Excessive “above the fold” advertising on blogs and websites?

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There has been much talk about “advertising above the fold” on Twitter recently with the news that Google “may” penalise sites that carry too much advertising above the fold.  As a subject, it was not something that I had paid too much attention to, nor thought about the long term implications for bloggers and websites.

Google announced (opens in new window) the new algorithm changes in January this year as a means of enhancing user experience, and to penalise those sites who have advertising above the fold to an excessive degree.

In the past, the term would have referred to a physical newspaper and included what was visible on the newspaper at the top on the front page.   It literally meant what it said and referred to the prime spot above the fold of a newspaper which was intended to catch the eye of a potential shopper.

Above the fold has now been adopted by those who design websites.  What we can guess from this is that it refers to the part of the website that you see before you use scroll bars at the side of a website to move content further down the page.

The fuzzy area centres around the different computers and devices we use to view the Internet on, which have different sized viewing screens.  In general we have to presume it means “above the scroll” instead of “above the fold”.

The questions I would like to see answered to help with this would be:

1 – What point on the website is classed as the “fold”?
2 – What exactly is classed as an advert?  Is it a banner, sponsored post, link, box advert?
3 – How much advertising is too much?
4 – How are the penalities going to be enforced?
5 – How do they know where your adverts are without manually visiting your site?

Traditionally, we have been encouraged to place our most important information at the top of the website, in the visible portion.   Going by the vague new guidelines, we may actually be penalised for doing that.   How does it work if we are a business and the advert is simply the result of us placing our products on show for customers to buy?  How on earth would that affect the huge Internet companies out there?  Would it be possible that Google could be angling to reduce the priority of their major competitors?

It is very clever marketing for Google, and throwing web developers into a panic across the globe.    I am not convinced that they could really police this, but it suggests to me that all advertising on the front page of a website, whether above the fold or not could be the focus.

Confused, I am, are you?

It does make me wonder about the sensibility of placing images above words on our pages and  posts, as the images will be pushing the recognised content further down the page than Google would like.

I have taken it to mean the kind of websites that are almost all adverts and with little to no generated or useful content, but I don’t know that for certain.   Nobody knows that for certain unless they work for Google in the algorithm. department.

Check your own website out on Google Labs browser size tool.



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