Google’s Matt Cutts has announced the first official update to January’s Page Layout algorithm, designed to reward sites with content, rather than ads, above the fold.
In a tweeted “weather report,” Cutts said less than 0.7 percent of English language queries are affected.
What is Google’s Page Layout Algorithm?
In follow-up tweets, Cutts reiterated that this update is neither Penguin nor Panda-related.
The Page Layout algorithm first launched January 19, 2012. In the official announcement, they explained who might be affected: “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.”
They continued, “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.”
The initial launch affected 1 percent of search queries globally. This update is reported to have a slightly less effect and affects English queries only.
Google initially recommended using their Browser Size tool to see how much content vs. ads shows up above the fold. However, that tool is being retired and replaced by the Browser-Size Analysis tool in Google Analytics.
Above the Fold Page Layout Algorithm Recovery
If you believe your site has been affected, some are reporting you will need to wait for the next Above the Fold Page Layout update to see a recovery. However, in Google’s announcement of the initial update, they advised:
“If you decide to update your page layout, the page layout algorithm will automatically reflect the changes as we re-crawl and process enough pages from your site to assess the changes. How long that takes will depend on several factors, including the number of pages on your site and how efficiently Googlebot can crawl the content. On a typical website, it can take several weeks for Googlebot to crawl and process enough pages to reflect layout changes on the site.”
We’ve asked Google to confirm that webmasters can recover from this update by having their site modified and recrawled. We will update the post if we hear back.
Update: Matt Cutts told SEW: “It’s true that we do have to re-crawl and process the pages to determine their layout and how they’ve changed. But we’re also at the stage where we’re still doing off-line processing and then the results of the algorithm are pushed out. So it actually depends on both the re-crawl/reprocessing as well as the offline cycle of computing before then pushing that data.”