At PubCon Las Vegas back in early November, Google’s Matt Cutts warned “If you have ads obscuring your content, you might want to think about it…Do they [visitors to your site] see content or something else that’s distracting or annoying?” Many in the SEO industry had already assumed that ad heavy sites were being targeted by Panda, but this confirmed their suspicions. After Cutts’ announcement, many SEO and PPC professionals commented that this advice was a stark contrast to Google AdSense’s advice of “ads located above the fold tend to perform better than those below the fold.” So what is a lowly site owner to do?
In my opinion, if Google says that sites with too many ads above the fold are likely to be penalized, you should drop/move some of those AdSense ads. While having ads above the fold may increase their overall exposure and eventual click-through-rate, what good are those ads going to do if your site is buried in the depths of the SERPs where no one can find it?
Every site owner has the right to try and monetize their site as best as they can. However, you never want to sacrifice the overall usability and user-experience of your site just to make a couple extra bucks now! That is being penny wise, pound foolish with your SEO. Think about it, what has more long term value for your business and your site? While acquiring a new customer takes a lot more effort and time than getting someone to click on an ad, the end gain is so much greater. Chances are whatever they purchase from your company is going to be worth more than a click on that ad. Plus, once they are your customer you have the opportunity to turn them into repeat customers and brand loyalists. An ad isn’t going to do that for you!
Personally, I don’t put any ads on my website because I don’t want to send my traffic away. After all the hard work you put into link building, why would you want to push your traffic off your site? Once someone is on my site I want them to stick around as long as possible so I can convince them to sign up for my SEO newsletter, fill out a lead form and potentially hire us as their SEO partners. To me, that is for more valuable for my business than getting a few extra dollars from AdSense every month.