Is the top of your website fat with ads? Google spam chief Matt Cutts announced last week on Twitter that a new filter has been added to its “page layout” algorithm, which has been dubbed the Top Heavy algorithm. The algorithm targets pages with an excess of adverts at the top. Initiated February 6, the update is documented as the third to Top Heavy.
Google released Top Heavy 1 in January 2012 and Top Heavy 2 in October 2012, affecting 1% and 0.07% of English searches, respectively. At the launching of Top Heavy 1, Google explained the algorithm:
“We’ve heard complaints from users that if they click on a result and it’s difficult to find the actual content, they aren’t happy with the experience. 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. 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 idea is that readers’ shouldn´t have to scroll down to access the content they are seeking. Speaking at Pubcon in 2011, Cutts said: “If you have ads obscuring your content, you might want to think about it. Do they see content or something else that’s distracting or annoying?”
For those who get hit by the algorithm, recovery happens relatively swiftly. Within several weeks, Googlebot can crawl the content of a typical site and process enough pages to determine whether design changes have been made. In contrast, recovering from some Penguin update hits has been a more laborious, time-consuming effort for web masters.
Whether or not your web content has been penalized, re-evaluating your site’s design is probably a good idea. WebProNews contributor Chris Crum recommends checking out Google’s browser size tool. This tool allows you to see your content from the perspective of visitors and allows you to evaluate how much of your content is indeed above the fold.