In a Google Webmaster Office Hours Hangout, Google’s John Mueller was asked whether a call to action placed at the top of the page and above the main content would trigger a negative ranking effect. John outlined two scenarios under which it would and would not cause a negative ranking effect.
Google Page Layout Algorithm
Google released an algorithm in 2012 that added a negative ranking factor to sites that featured excessive advertising at the top of the page that made it difficult for users to see the main content.
The original announcement from 2012 stated:
“…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… Such sites may not rank as highly going forward.”
John Mueller recently commented about the Page Layout Algorithm in 2020, stating:
“It’s generally not a matter of how many ads, but more that users are able to find the content they’re looking for (what was “promised” in search) when they visit a page.”
On a similar note, Google Search Quality Raters Guidelines, a handbook for standardizing 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 displayed before or after the content you are expecting) make it difficult to use the MC. Pages with Ads, SC, or other features that distract from or interrupt the use of the MC should be given a Low rating.”
Pages with Lead Generation Forms at Top of Page
The person asking the question was concerned about a web page that featured a prominent lead generation form at the top of the web page.
On the example page that he showed, a site visitor must scroll down past the lead generation form in order to access the main content.
Screenshot of Web Page with Lead Gen Form at Top of Page
This is a situation in which the main content is said to be below the fold, which means that one must scroll down to see it.
The “fold” is a reference to newspapers and how they used to be folded then displayed in a manner such that only the headlines and content “above the fold” was viewable.
The person asked:
“I think you’ve spoken about this before recently… that… the main content should be …above the fold.
Would this lead generation form impact SEO in any way because …at the top here there’s …a lead gen form where people can compare telephone system prices.
Would that impact SEO?”
Do Prominent Lead Generation Forms Trigger Negative Rankings?
Google’s John Mueller offered a yes/no/maybe answer that explained under what conditions a lead generation (lead gen) form might become a negative ranking signal.
John Mueller answered:
“I don’t know… my guess is probably not noticeably.
What effect might come into play is that our algorithms do look for things like ads above the fold that …push the main content below the fold. And it’s possible that we would think a lead gen form like that would be kind of link an ad.
But I don’t think …it would always be the case.
It kind of also depends on what that page is trying to rank for.
If it’s essentially a page that’s trying to rank for like… “get car insurance” and the form is about …”sign up for car insurance” ..then that’s kind of the intent of the page.
But if the intent of the page is like, “find out more about why oranges grow” and then you have car insurance form on top then that seems more like an ad.”
The Intent of the Web Page Influences Page Layout Algorithm
Mueller stated that the intent of the web page factored into whether a lead generation form would cause a negative ranking effect. That’s a somewhat extraordinary answer because it means that Google is able to recognize when the lead gen form is actually a useful part of the content and when that form is not.
Lead Generation Form Above Fold
Watch John Mueller answer the question at the 11:10 Minute Mark