If you noticed a change in your organic search traffic or rankings last week, and have a high ratio of ads to content at the top of your web pages, chances are you could be affected by a refresh of the Google page layout algorithm.
Google’s Matt Cutts announced on Twitter that a refresh of the algorithm occurred on February 6, although he didn’t go into any detail on how much of an impact this might have.
Google added the page layout algorithm in January 2012, and updated it in October 2012.
Google’s page layout algorithm targets sites that are light on content and heavy on ads “above the fold” (the part of the page visible to a user before scrolling).
At Pubcon in October, Cutts specifically mentioned in his keynote that they were working on the next generation of the page layout algorithm, and specifically targeting sites that have large ads above the fold. He suggested that webmasters should make changes before the new algorithm impacted their sites.
“If you look at the top part of your page and the very first thing you see front and center, top above the fold is ads right there, then you might want to ask yourself, ‘do I have the best user experience?’ Because we are working on an algorithm in the next iteration of that algorithm to try and catch some of that,” Cutts said in October.
He added this would have a bigger impact other languages (e.g., Russian or Arabic) more than it will English.
As for what the page layout algorithm was specifically targeting, a lot of people are speculating that it might be affecting websites that seem to utilize the endless scrolling technique, and often with a lot of white space and larger than normal font size. It’s becoming more common in news websites, but the trend has been moving to regular sites.
To find out whether you may have been impacted by the algorithmic refresh, check your analytics data to see if there’s any change occurring on or after February 6. But again, it’s likely that the biggest impact will primarily be for webmasters with sites that aren’t in English.