SEOs deemed this update as Top Heavy because the algorithm introduced a penalty for websites that had too many ads “above the fold” or the part of a page that’s immediately visible in a browser window once it loads. The section that users see when they start scrolling down is called “below the fold.”
Before it was rolled out on January 2012, Google guy Matt Cutts announced that they were developing the algorithm update that identifies how much authentic content is above the fold. He also warned websites that had too many distracting or annoying ads, obscuring the information that users want to access, to think about the layout of their pages.
Previously, there were assumptions that the Panda filter was already penalizing ad-heavy pages. However, this separate update implied otherwise. The page layout change stemmed from user complaints about difficulty in reaching actual content from some websites, which led to a frustrating experience. According to Google, sites that don’t have a lot of visible content above the fold or dedicates a substantial portion of its initial screen space to advertisements won’t be ranking high in the SERPs.
The team emphasized that they understand how websites need to place ads above the fold since these perform well and help them monetize their content. They clarified that this update doesn’t affect pages that have a reasonable amount of ads; only those that make it hard for users to access the actual original content. Additionally, pop-ups, pop-unders, and overlay ads aren’t affected by the algorithmic change since it only applies to static ads.
The change reportedly affected less than one percent of searches globally. It means that users will only notice a reordering of results on the SERPs for less than one in 100 searches. Moreover, websites that have been tagged as ad-heavy and fixed the issue immediately had to wait for a few weeks for Google to lift the penalty.
Once site operators have updated their page layout, this particular filter will automatically reflect the changes as bots re-crawl and process your pages to evaluate the modifications. The length depended on factors such as the number of pages on your website and how efficiently the search engine can crawl through your content.
The concept of optimizing your pages above the fold continues to be a crucial part of SEO today. It is, after all, the first thing that your visitors see, so it makes sense that you have a converting layout. This section of your website can make or break your brand’s first impression to new customers and serve to refresh a returning subscriber’s sense of familiarity with your site.
Here are a few tips to help you optimize your pages above the fold:
Here are the two types of visitors and how they affect CTA placement: