How to optimize your sites for Google’s new “Page Layout Algorithm” update

A few days ago, I wrote a blog post about Google engineer Navneet Panda’s work to design a real time web page classifier for text and image data and suggested that web page layout may indeed be a ranking factor under this new “visual search” technology.

Right on cue, Google launched an algo update today called the “Page Layout Algorithm“ that utilizes this technology.

Specifically, the update aims to diminish thin sites with little content value in which the ads push the content below the fold and make it difficult for users to find meaningful content. If you’ve ever tried to download a printer driver or appliance manual, you’ve seen the worst of this.

From Google’s Matt Cutts:

As we’ve mentioned previously, 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.

With this in mind, I’d like to demonstrate how site owners and Adsense publishers can leverage ClickBump 5‘s Ad Layout manager to maximize site rankings under the new algorithm, utilizing Google’s “Best Practices” for ad layout.

Specifically, there are two ad layouts that Google’s Adsense guidelines specifically recommends:

Option 1 > Ad wrapped above the fold:

To use this layout with ClickBump 5, go to “ClickBump > Ads > Ad Position” and choose the 2rd wrap option to align ads to the right side of text.

Option 2 > Ads positioned below the initial content block:

This layout can also be utilized with ClickBump 5. There are a few more steps with this method, and I’ll likely make it a 1 click option in the next update of the ClickBump 5 theme framework, but you can achieve this layout now with the following settings:

ClickBump > Ads > Ad Position > (choose the 1st layout option with the text wrapped to the right side of ads)

ClickBump > Ads > Ad Headroom > (enter 200 into this field. This will move ads down 200 pixels below the opening paragraph of content.)

ClickBump > Misc > Custom > CSS (enter the following line of css into the field)

.adsense336 {width:100%; padding-top:20px;}

Update: As of version 5.3.1, which was released on 1/25/2012, you can now position ads below the fold (ie, after X paragraphs) into your content. For example, you can choose to place ads after the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th paragraph as well as at the beginning or end of content, with one click.

Now that you know what TO do, I’d like to share with you an ad layout that you should avoid:

You can see with this layout that the content has been pushed below the dotted line with represents the “above the fold” area. You should avoid utilizing this layout as it may adversely impact your site’s ability to attract search traffic.

I look forward to your comments on other ways to maximize ad revenues while maintaining best practice ad layout guidelines. Its interesting to note that since this announcement there has been much chatter regarding Google’s own abuse of these new layout guidelines with sponsored ads above search results. I suppose its a classic case of “Do as I say, not as I do”.

Danny Sullivan over at searchengineland.com has a comprehensive write-up about the Google update along with Q&A with Google’s Matt Cutts on what it means and I’d encourage you to check it out along with my recent post on how to maximize site rankings under Panda.

19 Responses to “How to optimize your sites for Google’s new “Page Layout Algorithm” update”

  1. rob lear says:

    Hi Scott
    You may be interested to know I bookmarked your blog after only 20 seconds of perusing the content of your latest posts. Great very pertinent topics that are at the edge of internet biz right now. Well done.

  2. Scott Blanchard says:

    @Peter, let’s diagnose it via the support forum.

  3. Peter says:

    Hey Scott, tried that, but the ad keeps popping up randomly after a few refreshes. Any ideas?

  4. Peter says:

    Scott that little addition to display ads further down the post is brilliant!

    I’ve just moved my adsense ads down 2 lines. Still above the fold but with the text wrapped around there is plenty of content to keep Google happy.

    Great work my friend and thanks for informing me of this new alogo update.

    Quick question while I’m here:

    How do I remove the ad block from my inner blog?

    Cheers,

    Peter

    • Scott Blanchard says:

      Hi Peter, thanks for the kind words. I’m always seeking to improve the software ;)

      To remove ads from your inner blog listing, go to “Posts > Categories > Blog” (or whatever you’ve named the blog category) to edit the Blog category and check the option on that page that reads “Hide Ads?

