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Why Ranking Above the Fold Matters (& How to Get There!)

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First, it was getting your site on page one of the SERP, then it was being among the top few results on the page, and now we're here again with a new metric for measuring ranking success. As time has gone on, how we measure effective Google rankings has evolved. We're at one of those moments in time (again) where the ranking paradigm is changing/has changed. As you'll soon see, ranking above the fold is more important than ever. It's why we created the Absolute Visibility metric that tells you just that: Are you ranking above the fold or can no one see your site despite it ranking so well? 

So then, why is ranking above the fold so important and how do you get there? The experts weigh in. 

Ranking Above the Fold - A New Concern in a New Era of Search 

How did we get here? How did we get to the point where it's not so much are you #1 on the SERP but is that position even above the fold? Well, simply, because it started to become the case that you could indeed rank #3, #2, or even #1 on the SERP, yet not be part of what a user initially sees, as crazy as that sounds.

Above the Fold Ranking Report

The all-new Above the Fold Ranking report showing a page ranked #1 on the SERP that still shows below the fold due to numerous SERP features being present 

As Google started offering bigger (literally) and better SERP features, the chances of a site being part of a user's first look at the SERP decreased exponentially. I feel like a broken record saying this, but Google has gotten far more energetic in how it uses its SERP features to target users across multiple intents. This, of course, means that getting users to see and click on your site has gotten harder. SERPs that are heavily laden with SERP features present real problems to sites. It means that Google, via its features, has become a formidable source of SERP competition. And as Google gobbles up space towards the top of the SERP, the value of what were before considered to be "solid" rankings are now subject to extreme scrutiny. In other words, the value of ranking "well" on the SERP is now subject to reinterpretation. Whereas but a few years ago a top spot ranking was an automatic win, that is no longer the case. Now, more often then you might think, remaining competitive, remaining in view (next to some seriously attractive page features), means appearing above the fold. 

There's more to it, however. That's why I've asked some of the SEO industries most notable experts to weigh in, to offer a perspective on not only why above the fold ranking is so important, but how to take action in a variety of circumstances. What follows is the perfect blend of SEO understanding and action. 

Without further adieu, here's a deep look at above the fold ranking, why it matters and what you can do to get your URL where the eye can see it:   

Above the Fold Ranking: The Why & How According to the Experts

Izzi Smith

SEO Manager: SixtUSA & SixtUK

Determining which of your queries are ranking "above the fold” allows you to better prioritize your SEO efforts as you get a clear indicator of which of your high ranking results may be getting crushed by SERP features or which lower rankings need more attention. Combine your "below-the-fold” rankings with CTR data and knowledge of whether a Search Feature is pushing you down (e.g., a Featured Snippet, Local Pack, or news features, etc.) and do what’s necessary to get your result as prominent and enhanced as possible to maximize your incoming organic traffic. Not only this, but getting yourself above the fold is also vital in being able to generate user engagement and meaningful visits that train the AI into recognizing that you deserve to remain in a high position (if not higher!). With so many SERP Features existing these days, you simply can’t rely on just average position reports to measure your ranking success. If there are other features visible that are taking away your clicks, achieving a high ranking could have been for nothing. All in all, above-the-fold ranking is an important SEO KPI you should be focusing on.

Cindy Krum
CEO & Founder: MobileMoxie 

Ranking above the fold is especially important on mobile because it is where most of the users are looking. Often, mobile searchers are just looking for a quick answer or information, so Google has started to show 'Position Zero' results that try to provide this kind of information. These are also often what Google is providing for voice search results. Remember that more than 61% of mobile searches don't result in a click. That means that most SEOs who only look at analytics rather than doing extensive mobile search testing of queries are making judgment calls about their mobile SEO based on only 49% of mobile searches. That is a recipe for a bad decision calculus. Beyond that, at MobileMoxie, we believe that there are fundamentally different algorithms and ranking factors that drive Position Zero results, compared to regular organic search results - a bit like the title of the book, 'What Got You Here, Won't Get You There!'

James Norquay

SEO Director: Propensity Media 

It is important to rank above the fold for high-volume terms, as well as for mid-tail and long tail keyword (in my eyes). If you have a high-volume term with commercial intent you will see 3 - 4 PPC listings, so you want to be in at least the top three organic results on desktop and mobile. Getting above the fold involves having a solid onsite SEO strategy, which you can refine using your own analysis of who is already ranking for a query or by using a tool. If it’s a fresh site and you are competing with authority laden sites it can take some time to get visibility depending on how competitive the term is. You can also think about local SEO and ranking in the maps pack (as it appears above the fold), which is another great strategy and can be an effective way for a fresh site to rank above the fold.

Simon Cox

SEO Consultant: Cox & Co Creative 

Getting above the fold on the SERP is where your clients need to be - we all know that the higher the better. But what if you are a small local company setting out and don't have the budgets of the multinational competitors in your space? Well, think local! Google My Business is currently a sure fire way to get small local businesses ranking above the fold for local searches. Also, getting into the Local Map Pack where your competition should be a lot easier to beat is key.

But what if your keyword is really competitive? Go for the longtail approach. Great informative content with the right longtail phrases for your market will bring in traffic. Check your analytics for conversion rates where you will find what your audience is really looking for, that makes them convert - evergreen your content with suitable longtail phrases. But you can go further - optimised images, size, names, good descriptive alt text, can get your images into image search as well and that can reap rewards as the big guns rarely consider image search important. Does it matter though? Not to everyone. Brand recognition is just as important as rankings and time should be spent building your brand as well.

