Google's Matt Cutts announced on Twitter that the search engine launched a data refresh for its "page layout" algorithm last week.
If you'll recall, this is the Google update that specifically looks at how much content a page has "above the fold". The idea is that you don't want your site's content to be pushed down or dwarfed by ads and other non-content material.
You want it to be simple for users to find your content without having to scroll.
SEO folks: we recently launched a refresh of this algorithm: http://t.co/KKSXm8FqZW Visible to outside world on ~Feb. 6th.
— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) February 10, 2014
Cutts first announced the update in January, 2012. He said this at the time:
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.
The initial update only affected less than 1% of searches globally, Google said. It's unclear how far-reaching this data refresh is. Either way, if you've suddenly lost Google traffic, you may want to check out your site's design.
Unlike some of its other updates, this one shouldn't be too hard to recover from if you were hit.
You should check out Google's browser size tool, which lets you get an idea of how much of your page different users are seeing.
Image via Google