Here’s the latest message from Google: If you want to rank well in search results, don’t create barriers of graphics and ads between the top of your web page and your content.
In an effort to get searchers to what they’re looking for, Google has changed its algorithm to assess how difficult you’re making it for them to get there.
The algorithm change is in response to users’ complaints that they land on a page and can’t find what they want. Whether they’re obscured from the desired information by lots of ads, or because the page has tons of graphics you have to scroll past to get to the info doesn’t really matter.
If your graphics are obscuring useful information, you’re not going to rank well in search engine results. In other words, you won’t get found.
Regularly I’m doing research for clients to determine how they can leap frog their competition. Regularly I’m seeing pages that are totally graphics and the little information that exists is contained in a graphical image that can’t necessarily be read by search engines. More times than not these images don’t contain alt tags – the source code that tells Google what an image is about (Google doesn’t recognize images – only text.)
Part of what Google is focused on is what appears ‘above the fold’ and what appears ‘below the fold’. This language reverts to newspaper jargon. If you take the New York Times and fold it midway between top of page and bottom of page, everything in the top half is ‘above the fold’. The bottom half is ‘below the fold’. In print newspapers, the most important stories were closest to the top of the page, heralded by headlines that explained what the story was about – and why it was important to the reader.
Google takes a similar approach. It wants the info that tells what a page is about at the top. If the page is divided into more than one column, Google wants a dominant column with a keyword laden headline that establishes the informational focus of the page.
Best is to put the key concepts of the page across the top – above the fold -- and other info below the fold. The ‘below the fold’ info can be divided into columns and it’s great if you can optimize a below the fold column for a keyword.
Given Google’s new interest in page design, it’s imperative for graphic design and SEO to coordinate and collaborate. This may take some doing, but it’s evidence of how Web 2.0 is compelling us to break down marketing silos.
Image credit: Illustrationpages.com