Sunday, July 8, 2012

Google Page Layout Algorithm Update

I just happened to read an article in the New York Times about a new exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, which features both traditional African masks and masks created of cast off items by contemporary African artists.

This article raises many issues that may be of interest. First of all it indicates that the accessibility to purely traditional African masks and art is becoming more limited, and that the majority of people entering the international art market are turning to contemporary art.

This is explained because of the availability of contemporary art as compared to the traditional arts which are rapidly vanishing. Even traditional functional items which have attracted collectors in recent years are now becoming scarce when compared to readily available works by promising young contemporary artists. Thus galleries are forced to follow this trend and are overwhelmingly showing contemporary works.

This raises more related issues.

Traditional artists, like those who have carved masks for generations for their own tribal ceremonies or who are working in genres that are identifiable as "traditional" no longer have a customer base among their own people.

Thus they have turned to providing masks and other cultural items for an export or tourist market for the past few decades. So-called "cultural purists" have objected to these items which they identify as "copies", as if Africa is frozen forever in a time warp and can neither go backwards or forwards.

IF these objects are no longer used in traditional ceremonies, what are these traditional African masters (and their heirs) supposed to do? Stop the only craft or trade they have ever known because their customers are no longer their neighbors?

This "purism" among the art community in the West has taken on ridiculous forms. Certain buyers of masks for shops in Western museums or galleries want proof that the mask has been "danced", so "dances" may be conveniently arranged so that the mask passes this first test of provenance.

Google Page Layout Algorithm Update - quicker to recover from?

Google has attempted in their recent algorithm update, Google Page Layout Algorithm Update to make webmasters happier; design matters! What is now required is a decent amount of content above the "fold" area on a page. So if you have a load of adverts on the top half of your page, and viewers have to scroll down to find the content, Google may now keep you from ranking in search results compared to your competitors who went out with a more Google-approved layout.

On Tuesday, Google's Matt Cutts announced that Google has launched an update to its Google Page Layout Algorithm Update. The algorithm was initially announced back in January, and essentially aims to rank higher, sites that have relevant pages with a good amount of content "above the fold."

What does this mean?

Google wants users to get to the relevant information FAST. If you and a competitor both have equally relevant content, but your competitor has it closer to the top of the page, and the user has to scroll down on yours to find it, chances are Google will give the edge to your competitor. That is if the Page Layout algorithm is doing its job. Of course, there are still over 200 signals that Google is taking into account, so it's entirely possible that you're doing enough other things better than your competitor that your page could still rank higher. But we don't know how much weight this particular signal gets in the algorithm.

Google talked about this update, Google Page Layout Algorithm Update, last year and wants relevant, regular updated content that is easy to find. If a viewer has to scroll down past adverts to find the content, then you'll get ranked lower in SERPS.

In January 2012, the latest update was scheduled.

"As we've mentioned previously, 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," Cutts wrote. "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," he continued. "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."

Initially, according to Cutts, the Google Page Layout Algorithm Update from January affected less than 1% of searches globally. "That means that in less than one in 100 searches, a typical user might notice a reordering of results on the search page," he said at the time. "If you believe that your website has been affected by the page layout algorithm change, consider how your web pages use the area above-the-fold and whether the content on the page is obscured or otherwise hard for users to discern quickly."

The Google Page Layout Algorithm Update affected about 0.7% of English queries.

How quick can you recover IF you've been hit?

If you were hit by this Google Page Layout Algorithm Update, it should be easier to recover from than some other Google updates (like Penguin, for example). That is, in theory. This particular algorithm takes into account your pages' layout every time it crawls the page, so you don't have to wait six months for Google to launch another refresh, for Google to see any changes you've made.

Cutts explains in the original January post, "If you decide to update your page layout, the page layout algorithm will automatically reflect the changes as we re-crawl and process enough pages from your site to assess the changes. How long that takes will depend on several factors, including the number of pages on your site and how efficiently Googlebot can crawl the content. On a typical website, it can take several weeks for Googlebot to crawl and process enough pages to reflect layout changes on the site."

Even if it takes weeks, that's still a great deal shorter than the length of time webmasters and SEO companies have had to wait for the latest Penguin refresh.

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