How Your 'Above the Fold' Can Affect Your Rankings

Last Update: February 12, 2014

In the world of online business, there are so many changes, updates and algorithm tweaks that keep us on our toes.

Well, Google has recently release something called the Top Heavy algorithm in which lowers the SERP rankings for websites that have too many ads at the top or if the ads are deemed too distracting for users.

This means if you have any ads, images, banners and possible opt-ins your site could be affected.

What is Above the Fold?

When you look at a website, everything you see on the site BEFORE you scroll down is considered 'above the fold'. This will be different for each person because it depends on the persons screen size, browser setting and zoom level.

In Conclusion

  • If you don't have any banner ads on your site then you have nothing to worry about.
  • If you have one ad on your site but it is below the fold (have to scroll down), then you have nothing to worry about.
  • If you have one or more ads on your site and it is above the fold, then I would recommend you either remove it all together or move it down so it is below the fold.

How to Test Your Website

Google has a dandy little tool called Browser Size where you can enter your URL and have a look what people see which various browser sizes and settings.

URL: http://browsersize.googlelabs.com/

Simply add your URL at the top and press go to have your site shown.

What Google Said

Here is the content that was posted about this update, I have underlined what I feel is important:

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.

We understand that placing ads above-the-fold is quite common for many websites; these ads often perform well and help publishers monetize online content. This algorithmic change does not affect sites who place ads above-the-fold to a normal degree, but 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.

Has your site been affected? Let me know in the comments below.

Join the Discussion
Write something…
Recent messages
itbeats4you Premium
Old post but still useful. Thanks. I made the necessary changes on my page https://thewealthybum.com.

Where do you find these Google updates that describe changes like this?
Reply
SuzetteH Premium
Link given gives a 404 error
Reply
MsMoneyHoney Premium
Well, I hear what you're saying, but when Google actually does things to your site in order to place more ads on it - without your approval - I would be pretty p-o'd if my SERP drops because they are the very reason why I have more ads. Here's my very real life example: When I set up my site, and my Google Adsense ads, I came to that page that shows you "where" the ads are going to "show up." I can't remember how I got there, but when you're setting it up, there is a page that allows you to do this. So, I specifically chose 3 ad spots, indicated by green boxes. I chose the tippity top of my site, and two spots on the right side of my site in between some of my widgets. But, Google, apparently, can and does overrule your "preferences." I've since brought up my site, many times and without being "logged in," and I've seen ads in places that I specifically did not choose. Especially the spot between my post Heading/Title and the first paragraph! I specifically DID NOT want any Ads there, but there they sometimes are! I've even seen ads at the bottom of my pages and post pages. I never chose these "areas!" So, if Google is now "penalizing" people for the amount of ads, and where they are placed, they are actually the one's over-riding a site owner's preferences!
Reply
YumaBloggers Premium
Google hasn't done that once to any of my sites in over 10 years of using Adsense Ads on them. It sounds like you got hacked and those are probably someone else' ads showing in those blocks, or you have a adware on your computer.
Reply
MsMoneyHoney Premium
I've brought it up on my tablet and my phone, which is a different internet access all together. So, nope, can't be hacked on all three... and my internet is high security too. So, not likely. ...
Reply
YumaBloggers Premium
If the site is hacked not your computer the malicious code could be hidden anywhere in your HTML. I have had sites hacked before with a range of changes from adding ads and links to changing my theme and putting up a message from the hacker bragging about how so called unsafe the site was.
Reply
YumaBloggers Premium
Looking at your blog I see the front page sidebar is different from your post page with ne having the two sidebar ads and the post page showing the in post ad an a footer ad instead of the sidebar ads but still no more than 3 ad blocks per page. Since I don't see the actual Adsense codes other than the JavaScript in the header allowing use of Async Ads on the site I would assume you are using a plugin to deliver the ads on your site. If this is the cace you might make sure there are not default examples still active with the coder's ID instead of yours or even with your ID but set up by the system. Just other thoughts of what to check.
Reply
MsMoneyHoney Premium
Well, I don't see how that's possible either. I changed my user name, and I use the generated password as instructed way back in that lesson... I know it's not easy to guess, that's for sure. I don't even use it. I log in from WA direct.

