The question on the table is, does Google prioritize content “above the fold” in search engine ranking? They certainly used to, so has the algorithm changed?
First, a quick definition of “above the fold”. It was originally a newspaper term, meaning the part of the top story that could be seen while the newspaper was still on the stand or in a box. Obviously, the most important story of the day would be above the fold. On a website, it refers to everything that can be seen on a page without scrolling. And like its paper cousin, this area should be reserved for important material.
In recent years, large “hero images” have become popular on many websites. These images often take up the entire area above the fold, requiring scrolling to get to any information about the site at all. This is clearly not the best user experience but what does Google think of these designs?
This question was put to Google’s John Mueller, who regularly fields SEO questions on Twitter and the Google Search Central YouTube channel. His reply:
This answer speaks to just how good Google has gotten at determining the meaning and purpose of a page through the use of natural language processing on the entire page. However, that includes some understanding that the content at the top is probably of greater importance.
From the perspective of a human visitor, there must also be enough information above the fold to answer the “what is this?” question. There’s nothing wrong with having a large hero image – visuals can be very powerful after all – but consider overlaying it with easily readable text that summarizes the purpose of the page. When this text can also be read by search bots (i.e. not embedded into the image), you have the best of both worlds.