Too Many Ads Above The Fold Are Bad, Says Google

Martin Brinkmann
Jan 20, 2012
Updated • Dec 10, 2012
Google, Search

Advertisements are what keeps many of the sites going on the Internet, including the site you are currently reading. As a user, I do understand that too many ads, or ads in the wrong position, or ads that are highly distracting, reduce the user experience. While I rarely stumble upon sites anymore that have their pages plastered with ads so that it becomes difficulty to find the regular content, I have to say that I welcome the change that Google just announced.

The company basically stated that an algorithmic change was launched that analyzes the ad to content ratio above the fold. Sites that do not have much content above the fold can be affected by this change, according to Google. What does affected mean exactly? They are pushed down in the search results in favor of sites that have a better user experience.

Sites that display ads to a normal degree are not affected by the change.

I personally have two issues with the announcement.


Google did not provide information about the parameters that they look at. What's missing?

  • The definition of what the company considers to be an ad
  • What Google considers to be a normal ad ratio above the fold
  • The screen resolutions they use to calculate that ad to content ratio
  • If popup ads or interstitial ads are also considered by the change

This leaves webmasters again with the nagging feeling that they may be affected by the change, even though they are likely not.

Not everyone is equal

The second aspect weights more heavily in my eyes. Take a look at the following screenshot and let me know if you would consider this a bad ad to content ratio on the page.

google search ads

Please note that this screenshot shows a 1000 to 800 resolution, and that your experience may differ depending on a number of factors.

And now read Matt Cutts' announcement again:

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

Is Matt saying that Google Search is not offering a good user experience? I think he does. Lets discuss in the comments.


Tutorials & Tips

Previous Post: «
Next Post: «


  1. aditya menon said on August 1, 2012 at 8:17 am

    EXCELLENTLY played, Martin.

  2. Ross Presser said on January 21, 2012 at 12:27 am

    I don’t think “get credit card” is a fair search for the ads-above-the-fold test. If you type those three words into a search engine, it is reasonable to assume you actually want to get a credit card, and that ads would be welcome to you. But if you type “cocker spaniel diet” or “error 4027” into a search engine and get a similar ad ratio then things are seriously wrong.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 21, 2012 at 12:29 am

      You do get the same results for a lot of related queries, HD Monitor, Credit Card, Car Insurance and so on.

  3. Jim said on January 20, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    This is why I switched to DuckDuckGo. (Yeah, I know the engine is really Bing.) At least the results I want to see are at or very near the top of the page. I don’t have to scroll down to get past the ads.

    As for Google, it’s definitely a case of the pot calling the kettle black, but in this case the pot is going penalize the kettle.

    1. Berttie said on January 20, 2012 at 11:17 pm

      @ Jim

      I recently switched to which uses Google, following a recommendation in a comment here (sorry don’t remember who, but many thanks to him/her :). A much more pleasant experience than Google, without the privacy issues

      1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 20, 2012 at 11:40 pm

        Berttie, why are not you using directly?

  4. Robert Palmar said on January 20, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Google does not consider itself a website in the common sense of the term.
    It considers itself unique and an island unto itself and exempt from
    from the constraints and definitions even Google imposes.

    By its current announcement, Google Search is not
    offering a good user experience according its new rules
    but of course since Google is not a “website” like others
    in its own eyes it exempts itself from those Google rules.

  5. kalmly said on January 20, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    Whatever Google does, you can be sure it will benefit Google.

  6. BobbyPhoenix said on January 20, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    I would like to add AdBlock+ has added the option now to allow “acceptable ads”. This will hopefully turn the bad ads from bad to good. At least in some cases where they are just plain annoying and unacceptable.

  7. charliechan said on January 20, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    With Adblock Plus and Ghostery addons to firefox, I rarely see any ads.

    I do agree with you Martin, what Matt is saying is true for the Google search page.

  8. BobbyPhoenix said on January 20, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    I use this site daily for work: Try it without an adblocker, and then with. It does not matter what resolution you have as without the adblocker half the content you see are ads. Not just static or text ads, but moving, flashing ads. They are very distracting. Those are the ones I can’t stand, and thus, an adblock is needed. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind ads at all. As long as they are out of the way, and don’t have any movement or sound. I even click on some that are just “there” as I appreciate those. The ones that are at the very top, very bottom, or on the sides of articles. To those I say good job. It’s sad though that most are not like that. Most are in between articles, blinking, playing sounds, or just flashing colors.

  9. Swapnil said on January 20, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    “Advertisements are what keeps many of the sites going on the Internet, including the site you are currently reading.”

    Sorry man but I have an ad-blocker extension installed here in Opera.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 20, 2012 at 1:59 pm

      This does not change the fact.

  10. Andysnat said on January 20, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    The answer is “ADBlock+”.

    This add-on makes teh Internetz a happier place, and without it, it would be insufferable.

    There is another “Too” error Martin, sorry for being pedantic.

  11. Andysnat said on January 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    Also –

    Could somebody tell me where “the fold” is?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 20, 2012 at 12:27 pm

      Above the fold is everything that you see on the screen without scrolling. The problem here is that this depends on a number of factors, including screen resolution.

  12. Andysnat said on January 20, 2012 at 11:59 am


  13. MartinJB said on January 20, 2012 at 11:50 am

    Too < To

    I agree with "Is Matt saying that Google Search is not offering a good user experience? I think he does."

    But then again with NoScript, AdBlock Plus (turned off on this site) and Outpost Firewal PRo I only see the [AD]

    Blocking Ads then means a cut in revenue for the site?

    Keep up the hard work and thank you

  14. Chris Grocker said on January 20, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Leave Google alone :'(

Leave a Reply

Check the box to consent to your data being stored in line with the guidelines set out in our privacy policy

We love comments and welcome thoughtful and civilized discussion. Rudeness and personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please stay on-topic.
Please note that your comment may not appear immediately after you post it.