I just think Google is making more money off of unsuspecting site owners... I wouldn't put it past them. Same as Facebook and what they're doing. They only share your posts with... what... about 12% of your followers? They're just trying to boost ad revenue! So, no, I would not put it past Google to play games with your ads.
Reply
MsMoneyHoney Premium
Well, I'll have to get back into my adsense account and try to find that page again where I set this all up. I'll try to find what you're talking about to see why things are showing up where they are not supposed to be. I'm wondering now, because that was quite a few lessons ago... and I can't really remember... Thank you for your effort though - I appreciate it!
Reply
YumaBloggers Premium
Google doesn't have access to your site's code to place ads anywhere on your site so someone or some script has coded those ads in. If Twitter, Facebook, Google, and Amazon can be hacked I guarantee our small little blogs can be too. As I said it's happened to me several times and we ran our own servers with great security measures and on site encryption, so it can happen to anyone. Even the CIA got hacked and Google wouldn't make more money changing the positions of your ads they would still get just as many clicks.
Reply
MsMoneyHoney Premium
Ok, once again, thank you for your efforts. Apparently, I wasn't hacked nor was I right about Google. It was "user error," as in me, myself, and I. I never noticed a drop down menu before when setting that up, so when I got back into my plug-in and tried to backtrack, I found that drop down link that allows me to access additional pages - and not just the "home" page. It quite possibly could have been done when working one of my many all-nighters in setting things up. So, I really can't remember what I was thinking at the time. I probably thought if you set up one page, it applies to all other pages, but noooo, you have additional pages they want you to place the ad spaces on as they can differ from what you chose on the home page. In any case, I have found the error, and I have applied the same ad pattern across all pages. So, now, I'm consistent with all my ads on all pages, posts, and archives.

With that all explained, I'm thinking that Google Adsense and Analytics do a really poor job of explaining things... The user really does have to play around with this or that to see what works, etc. Sometimes, it can get really frustrating...

Now, onto more content! :)

~MMH
Reply
goldin Premium
Hi just clicked the ling the page has gone error not found showing
Reply
goldin Premium
Thanks for the info.
Reply
steve71 Premium
hmmm... when testing my sites thru THIS link - http://as-abovethefold.appspot.com/ - provided by Yolette - see below (thanks Yolette)... Google states the following...

'Moving ads higher up on a page is a simple yet effective change that can have a big impact on your ad revenue. The area that's immediately visible when a page is loaded without scrolling down is known as "above the fold."

The term comes from the newspaper industry where there's a physical fold in the paper itself. With newspapers, the stories and headlines above this fold receive more attention, and are therefore deemed more important, than things below the fold. The same concept holds true for websites-- ads above the fold are much more likely to be noticed and remembered.

By moving ad units buried at the bottom of your site to a more prominent location above the fold, you'll generally see an increase in performance. On average, above the fold units tend to outperform below the fold units. You'll get the best results by having more ad units above the fold.'

SO... this is suggesting that we place our Ads ABOVE the fold...

Major league confusion!

Clarification anyone?
Reply
judebanks Premium
It is more a question of how many ads are placed at the top of the fold relative to the value of the content.

The algorithm is not new. It was actually implemented in 2012.

However, in February 2014, Matt Cutts announced via Twitter a relaunch of the algorithm change and referenced his original article.

According to the Twitter conversation, in the original algorithm it was estimated that potentially the algorithm change would affect 1% of global searches. But by 2014, the updated Twitter conversation suggested that potentially up to 10% of searches globally could be impacted (implying more websites would be affected).

If you have good quality content at the top of the fold, including a well placed ad or two. I don't think you have anything to worry about.

However, the search engines don't like a lot of ads covering the top of the fold while reading content, no matter how good, is pushed down the page.

Read this article posted by Matt Cutts:

http://insidesearch.blogspot.com.au/2012/01/page-layout-algorithm-improvement.html

~Jude
Reply
steve71 Premium
aaah, I see... Thanks Jude. Very Helpful :)
Reply
YumaBloggers Premium
It's solid advice, my best performing Adsense placements on my main blog are a 728x90 leader board just below the navigation menu and my middle of post 336x250 ad in the middle of the content. Though proper placement of my sidebar 300X250 can pick up funds missed by the higher placements.
Reply
LCoates Premium
The googlelabs link is no longer valid. Does anyone have the new link?
Reply
ehswift71 Premium
Thanks for the good information. Just thought you should know though the browser test URL does not load.
Reply
judebanks Premium
There are other browser testing tools here:

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/search/screenresolution
Reply
Harewoodt85 Premium
Hello, Magistudios I would like to thank you for this very valuable piece of information. I am fairly new to internet marketing and have a lot to learn. Also, I have been working very hard on building my affiliate website.

Please when you get a moment take a look at what I have done so far and provide feedback and leave a comment... Thanks!

