Google has released an algorithm update today designed to penalise websites that have too many ads above the fold (in the visible area of the page). This is a great move by Google because nobody wants to see pages full of ads.
The problem is that Google is being very hypocritical here because over the years the amount of ads on the search results pages have been getting bigger and bigger. When you take into account YouTube and Google Places the space for organic search results (the only real content that Google offers) is getting much smaller.
As suggested in Googles blog post I went to their Browser Size tool to see how much of the Google search results were above the fold but surprise surprise the tool doesn’t work with Googles own websites so I had to load the pages via a proxy.
The screenshot below (click for larger version) shows the search results for “credit cards” in the UK and you can see how only 30% of users will ever see the top organic result without scrolling and only 20% see the top two organic results without scrolling.
Contrast this to the fact that 98% of people see the ad for Googles own credit card comparison engine and around 70% of users can see a total of 8 Google PPC ads.