Just last week, Danny Sullivan over at Search Engine Land reported the latest Google algorithm update which targets ad heavy websites. As Google’s official blog post announcing the page layout algorithm says, the update affects “… sites where there is only a small amount of visible content above-the-fold or relevant content is persistently pushed down by large blocks of ads. Matt Cutts warned that this update was coming back in November at PubCon.
How many ads is too many?
As a user, I appreciate Google’s attempt to take on ad heavy sites. It’s annoying to have to dig through a page of ads to find the one snippet of content I am looking for and it creates a bad user experience. On the other hand, who is Google to tell a website owner how to run their business? I don’t have AdSense ads on my site because that’s not how I earn revenue. However, a blogger might rely heavily on those ads to supplement their income. And with the AdSense guidelines saying “ads located above the fold tend to perform better than those below the fold,” why wouldn’t a site owner place ads up top?
Google says their page layout algorithm update is designed to target websites that “load the top of the page with ads to an excessive degree,” but doesn’t spell out exactly what’s excessive. In Danny Sullivan’s article, he interviewed Matt Cutts who said that Google isn’t going to provide any official tools to determine if your site was guilty of excessive ads, making it even harder for site owners to know where the line is. It’s easy to tell when a site has gone overboard, but what about the ones that are borderline?
Something very important to mention from Sullivan’s article—one ad heavy page can impact the ranking of your entire site, not just that page. If you think you might be toeing the line of “excessive” with your ads on any page of your website, it would be wise to remove a few to protect yourself from the update as much as possible. Keep in mind that if your website is whacked with a penalty, it could be weeks before that penalty is lifted and your site regains some of its old rankings. Much like the Panda updates, Google has to recrawl your site to see what (if any) errors you have corrected or if you are guilty of new ones.