Web Link: bwl.siterubix.com

Make a great day :)
Reply
Yolette Premium
Hi, thank you for this resource. However, it appears that the link provided is no longer active. I found the correct link to be http://as-abovethefold.appspot.com/
Thanks again, Yolette
Reply
Esentor Premium
Thanks Yolette, that url worked wonders!
Reply
smileyharp Premium
Good to know! Thanks!
Reply
Positivep Premium
Awesome..!
Reply
itbeats4you Premium
I agree. It makes me hesitant to place ads on my relatively new site https://trouserdog.com for fear of lost rankings.
Reply
talimont1 Premium
Sweet, thanks so much for this!

Ken
Reply
georama Premium
Thanks for the useful info.
Reply
we3bells Premium
Thank for the info!
Reply
lionelp Premium
Thanks Jay,
Reply
Wayne Wallace Premium
Thanks Jay!
Reply
fireyphnx Premium
Thanks for sharing this vital info with all of us.... appreciate it : )
Reply
webBIZ44 Premium
Awesome info!
Reply
caylynn Premium
Will blog sliders be affected?
Reply
magistudios Premium
Hi Linda,

Although I am not 100% sure, I don't think they will be an issue assuming the sliders are linked to your own site and content.
Reply
caylynn Premium
Yes. Thank you.
Reply
coolcity Premium
Very interesting. My site uses a large slider at the top around which the actual design theme is based. The links on that slider point to either other product pages on my site or to special offers by merchants that I am promoting.

I do wish Google would stop trying to be all things to all people. It's their web space of course so they can do what they like but I, and everybody else who has seen my site, says the new design is much better and cleaner than the one it replaced which had just basic text and a small picture at the top. Google would no doubt have said it fit their criteria perfectly, yet the new site looks better in terms of what people - not some algorithm - wants to see.

My banners are a little too big if anything but as the theme is designed around it, it would be difficult to change. But when Google say "they have heard complaints from users" do they mean the vast majority of users in a particular survey" or is this just a few comments they have come across here and there?

I just wish people would improve their search my showing results for what people REALLY want. They could start by showing the sites with EXACT search terms entered first - surely if I search for "Blue umbrella with long handle" that's what I want to see in the results, not a site with blue umbrellas + long handle brushes!

Secondly they should consider the country people are searching from, or at least let you select the option. If I am a buyer in the UK I am most likely to be searching for a supplier in the UK so why should results from a Russian or Indian outlet take priority in the search results?
Reply
Blessings44 Premium
Hi Jay, this is very valuable info. Thanks! Lydia.
Reply
Warner43 Premium
Thanks for this information! I started with creating my site and writing texst . Now I can take these new criteria into account already.
Reply
Inspiration1 Premium
Thanks Jay for this invaluable information. I have heard about this kind of complaint from some other people also whose rank was downgraded.
You have given an excerpt from the Google announcement and underlined the important matters. I request you to please post the link to the page where Google has announced such information. Since this is a very sensitive matter, I would like to go through it in detail. With thanks and best wishes.
Reply
Roger Aiken Premium
Food for thought.
Reply
Neil Little Premium
I used to put Ads above the fold to hopefully encourage clicks to what was being advertised but haven't done this for over a year now.

As they say content is king, why ruin it with adverts.
Reply
judebanks Premium
Good to know this information, Jay. Thanks!

I assume this includes banners located in our sidebar? I have a rotating banner in the sidebar above the fold that displays one banner at a time but a different banner each time the page is refreshed.

I used to have it below the fold, but the click thru rate has improved since moving it higher. In view of this announcement, I've now moved it further down the page.

Up, down, sideways....the Google dance...lol.

~Jude
Reply
tj0575 Premium
Thanks for the info.
Reply
M W Mihalicz Premium
I moved mine down last night. AdSense wouldn't count though right LOL!!
Reply
edgie Premium
Thanks Jay,,, what about email opt in forms above the fold?
Reply
judebanks Premium
I imagine it would depend on how much content you have above the fold before adding your opt-in form. ~Jude
Reply
edgie Premium
Thanks Jude , I've made a couple of changes just to be sure . thanks for the response
Reply
Crystal2010 Premium
Thanks for info
Reply
sanjo Premium
Thanks for your help Jay
Reply
sanjo Premium
Does this rule just apply to ads or does it apply to your website images as well.

