Page Layout #2: More Content, Less Ads

On October 9, 2012, Google rolled out the first update for the page layout algorithm. It’s also known as the Top Heavy #2 update since it penalizes websites that have too many ads “above the fold” or where users are bombarded with loads of advertisements as the initial screen loads after clicking on the link in the SERPs.

What’s It For

Page Layout #2 is an update on the Top Heavy algorithm that detects and penalizing ad-focused pages. Google didn’t mention the specifics on this change, so it’s unclear whether it’s a data refresh, similar to Penguin #3 which rolled out on the same month, or if the developers added new signals.

This filter evaluated the layout of websites and assessed whether they’ve made it easy for human readers to navigate to the actual content or visitors have to dig through ads to find the information they need. Sites that greeted users with a staggering amount of ads no longer ranked high in the SERPs after the first algorithm rolled out and were devalued even more with this update.

What Were Its Effects

Page Layout #2, on the other hand, affected about 0.7 percent of English queries. Moreover, several webmasters reported that they recovered from this algorithm. But, there were concerns that site operators were crediting the wrong filter since updates have been overlapping each other like the exact-match domain algorithmic change and Panda #20, both of which rolled out on September 2012. It’s crucial to note that Penguin #3 was launched around the same time as Top Heavy #2.

What It Means for You

While there are some who think that Google discourages all ads above the fold, the search engine has clarified that it’s not the case at all. They do understand that site operators need the revenue they get from promotional banners, and that’s why a majority of websites monetize their content by joining the Google Ads network to display products and services that their readers might need or want.

However, they impose a penalty on websites that focus too much on ads instead of actually providing valuable content to users right after they click on a result displayed in the SERPs. When your site visitors have to scroll all the way down your site to get the information they are looking for, that’s when Google steps in.

Google has always emphasized the importance of user experience above all. Your website should be consistent in providing a positive environment from human readers to boost your ranking significantly.

To know what to watch out for, here are ad issues that most websites suffer from, whether intentionally or unknowingly:

  • Showing Too Many Ads When It First Loads The page layout update specifically targeted sites with too many ads “above the fold” where users have to scroll through several promotions before reaching actual content. You should put a lot of thought into your content, and that includes what type of advertisements you’ll be showing to your site visitors. Keep it tasteful and don’t bombard them with ads since that will only put them off.
  • Displaying Unrelated Ads Your ads should complement the overall theme of your website. It doesn’t make sense to display promotions on heavy equipment for construction when your blog talks about digital marketing. The products and services you present to your readers must be in line with what users expect to find in your domain.
  • Forcing Users to Watch or Listen to Your Ads There’s nothing more annoying than opening a link in the middle of the night only to find yourself waking up the entire household because the content contains a video advertisement with a blaring jingle. What’s even worse is that you can’t seem to locate the pause button, so you end up closing the tab to stop your ears from bleeding.
    Giving readers the control on whether or not they want to watch or listen to your ad can have a favorable impact on your user experience. It shows that you care more about them than revenue. With pop-ups and interstitials, it’s best that the close button contrasts from the background color so that people can quickly locate it if they no longer want to see the banner or it’s hampering their view of your content.
  • Attempting to Increase Ad Views Through Excessive Pagination Some attempt to gain more ad views by dividing a single piece of content to multiple pages or slides then inserting promotional banners after each click. This practice is annoying and a surefire way to stop users from visiting your site ever again. Remember, you must put searchers’ needs above revenue always.