panda update just a few days after the Page Layout update is not an accident.
- Like Panda (and really like most Google updates) this is geared to improving the searcher's user experience. The user searchers, goes to a site and gets what they want visibly on the page (as opposed to a page where the content is obscured by ads).
- Unlike Panda. this does not appear to be based on user
behavior, but on the actual page. According to Google, once enough pages have been crawled that address the issue, the site penalty or dampening will be reversed. This makes addressing this issue if you get hit much easier than Panda. With Panda, you make your changes and wait for Google to collect enough positive signals over time to overtake the negative signals. And those signals (which I have theorized on) have never been stated by Google. In this case, Google has stated exactly what the issue is.
- Why would Google be so open about what this change is about as opposed to mysterious Panda? Simple - if Google thinks they can be manipulated, they will be vague, if they think a change is beyond manipulation, they will be more open.
Notice that Google is calling this the "Page Layout Algorithm". The ability to reliably analyze page layout will likely be reflected in other updates in the future, perhaps degrading content and links below the fold. (Of course position of content always has had an impact, but the Page Layout Algorithm could make it even more significant and more accurate). And link position has been discussed in regards to Google's Reasonable Surfer algorithm (which they applied for a patent last year). The Reasonable Surfers algo basically values links on the likelihood of getting clicked. To implement that, you need to understand page layout so this very well could be a step in that direction (which could shake up the SEO industry again).
Never dull with Google these days!