A very significant change to the Google organic search ranking algorithm was announced a few days back. Matt Cutts of Google blogged:
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, that’s not a very good user experience. Such sites may not rank as highly going forward.
It has long been assumed (known) that different areas of Webpages weigh differently in regards to ranking algorithms. We have known that a hyperlink, for example, in the footer area probably won’t be as influential as the same link in the body of text. That Google is making Webmasters aware of the relevance of placement of text or other content on a Page is well worth noting.
The trend for Websites, including WordPress Websites, has been to include images, videos or sliders above the fold (i.e. before viewers need to scroll down the Page). Images or video are a great way to grab visitors attention rather than the person being confronted with masses of text. The announcement by Matt Cutts will mean that many Website designers will rethink having images or video above the fold.
The Importance of Pagespeed for SEO
For awhile Google has been emphasizing the need for improvements in Webpage load speed. Images and video are particularly inefficient and slow down the Web. There is plenty of evidence of the positive effects of faster Page load speeds such as noted by Google Think Quarterly therefore it is no real surprise that Google continues it’s relentless persuit of speeding up the Web:
When Edmunds, a leading car review destination, re-engineered its insideline.com site to reduce load times from nine seconds to 1.4 seconds, ad revenue increased three percent, and page views-per-session went up 17 percent. When Shopzilla dropped latency from seven seconds to two, revenue went up seven-12 percent and page views jumped 25 percent. (By the way, they reduced their hardware costs by 50 percent.) When you speed up service, people become more engaged – and when people become more engaged, they click and buy more.
Google make hundreds of changes to their ranking algorithm each year. We don’t know how much weight the positioning of text on a Page will hold. I do think that we’ll start to see more text above the fold and will start to see images and video move below the fold.
HTML5 and WordPress Web Design
HTML5 and CSS3 allow for many possibilities that could only be achieved with images in the past so it will certainly be beneficial for WordPress Theme designers to use HTML5/CSS3 instead of images wherever possible (HTML and CSS can be easily understood by Search bots and are quick to load in comparison with image).
There are some great HTML5 and CSS3 based Themes being released and these sort of changes by Google will create an even greater sense of urgency in using the newer and faster scripts.