Google to Penalize Sites Top-Heavy With Ads

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Google will penalize websites with pages that are top-heavy with ads, the company said in a blog post this week.

Google engineer Matt Cutts said that the change — called the “page layout algorithm” — targets any site with pages where content is buried under a plethora of ads.

"Rather than scrolling down the page past a slew of ads, users want to see content right away," Cutts said. "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."

Cutts said the algorithmic change doesn't affect sites that place ads above the fold to a "normal degree"; it only affects sites that go much further to load the top of the page with ads to an "excessive degree" or that make it hard to find the actual original content on the page.

"This new algorithmic improvement tends to impact sites where there is only a small amount of visible content above-the-fold or relevant content is persistently pushed down by large blocks of ads," he said.

Cutt said that the algorithmic change affects less than 1 percent of searches globally.

"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," Cutts said. "You can use our Browser Size tool, among many others, to see how your website would look under different screen resolutions."