  5. Ken Taylor says:

    Hey Scott,
    Just some feedback. The wording is a little confusing with the new update: CB 5.3.3 (I just updated from 5.1 today)

    Under Ads > Ad Position Y (down arrow) the following text got me confused:

    ….”To move ads down within your content, choose an option below.” (I live in Japan so I think like Japanese, we take things literally. I scrolled down to find nothing that helped – of course, I did figure it out eventually :)

    It would be nicer to write something like this: “To move ads down within your content, choose an option from the above drop-down box”.

    What do think? Better? As we say in Japan: “Mo chotto wakari yasui?’ (Is it a little easier to understand?)

    As always, appreciate your work Scott-san…. m(_ _)m

    • Scott Blanchard says:

      @Ken, great observation. Thanks for pointing that out. Please feel free to share anything else you think could be improved.

  6. Bob says:

    Scott

    any chance we could have to option of changing our ads from 336 to something smaller inside our content, like 300 or 250?

  7. Ray says:

    I believe this will be rolled back once advertisers ie. the people who pay Google’s bills start to see lower click through rate as a result of punishing sites with ads above the fold. Just my 2 cents.

  8. Barq says:

    Does this affect ads in the sidebar as well?

    • Scott Blanchard says:

      @Barq – its unclear whether sidebar content is considered. It appears from what we know that as long as your ads do not push the page’s purposeful content down below the fold, you are in compliance with the algo.

  9. Chris says:

    Ha yeah it never makes sense. I remember getting my phone consultation with an Adsense employee and they were telling me to put ads above the fold lol. They gave me all these tips then a few months later I was told there were violations on my site. Ugh can’t win!!!

  10. Ken says:

    Funny thing is I am running clickbump with X-factored 2 theme with layout #1 as you show above only that I have the ad floated left and the content on the right wrapped. Two of my sites took a huge hit on the 20th, site wide penalties the whole bit. All original quality content, most over 700 words. To me there seems to be m,ore going on behind the scenes than a mere layout penalty, but thanks for the suggestions.

    Is there a way to have a paragraph at the top then have the ad below floating left with content continuing down floating right? Thanks.

    • Scott Blanchard says:

      @Ken, yes. With the 5.3.1 upgrade you can now globally place ads further down within content by assigning the number of paragraphs that should precede ads.

      You can set this up at…

      ClickBump > Ads > Ad Position Y

  11. John says:

    How would this affect the amazonia template where the amazon carousel widget appears on top? Since it appears above any content would it be penalized by the new algorithm?

    • Scott Blanchard says:

      @John, the Amazonia template’s carousel widget is optional. The theme works fine with our without it.

      To answer your question, no one but Google really knows how a single ad above the fold is treated by the algo. Although, if you take them at their word, they are not as concerned about a single ad as they are with multiple ads. It also depends on the user’s screen resolution.

      I suppose if you want to use the widget, but want to be 100% safe, you can place it into the “below content” or “footer” widget areas.

      As always with Google, YMMV :)

  12. Chris says:

    The problem with this is that at Google, the Adsense team is at odds with the web spam team, the left hand doesn’t talk to the right over there. As Danny at search engine land stated in his 1/19/12 post on the layout algo, he received a recommendation from the Adsense team claiming he was not optimizing his site and they suggested using more ad units above the fold.

    On the Google Webmaster blog when Cutts announced this, many of the comments pointed out personal experiences with the Adsense team suggesting more aggressive placements and higher numbers of units.

    • Scott Blanchard says:

      Hi Chris, that’s absolutely correct. There’s an obvious disconnect between those teams within Google thats inexscusable given their stature and impact on the web and commerce. Danny is not the only one to receive this kind of messaging from Google. Anyone who has an adsense account for any time has received these types of solicitations.

      Its either shocking incompetance at best (not likely) or blatant, greed-driven hypocrisy at worst. Take your pick.

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