Mueller Explains How Lead Gen Forms Affect SEO
SEO content writing strategies help websites rank well in the search results. An important part of any SEO content strategy is planning where to place a call to action or advertisement on the page. Many site owners and publishers think that if they put ads above the main content, their rankings will be negatively affected.
Google’s John Mueller discussed the matter in a Google Webmaster Office Hours Hangout. Although he admitted that placing an ad or a call to action at the top of the page or above the main content could cause a negative ranking effect, there are some scenarios where it would not do any harm.
Google Page Layout Algorithm
In 2012, Google released an algorithm that added a negative ranking factor to websites that place excessive advertisements at the top of each page. These ads made it difficult for the readers to see the main content.
Google stated that websites without much content “above the fold” might notice adverse effects. For instance, if a user visits a website, and the first thing they see are big advertisements at the top of the page – or if there is no visible content at all – they might not rank as highly as their competitors.
But in a post on Google Search Central, the search engine company said it understands why certain websites have to place ads above the fold. Such ads perform well and allow site owners to monetise online content. Because of this, Google said the algorithmic update would only affect websites that place ads above the fold to an excessive degree.
They also added that the new algorithm would noticeably affect less than 1 per cent of searches globally. This means that in less than one in 100 searches, a user might notice the reordering of links in the search results.
Google said that they launched this algorithm update because they received many complaints from users, with many finding it difficult to find the content they need amidst all the ads. Users want to see the content right away instead of scrolling down past the advertisements, interstitials, and other obstructive page elements.
Mueller recently commented about the Page Layout Algorithm in 2020. He said that the number of ads on a web page does not matter. What matters is that the users can find the content they are looking for and that their expectations match what the search results promised them.
Similarly, the Google Search Quality Raters Guidelines state that they expect secondary content (SC) and ads to be visible. However, SC, ads, and interstitial pages could make it difficult for users to see the main content (MC). Websites with such elements and features that may interrupt or distract someone from accessing the MC will receive a low rating from Google.
Pages With Lead Generation Forms At Top Of Page
A person asked Mueller about a page that displayed a prominent lead generation form above their SEO content. They said a site visitor needs to scroll down past the lead generation form before reading the main content.
This scenario opposes Google’s guidelines because the lead gen form is placed above the fold – the first thing users will see when they visit the page. Moreover, they have to scroll past that page element before they can access the content.
The term “fold” originally refers to newspapers and how people used to fold them then display them in a way where people can only see the headlines and content.
The person asked Mueller if this lead generation form would negatively affect the site ranking since the main content is not placed above the fold.
Do Prominent Lead Generation Forms Trigger Negative Rankings?
Mueller offered a vague answer but explained under what conditions a lead gen form could become a negative ranking signal. He admitted that he is not certain, but he guesses it probably wouldn’t have a noticeable effect.
Mueller said that Google’s algorithms look at the page elements like ads above the fold that push the main content below the fold. He added that Google could potentially think that a lead gen form would link an ad, but this is not always the case.
Moreover, it also depends on what the page is trying to rank for. For instance, suppose the lead gen form is about “sign up for car insurance”, and the page is trying to target the key phrase “get car insurance”. In this case, the lead gen form would match the page’s main topic perfectly.
On the other hand, if the page’s intent is to provide information about a different topic, then a lead gen form about car insurance would be completely unrelated. This will likely give the impression of an advertisement.
Mueller made it clear that the web page’s intent is just one of the many factors determining whether a lead gen form would cause a negative ranking effect. This means Google can recognise whether a lead gen form is a valuable part of the content or not.
Updating Page Layout
Google Search Central says that if site owners and publishers update their page layout, their algorithm will automatically reflect the changes once the search engine re-crawls and processes enough web pages from the site. The time it takes to complete will depend on various factors, such as the number of pages on the website and how efficiently Google crawls the site. For example, it could take several weeks for Google to crawl and process enough web pages to reflect a site’s layout changes.
In the end, Google advises publishers to focus on providing the best user experience on their website instead of focusing too much on specific algorithm tweaks.
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