Yesterday Google announced a new page layout algorithm update – this is a landing page quality update, which looks at “the layout of a webpage and the amount of content you see on the page once you click on a result”. As opposed to having the need for scrolling beneath ads to get to this. Doesn’t this sound very similar to Panda though?
At Pubcon in November last year, Matt Cutts mentioned that:
“If you have ads obscuring your content, you might want to think about it,” asking publishers to consider, “Do they see content or something else that’s distracting or annoying?”
With Danny Sullivan following up to say:
“Many already assume that Google’s Panda algorithm is already penalizing ad heavy pages. This suggests that this either is not part of the Panda algorithm or that it might be made a separate and more specific algorithm in the works.”
So reading into this, I would suggest that if this wasn’t rolled out last year - it just has been!
Google has stated that this isn’t a change which will affect every site that has ads above the fold, just those that have an excessive number of ads which obstruct users from getting to the content that they were searching for:
“This algorithmic change noticeably affects less than 1% of searches globally. That means that in less than one in 100 searches, a typical user might notice a reordering of results on the search page. If you believe that your website has been affected by the page layout algorithm change, consider how your web pages use the area above-the-fold and whether the content on the page is obscured or otherwise hard for users to discern quickly. You can use our Browser Size tool, among many others, to see how your website would look under different screen resolutions.”
So that means that if you’ve been penalised, it should be easy enough to get out of. It’s an algorithmic penalty, not a manual one – so if you fix the layout of your page, Google’s filters will pick this up the next time it’s re-crawled and whatever penalty you had previously will be lifted. We’ve seen this many times with other algorithm penalties – and once you figured out what’s caused the drop in rankings, it’s not too difficult to get out of. It’s the manual penalties you want to avoid, Google take note!
And overall it’s not likely to affect a huge number of sites (1% predicted by Google), but it looks like affiliates and ad monetised sites are those most open to suffering. So is this the latest, unofficial panda update? Maybe Google has just got bored of keeping track of the numbers now that it’s 2012 – what do you think?
Image credit: David Allen