Bill Widmer

Content & SEO Consultant - Bill Widmer Consulting 

It's always important to rank above the fold on Google. Something like 60% or more of all clicks go to the top three search results. That number is diminished further on searches with a lot of ads. To get above the fold, above all else, you need to match the search intent of the keyword you're targeting and create the absolute best content for that keyword. One simple way to figure that out is to simply research the top three search results in order to see what they're "about.” Then, make something better! Answer all the same questions they answer. Go beyond that to YouTube and forums to see other questions people ask about the topic you're trying to rank for. Answer those too.

Of course, in addition to answering all the questions people may have around that search term, you should format your post so it's easy to digest and make it look professional. First impressions matter - the better your page looks, the better your bounce rate and engagement rate will be. You can literally outrank someone with a better answer if yours is better formatted and nicer to look at. Of course, if you have a great page, it doesn’t hurt to have links directly to the page you're trying to rank (unless you already have a very high brand awareness & domain authority, or the keyword isn't difficult to rank for).

If you have great content that answers every question you can think of, is formatted well, and you have a few links, but you're STILL not ranking - it could just be a matter of time. Sometimes you'll rank for highly competitive keywords days after publishing. Other times it will take 3-6 months to crack page one for a low difficulty keyword. That's just how Google is; it's a long-term play and can be unpredictable. But hey - that's what makes it fun!

Valentin Pletzer

Head of SEO: BurdaForward

There is a big bias amongst Google users that the results above the fold are the best (and often they are). Therefore, being among the first results is probably the biggest traffic driver for websites and of high importance to publishing businesses who are still ad-driven (as ad clicks from the site first demand traffic to that site). What we have been seeing for quite a while now is that Google is reordering the rankings in a way that the results above the fold (on average) are the ones which fit the search intent best.

So what we try to do at BurdaForward is:

  • Be honest with ourselves! Can we really satisfy the intent with our existing content and UX? If not improve or discard.
  • Find the topics for which we can satisfy the intent and create content for it.
However, content alone won't result in you making the cut (above the fold). Technical excellence is the foundation of all pages

Joe Youngblood

Founder: Joe Youngblood SEO & Digital Marketing Consulting

If you're just starting out doing SEO or working on ranking for a new keyword then watching your site rank above the fold should be a big milestone for you to aim for. Ranking for a keyword above the fold most often signifies that you're moving in the right direction with your SEO efforts and that you are on the cusp of the more coveted top spots on the SERPs. Once your website goes from ranking on the bottom of page 1 to the section above the fold, then it should see a significant increase in traffic and conversions.

If you're not ranking above the fold and you think the keyword should bring in sales or conversions then you might also use this information to experiment with ads targeting the query or queries. Running a PPC campaign on keywords that aren't on page 1 of Google or even above the fold can help you prioritize your SEO efforts allowing you to focus on keyword rankings you know will bring in more conversions or sales.

Eric Enge

General Manager: Perficient Digital

I'm going to focus on three areas:

1. Featured Snippets (FS) change the game for ranking above the fold. If you're not spending a lot of attention on how to create content that helps you earn these, you're making a big mistake. Their very appearance above the rest of the organic search results gives you by far the best chance of getting above the fold.

How does Google's FS algorithm work? In rough terms, the algo relies on Google's traditional search algorithms to surface up 10 candidates, i.e., those results that show up on the first page of the SERPs. So your first step in earning a Featured Snippet is to create a site and a page that is good enough to get you in the top 10 of the SERPs for your target query.

The second part of the FS algo is that it then analyzes the content on each of those top 10 pages to see what it thinks provides a best fit answer to the user's query. The algo is clearly looking for a sense of the completeness of the response provided by the content. Important: in our studies at Stone Temple of approximately 1.5M queries that we run every year, we've seen that the pages that are most likely to get, and keep, FS do more than answer the user's direct question. They go broader and deeper and answer what are likely to be the user's related questions as well.

2. The World of Voice is coming. This is one of the new hot areas that has become in vogue to address. Frankly, it's still early days, but we already live in a world where 67% of the world's Internet-connected devices is something other than a PC, Smartphone, or Tablet. That means that the browser is not the primary way of providing input to that device. Voice is going to provide a whole new interaction paradigm between humans and devices.

So how/when will this happen? The fundamental threshold is when the voice input becomes fundamentally easier/more efficient than the existing options. We're not quite there yet, so this may take a few years to truly unfold - but it is coming. The investments in this technology will continue at a very high rate - Why? Because when it comes, it will represent a major disruption, and fortunes will be mad, and new market leaders will be created.

How do you win in this world? Well now, we're back to talking about FS again. If you're the provider of the best single answer to a question, then you'll have a very strong answer of being the provider of that answer in a voice-centric world.

3. What is the fold anyway? Google Discover was recently announced, and in this work Google will seek to proactively deliver the content that you want. In this world, there is no fold. The entire optimization process is then that of being seen as authoritative enough that you are selected to provide the content that Google delivers to users based on their interests.

About The Author
Mordy is the official liaison to the SEO community for Wix. Despite his numerous and far-reaching duties, Mordy still considers himself an SEO educator first and foremost. That's why you’ll find him regularly releasing all sorts of original SEO research and analysis!

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