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Google’s “Top Heavy” Algorithm Gets New Update

The “Top Heavy” algorithm that Google uses to determine whether or not a site is displaying too many ads ‘above the fold’ or not has been confirmed to have had an update recently.  Google’s head of search engine spam, Matt Cutts, sent out a tweet that said, “SEO folks: we recently launched a refresh of this algorithm: visible to the outside world on ~ Feb. 6th

The link goes to the Google site concerning the top heavy algorithm.  Unlike changes to Panda, Penguin or Hummingbird, the Top Heavy algorithm doesn’t seem to get too much attention from SEO experts or marketers.  This is, however, a good time to review your site layout to ensure you’re not falling victim to this update.

In an attempt to encourage customer focused web design practices, Google first put this algorithm into place early in 2012.  Sites that had very little content that was visible when the page loaded were penalized.  Google said that users shouldn’t have to scroll down to see any actual content, which was a practice used by a small number of digital marketers.

Overall this change doesn’t seem to have affected too many users, but if you’ve noticed any drops in your page rankings, this may be a good place to start your investigation.  Adjusting the placement of advertisements is a great way to try to improve your click through rate, so some marketers may have inadvertently filled up the top half of their page with ads.

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Michael Levanduski

Michael Levanduski is the assistant editor of Performance Marketing Insider, and an experienced freelance writer. He writes content for a wide range of sites in virtually every niche, though he specializes in technical writing as well as creating content for the performance and internet marketing industry. Michael was born in Grand Rapids, MI where he still lives with his wife and three children.

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  1. I don’t think it’s so cut and dry for them to say this site is good this site is bad. Put ads here, not there…etc.

    The algorithm probably looks at ads in relation to a lot of other metrics and info about the page/site.

    With that said, I too have wondered if they think images with links to pages on your own site are bad. I doubt it and don’t think it’s an issue… at least not for this update.

  2. Would be curious to know if has been penalized due to this. I count 9 (nine!) ads above the fold…

    1. Nope! PMI provides valuable content, much of which is above the fold. Plus, there are really only 2-3 ad areas above the fold on most pages. Just because the one ad box has 6 small boxes in it doesn’t mean it is taking up too much space.

      This is certainly something all website owners need to keep in mind though. Thanks!


  3. Hi,

    i think i have been penalized, i lost visitors very fast. Can some give me advise about it how to change the layout ?

    Please ?

    1. It is quite complex, and will depend on a lot of factors on your site.

      I’d recommend having a few friends or family browse to your site and let you know what they think. Are they being bombarded with ads? If so, adjust the placement and maybe remove some.

      Google wants a good user experience, so that is what you should focus on!


  4. Good piece of information. I had not yet penalized by the Google updates but it is very bad when someone loses its visitors from their site.

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