Perceived ranking changes have no cause-and-effect relationship, Google explains Mueller: Algorithms are more complicated than page owners realize

author image Written by: Wade Morris           Categories - In The News, SEO

During a Google Office Hours Hangout, viewers can expect to receive answers to their SEO questions. The livestream series, hosted by Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller, allows users to ask questions about web pages, SEO, search algorithms, and much more, directly to those who know the answers.

Some of the topics on recent episodes show a trend: users believe there is a strong ‘cause-and-effect’ relationship between the actions they perform on their web page and the result. Mueller, however, explained that, in most cases, it’s more complicated than that.

One of the topics addressed was content that is ‘above the fold’ – in other words, content that appears immediately upon clicking on a web page’s URL, rather than content you have to scroll to access. Last week, a viewer asked Mueller if Google prioritizes content that is above the fold.

“The main thing is that we want to see some content above the fold,” Mueller answered on the livestream. “A part of your page should be visible when a user goes there.”

The viewer who asked that question returned this week, saying that they updated their site with more content above the fold, and alleged that their rankings suffered.

Another viewer asked if the Google Ads campaign they launched was responsible for what they believed was a drop in rankings.

Mueller answered both of these questions similarly: there’s no major causal relationship between the page owners’ actions and the result.

“I think if you make that kind of design change on your website, where suddenly the content moves up or suddenly the content moves down, you would generally see that as a fairly soft change,” Mueller told the user who moved content above the fold. “I don’t think you would be able to tie back to that change.”

Ultimately, it appears that search rankings are mildly sensitive to site changes, but there is no strong causal relationship between one of these changes and the aftermath.

You can watch Mueller’s explanations here.

Wade Morris

Wade brings an energetic approach to writing – he is always on the hunt for stories and angles that matter. With years of experience in journalism and marketing environments, Wade has written about everything from politics to education. Now, he writes about SEO and digital marketing trends.

Mueller: Web Pages Should Have “Some Content” Above the Fold


Content creators may wonder whether Google views content ‘above the fold’ on websites as more important for its search results. Fortunately, Google’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller provided clarification during a recent livestream.

During an episode ‘SEO Office Hours,’ Mueller’s Google Hangout series, a viewer asked Mueller if Google paid more attention to content above the fold. The viewer shared that they were aware of a website that moved their content from below the fold to above, and found that they SERP rankings improved instantly.

‘Above the fold’ refers to what is visible instantly upon clicking on a webpage – in other words, the top of the page. Anything on the page that requires the user to scroll to view is ‘below the fold.’

Search Engine Journal explains that, previously, Google would prioritize content above the fold on webpages when analyzing them for SERPs. Google has since switched to AI and natural language processing to analyze the entire page – not just what is above the fold.

So, does Google really prioritize content that is above the fold?

Not entirely, Mueller explains:

“The main thing is that we want to see some content above the fold,” Mueller said on the livestream. “A part of your page should be visible when a user goes there.”

Mueller provided an example of a page that wouldn’t be received well by Google.

“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,” he said. “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.”

Mueller’s ultimate answer?

“It’s not purely that the content has to be above the fold. But… some of the content has to be.”

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