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John Mueller was asked in an Search Engine Optimization Office hours hangout, whether Google gives prominence to the content located above the fold on its search pages.
Mueller defined the amount of content expects Google to see at the top of the page. The term “above the fold” refers to the content visible without scrolling on a web page.
The phrase is derived from how news boxes were used to display newspapers. The top part of the newspaper, above the fold, would be visible.
The content above the fold is the part of the page that can be viewed without scrolling down.
Someone informed John Mueller
That a competitor moved his content and links above the fold.
When the site was updated in that manner, they observed a “massive” improvement in rankings.
Does Google prioritize content above the fold more than beneath the fold?
The user experience is improved when more content is above the fold.
Google’s AI and Natural Language Processing:
It’s a fair question to ask if there is any ranking benefit. It is important to note that Google was previously known to prioritize content near the top of the web page.
There are numerous patents, research papers, and statements that proved that keywords and headings near the top of the page were algorithmically considered to be more important than content toward the end of the page.
It made sense to give a little more prominence to content that was nearer the top of the page since most well-written articles state their topic in the first paragraph and most product pages state it at the top of the page.
However, that was before Google began using artificial intelligence and natural language processing to understand the content.
Google now ranks pages for content that is near the top, middle, and bottom of the page because it understands the content more effectively.
In response to whether or not Google had a preference for ‘above the fold’ content Google John Mueller said: So the main thing is that we want to see some content above the fold.
Which means… a part of your page should be visible when a user goes there.
So for example if a user goes to your website and they just see a big holiday photo and they have to scroll down a little bit to actually get content about a hotel, then that would be problematic for us.
But if they go to your home page and they see a hall of fame photo on top and also a little bit of information about the hotel, for example for a hotel site, that would be fine.
So it’s not purely that the content optimization has to be above the fold. But… some of the content has to be.”
Following the Google Hummingbird update, Google began making a move away from using keywords in title and headings to try to guess what content was about using the right important words.
Google can now rely on natural language processing to understand the topic of the page and how it might relate to a search query even if the keywords aren’t present in the query.