If users seem to be lingering for a long time on your site, it makes your site seem to be more useful and popular than it probably really is. On the other hand, sites that really do provide useful content may have their rank negatively affected by having a higher official bounce rate than your site.
As a consequence of recognizing this, Google is rewarding sites that actually do place useful content above the fold. It does not mean that they will take aggressive action against sites that do waste space at the top of the page, but there is an advantage to getting useful information presented as early as possible on the page so that users can quickly decide if your content is relevant to their needs.
The problem with making users have to scroll past these huge carousel graphics at the top of the design, after perhaps waiting for it all to load, is that it unfairly hijacks the bounce rate analytics for your site. Those analytics are not just there to help you, they are also connected to the formula Google uses to rank pages.
A large number of new websites—perhaps even the overwhelming majority of them—have started to take on a really familiar look: there is a navigation bar at the top of the screen—usually inverse in color to the rest of the page—followed by a huge carousel of images (both in terms of physical size and the number of images it contains), often some kind of hideous Google AdSense advertisements, and then finally, if we’re lucky, there will be some actual content to read before we have to reach for the scroll wheel.
Google doesn’t like it!
What You Need To Do
While the following are basic best practices that everyone should already be doing without having to be hit with a stick by Google, the incredible majority of sites are not actually doing so, therefore it is necessary to spell out that the following things are what you should be doing when you create a new site:
- Always approach from a responsive design point-of-view
- Try to support all display types natively
- If you can’t do the above due to the nature of your content, use mobile-only columns
- When using mobile-only columns, show the users what they are missing!
- Use image carousels appropriately
- Try to put at least some relevant content above the fold
- Stop using regurgitated templates.
These may seem like small changes, and for many designers they are not going to have a major impact, but you must not overlook the fact that the clients who will eventually own the websites don’t usually understand what it’s all about. They’ll make demands of you that go against what you know, and you will have to try to educate them.