There has been a great deal written and talked about regarding the importance of quality content and ranking well with the search engines, particularly in the era of Semantic search thanks to Hummingbird. Less has been said, however, about the structure and placement of the content on a page. Where the information appears and how it is organized on a web page changes the value placed on the content.
If you look at a typical web page layout, you’ll usually find a header, footer, main body text and sidebars. Is the content in each of these areas equally important to the users? Do Google and the other search engines give it the same weight? You see where this is going….not all content carries the same weight. Microsoft and Google in particular have spent a great deal of time trying to figure out how to determine the most important part of the page and hold several patents on the subject.
Current thinking places a higher value on the main body text of a web page. This holds the information we have come to the site looking for in the greatest detail so it is natural to give information in this area greater weight in determining the relevance of a page as it relates to a search query. Consequently, content placed in a sidebar, header or footer then has less relevance.
Cyrus Shepard talks about page segmentation in his recent post to Moz.com. He included this nice graphic to illustrate the point.
In a mobile environment, page segmentation takes on an even greater importance. Mobile webpages often hide portions of a desktop page limiting what information can be presented making the visible areas in both platforms more important.
So what does this mean for SEO? If you want your site to rank well, pay attention to where you are placing the most important and topic specific information on the page. Consider both desktop and mobile configurations and make sure the key information is visible to the users on both. Knowing what is happening with the changes to Google and other search engines will help you stay on top of your SEO efforts.