When you’re trying to make money online using search traffic, it pays to pay (literally) attention to what the search engines require. In Google’s case, it’s time that I point out the page layout algorithm. Whether you choose to follow Google’s advice or not is completely up to you, but I’m going to explain what they’re looking for.
What exactly is “Above the Fold”?
The phrase itself hearkens to the days when newspapers were the number one medium for information delivery. At the newsstand and in the vending machines, the newspaper is folded in half, with the top half being displayed. This is where the masthead and the top headline is displayed.
Web pages are treated in roughly the same manner, except that the fold is the bottom of the screen and unfolding is the process of paging down with a keyboard or clicking on a vertical scroll bar. The first question you should try to get answered is where that fold is supposed to be in relation to screen resolution.
It’s hard to pin down exactly where the fold is supposed to be but theoretically, it should be the bottom of the screen at the most widely used screen resolution. Until recently, 1024×768 was the most widely used, but it’s been changing to higher resolutions since the sales of LCD monitors have mostly replaced the old CRT monitors. Yes, the CRT monitors are still being sold in some places and hopefully, they won’t be any left to sell by the end of the decade.
The most popular screen resolution I’m seeing, courtesy of Google Analytics, is 1366×768. I thought, for a moment, that I was skewing that number until I remembered that the code doesn’t run for logged in users. The popularity is most likely driven by the influx of affordable LCD monitors using that resolution as the default resolution. I have this website optimized for the 1024×768 resolution for two reasons: It’s the second most popular screen resolution and it looks really good on the iPad and similar high-end devices. My website theme looks good in both landscape and profile modes.
Content Above the Fold
When you’re designing your website, or using a canned theme of some kind, you need to strike a compromise between visual aesthetics and textual content. Everyone seems to like larger than necessary website titles (a.k.a. mastheads) displayed, but this works against the principle of getting as much textual content above the fold as possible. Embedded images and videos may look nice, but they too work against this principle.
Google provides a handy tool to show you what the majority of your website visitors can see above the fold. You need to adjust your web browser size (and there are browser add-ons that can do this pretty easily) or screen resolution (or both) to common sizes while you’re testing. The tool, Browser Size loads your pages just like any other web browser. I don’t think the tool is really necessary if you exercise a little common sense.
Setting up your Content to be Above the Fold
It’s pretty simple, really. Fire up Google Chrome and make sure the browser is set to the 1024×768 resolution and see how much text is above the fold. The key factor is that 80 percent of your visitors should be able to see at least one large paragraph of text. If you have advertising sections blocking the text is that area of the screen, you need to move it down. If you keep your advertising blocks reasonable, they’ll blend with the content and won’t be annoying.
If you have a large masthead, you should be thinking about how to shrink it vertically. Width isn’t the problem when it comes to being above the fold, but you should still think about the length. Your visitors should still be able to see your website title and tag line, if you have a tag line.
I know that Google’s AdSense division recommends a huge banner within the content, but it actually detracts from the user experience. I’m considering an adjustment to move mine from that particular spot and place it it the sidebar, which may or may not hurt my click-through-rate. What the heck, I need to think of my visitors as well as making money online, and making money online isn’t the priority it used to be.