In most of my posts i have an image that is displayed first then the content. Should the image be made smaller or aligned to the left/right?
Reply
magistudios Premium
Hi Sandra,

This only applies to ads that redirect to another URL.
Reply
DoubleTap Premium
Reckon I got some work to do, Jay... thanks, thanks alot...LOL!!!
Reply
NetLife2014 Premium
This is all new to me. I have had websites in the past, I had ads here and there on the site on different pages. This is good info to know, before I create a website! Thanks
Reply
bingo1020 Premium
I just finished my website. Based upon your info I got it right. Thanks!
Reply
Shaquinho Premium
Thanks for the info, Jay!
Reply
Thorhallur Premium
Thanks for this information.
Reply
abdokes Premium
Great info, thanks Jay.
Reply
theholygrail Premium
Very helpful, Thank you.
Reply
cassiejr53 Premium
Thanks for the information
Reply
jeffreyhuan Premium
Thanks for the great information.
It is really difficult to know which is normal degree and which is excessive degree. So the safe way is either removing the ads or moving the ads down to below the folder.
Reply
robinjs Premium
Quite a useful bit of information.....:)
Robin
Reply
judebanks Premium
Thank you. Interesting and useful information. ~ Jude
Reply
pesurfmayr Premium
Thanks for sharing Jay
Reply
yourbrother Premium
In the browser size page, I can see only one cm of my Wa banner on the right-down place. It is better to put it lower?
Reply
KatieMac Premium
Thank you for sharing will keep this in mind and check it out when ready with website
Reply
rufat Premium
Thank you Jay!
Reply
nosafk Premium
Thumb up for you Jay, thanks for the info. In my homepage, my banners are below but my doubt is about my opt-in form, in my pages and blog posts, its above the fold, do i demote it?
Reply
skiergal Premium
Thanks for the update Jay!
Reply
Karyskis Premium
You are Jamazing and Jawesome!
Reply
magistudios Premium
Well shucks Kary! You're making this fella blush! ;)
Reply
dembler Premium
Good information! Thank you -
Reply
Anewcreature Premium
Quite helpful and I will keep this in mind from this day forward. Thanks jay!
Reply
welshy Premium
Thanks Jay, Do you think large feature sliders would become a problem too? They would be linking to internal pages.

"We've graduated! This site is going away soon"
Almost 2 years later and it's still up.
Reply
magistudios Premium
Great question Craig,

Because the intention is to direct people to content that resides on your site, I think rotating slider images will be fine.
Reply
Stephanie33 Premium
Hi Jay,
Thanks for the tip. All my ads are at the bottom. I tried the url you suggested but found it too confusing....didn't know what I was looking at. lol.
Stephanie
Reply
bothewebguy Premium
Jay, would this apply to adsense? Google is always telling me to move my adsense ads above the fold
Reply
Tracy47 Premium
Did you get a PM reply? I'd love to know the answer, too. It's the first thing I thought of...
Reply
magistudios Premium
That certainly is an interesting question Bo,

I have posted in the blog the exact words from Matt Cutts (head of web spam for Google) about this update.

In my opinion, a marginal amount of ads will be fine, but I personally will not place ads on my own site because I have a specific direction I want my traffic to go to and don't care about small commissions from adsense or banner ads.
Reply
M W Mihalicz Premium
Hi Jay, when you say " I have a specific direction I want my traffic to go to" are you referring to the WA Affiliate program?
Reply
merryman88 Premium
Thanks, Jay that's a good bit of information : Filed it
Ray Bowley (Merryman88)
Reply
alanwelch Premium
Jay, interesting. Thanks.
Reply
tommydillard Premium
You are awesome dude thank you
Reply
BIS Premium
Not an issue for me but thanks for the information ;) Beverley
Reply
Shawn Martin Premium
Thanks Jay
Reply
mamazepp Premium
Thanks for the heads up!
Reply
BasseBlues Premium
Thanks for sharing this information.
Reply
Angela H1980 Premium
Thank-you for this information.
Reply
nathaniell Premium
I used to have a cool fancy social widget that followed you as you scrolled down until I found out that on some screen sizes it completely blocked the content! Screen sizes and browsers really do matter sometimes.
Reply
TravelHacker Premium
Thank you for this new tip!

I do wonder though... We've been trained to place email opt ins (and banners) above the fold for best results... Obviously, I don't want google's new ranking system to negatively affect my site, but at the same time, won't this negatively impact the number of new readers and click throughs?

What is the appropriate balance here?
Reply
magistudios Premium
Hi Stephanie,

Great point.
If you only have one banner which redirects to an internal page on your own site, that is fine.

I personally never have been a fan of banners ads as I find they are distracting to the user.

I am also not sure about the email opt-in as I mentioned - this is my own assumption.
Reply
TravelHacker Premium
I'm thinking a WA banner :) So in this case, I guess I should have it below the fold for now...
Thank you!
Reply
ThomasPaul Premium
Given all of the different screen sizes and monitor resolutions, what size is google using when calculating the area"above the fold"?
Reply
magistudios Premium
Great question Thomas,

I don't know what Google considers the average, but you can go into your Google analytics to see what your current traffic's average screen resolution is.

