In a Google Webmaster Office Business Hours Hangout, Google’s John Mueller was asked if a call to action placed at the top of the page and above the main content would have a negative impact on ranking. John identified two scenarios that would and would not cause a negative impact on the ranking.
Google page layout algorithm
Google released an algorithm in 2012 that added a negative ranking factor to sites with excessive ads at the top of the page that made it difficult for users to see the main content.
The text of the original 2012 ad read:
“…sites that don’t have a lot of content ‘above the fold’ could be affected by this change.
If you click on a website and the part of the site that you see first either doesn’t have a lot of content visible above the fold or devotes a large portion of the site’s initial screen real estate to ads… such sites may not rank as far ahead forward.”
John Mueller recently commented on the page layout algorithm in 2020, saying:
“It’s not generally about the number of ads, it’s more about the ability for users to find the content they’re looking for (what’s ‘promised’ in search) when they visit a page.”
On a similar note, the Google Search Quality Manufacturers Guidelines, a handbook to standardize the judgment of search quality raters who test search results from new algorithms, states:
We expect ads and SC to be visible. However, some ads, SC or interstitial pages (i.e. pages shown before or after the content you expect) make it difficult to use the MC. Pages with ads, SC or other distracting features should be given Be careful not to use the MC or hinder it with a low rating.”
Pages with lead generation forms at the top of the page
The person asking the question was concerned about a webpage that had a prominent lead generation form at the top of the webpage.
On the example page you view, the site visitor has to scroll down past the lead generation form to get to the main content.
Screenshot of a web page with the Lead Gen form at the top of the page
This is a situation where the main content is said to be below the fold, which means one has to scroll down to see it.
“Folding” is a reference to newspapers and how they were folded and then presented in such a way that only the titles and contentabove the foldIt was viewable.
the person asked:
“I think you’ve talked about this before recently… that… main content should be… above the fold.
Will this potential generation affect your SEO in any way because… at the top here… is a major public form where people can compare phone system prices.
Will this affect your search engine optimization? “
Do outstanding lead generation models lead to negative ratings?
Google’s John Mueller provided a yes/no/maybe answer that explains under what circumstances a lead generation (lead gen) model might become a negative rating signal.
John Mueller replied:
“I don’t know… maybe my guess isn’t so remarkable.
The effect it might have is that our algorithms are actually looking for things like ads above the fold that… push the main content above the fold. And it is possible to think that such a lead form will be some kind of advertising link.
But I don’t think … it will always be like that.
It also kind of depends on what this page is trying to rank for.
If the page is basically trying to rank like… “get car insurance” and the form is about… “sign up for car insurance”.. then that’s kind of what the page is for.
But if the purpose of the page is “Learn more about why oranges grow” and then you have a car insurance form at the top, that sounds more like an advertisement.
Web page intent affects page layout algorithm
Mueller stated that the webpage was intended to take into account whether a lead generation form would result in a negative ranking effect. This is a somewhat unusual answer because it means that Google is able to recognize when the main layout is a useful piece of content and when that form is not.
The lead generation form above
Watch John Mueller answer the question at 11:10