Google announced a new algorithm update on January 19 that it will start applying to search results. Simply called, the “page layout algorithm,” it’s having only a small impact so far (less than 1% of searches, according to Google). Still, the new update is causing a bit of buzz and confusion.
The page layout algorithm looks at websites and examines their ad content. Sites that have too many ads above the fold receive a penalization in Google’s search results. The philosophy behind the update is that pages with top heavy ads obscure the content of a webpage — negatively impacting user experience.
In a few ways, the page layout algorithm is similar to the Panda update. Like Panda, the page layout algorithm is more like a ranking factor, in that once you are penalized by the page layout algorithm, you will have to wait until Google decides to run the algorithm again to have your site reconsidered — the penalty will not disappear right away.
Because the penalty applies to the entire website, not just the particular ad-heavy page, many webmasters are nervous. However, there are reasons why this new update is only affecting less than 1% of search results. For starters, pop-ups, pop-unders and overlay ads are not counted by the page layout algorithm. In addition, Google recognizes that the top of the page is valuable space for advertisers and is important for the revenue of many sites. You can still place ads above the fold without being penalized. Google is only looking to punish websites who take their ad placement to excessive levels.
As such, there is a good chance this update will not affect you. Just be sure to layout ads on your web pages in a responsible manner that keeps the user experience in mind.
Businesses should always be looking to gain new customers and keep the ones they have happy. One way of doing this is adapting to the way your customers like to shop. E-commerce companies should be aware of consumers increased spending on mobile devices, especially tablets, and changes should be made to reach them.
According to an article on Direct Marketing News, “Tablet users who visited e-commerce websites in 2011 spent 54% more per purchase than smartphone visitors and 21% more than desktop or laptop visitors, according to a Jan. 19 report by Adobe Systems.” Tablets are a viable way to reach your target audience and businesses should be willing to make website adjustments to reach returning and potential customers. What type of adjustments? Make sure they can easily navigate and purchase on your site.
When a visitor comes to your website via a tablet, what do they see? Does your website adjust to fit their screen or will the user have to play with their display settings just to get a clear picture of the item they want? It may sound silly to ask such a question, but businesses can frequently lose out on sales due to visitor frustration.
The other night my mom went online to buy some books using a tablet. However, unlike a computer, she could only see one book per page. (The website wasn’t optimized to fit a tablet.) She spent some time attempting to find the books she wanted, but eventually ended up ordering over the phone. Instead of buying multiple books, she only bought one. This particular company lost business because their site wasn’t user friendly on a tablet. How can a company fix this? Easy, use a sniffer. A sniffer can detect what type of device a visitor is using and serve them a landing page that is configured for their device. It would behoove this bookstore to add a sniffer to their site. Who knows how many other tablet users have passed up on buying, due to the lack of a good user experience on a particular site?
When it’s all said and done businesses have to make changes to reach their consumers. If a decent amount of your target audience is using tablets to access your site, consider getting a sniffer. How can a company determine how many visitors are coming from mobile devices and tablets? Read the following article on obtaining this data through analytics.
Google’s most recent Webmaster Central Blog post, entitled Better page titles in search results covers the basics of how page titles and descriptions (called snippets) are generated.
A few things to note:
In the New Year, Webmasters should take note that Google has updated their Site title and description page (including an eight minute video of Matt Cutts discussing optimizing websites for Google and snippets). This page also offers a solution for Webmasters frustrated with titles and descriptions they did not write appearing in search engine results pages (SERPs). If you have found that your titles or descriptions appearing in SERPs are sourced from the Open Directory Project (ODP), or DMOZ, there is a solution!
The following code, inserted in the head section of your code, will tell all robots not to display information from the ODP with regard to your snippets.
If you are only having an issue with Google displaying ODP data, use the following code:
Please note that this code will need to be crawled by the robots before you may see a change in the SERPs.
If you are unfamiliar with the ODP / DMOZ:
The Open Directory Project (http://www.dmoz.org) is a human-edited directory of the Web that is maintained by a global community of volunteer editors and is touted as the most comprehensive directory out there. There is no cost to submit your site to the ODP.