This is located in Audience > Technology > Browser & OS > Screen Resolution (located just under the graph)
Reply
AdamsOnLine Premium
Google now says that the site you have a link for above is going to be closed in 2012. I guess they are a little late because the site is still up. However, now they have a new tool. Go to Google Analytics >Behavior>In-Page Analytics for this new gadget.

Ed
Reply
magistudios Premium
Thanks Ed,

I noticed that this was available in GA, but chose to show that one because people tend to have difficulty navigating around GA.
Reply
welshy Premium
Whenever I use (play around) with browser size the details don't seems correct because if the site is responsive what a visitor can actually see is different.
Reply
crazymonk86 Premium
what if the banner links to another site and is not an affiliate link is it still bad
Reply
magistudios Premium
If the ad takes the traffic away from your site and it is above the scroll line then I would consider removing it.
Reply
crazymonk86 Premium
Thanks
I have to rethink the plan for allot of pages Thanks for answering what i now think was a silly question
Reply
magistudios Premium
I was a perfectly legitimate question! No such thing as a silly question.. :)
Reply
part290861 Premium
Thanks for the info
Reply
mackiejw Premium
And that brings up another issue I have not figured out yet. How to install the snippet for : the web tracking code. Any ideas with that?
Reply
mackiejw Premium
I just visited the site and google says it goes away with a link to some google info. Reading that it's just opposite of what Jay says here. Or am I reading that wrong?
John
Reply
Inspiration1 Premium
What is the site URL where you read about this information?
Reply
mackiejw Premium
It shows in the top left (very little) where Google says this site will go away and then it leads to:

http://analytics.blogspot.com/2012/06/new-feature-conduct-browser-size.html

John
Reply
nomda ploom Premium
this is gold dust. And this above the fold gold dust is basically just good manners in my book. Who goes to a social gathering and before social introductions says "buy my stuff"?: Rude. I never thought that Google would introduce an algorithm for Good Manners. Doh!
Reply
magistudios Premium
LOL

I actually think that Google is run by the Queen of England and Martha Stewart!
Reply
VictoriaR Premium
How do you tell if your site is affected? The right side of my site is 90%. What does that mean?
Reply
Neil Little Premium
Do you have any Adverts there?
Or is there just a blank space?
My sidebar is always on my right side, so on my websites that came out as 90% as well and isn't something I am going to worry about.
As Jay said if you have adverts ie: Adsense above the fold then it is advisable to move this to the bottom.
Reply
VictoriaR Premium
Oh, OK. Mine sites are like yours-all the ads are on the right hand side and I always put my adsense ads at the bottom...Good to know I don't have to worry about that. Thanks!
Reply
BlueDot Premium
Hey Jay - is this for every page or just the landing page - i.e. Home. My inner pages have image links to the right of the content area, so just not sure if I should move them down further or just take out the links and have a call to action button at the bottom of the page - thanks - Colin
Reply
magistudios Premium
Hi Colin,

This would be for all pages.
If your images link to a different website, then I would consider moving them down or removing the URL the images are linking to.

Focus on your call to action button at the bottom as this gives your traffic a chance to read all of your content.
Reply
VictoriaR Premium
I have 4 ads down the right hand side-should I take some out?
Reply
magistudios Premium
Hi Victoria,

Essentially if you can see the ads in your browser before you scroll down, then I would consider:

* removing them
* move them down to a different widget position
* reduce the amount of ads you have

When making your choice, factor in if any of those ads have made you any money?
Reply
Colm Premium
Thanks Jay, great tip.

My site has two affiliate banners on the right hand side in small widgets. One of them is in the 80% / 90% range. The other, just below, has just the top of it in the 70% range.

Can I take it that this is impacting me then? Do the ad's need to be below the 0% mark on the browser size in the tool?
Reply
magistudios Premium
Hi Colm,

I think the rule of thumb is that if YOU can see above the fold in your browser, then it should be moved.
Reply
yourbrother Premium
Hi , thanks for the informations.
Reply
Super Al Premium
Time to tweak! Thanks Jay.
Reply
Shawn123 Premium
They make it harder and harder.
Reply
steveo5770 Premium
Guilty! Time to move a banner. Thanks for the heads up!
Reply
Trialynn Premium
Thanks for the tool!
Reply
Jaweda2k Premium
Good tip, need to adjust my one site. Thank you!
Reply
Imagery Premium
What a great tip to know. thanks
Reply