“Do Ads Affect Rankings?”

There seems to some confusion as to whether Ads do or do not play a significant role in Google Ranking Algorithm. During the initial release of the Farmer Update it was stated that Google is now using the presence of ads on a website as a ranking factor. Of course they were quite vague regarding the specifics.

As reported from Vanessa Fox from Search Engine Land, Matts Cutts from Google made this comment regarding the Ad-to-Content ratio at the SMX West conference:

"Matt said that having advertising on your site does not inherently reduce its quality. However, it is possible to overdo it. I had noted in my earlier articles about this change that in particular, no content and only ads above the fold, as well as pages that have so many ads, it’s difficult to find the non-advertising content often provide a poor user experience."

In a related thread on the Google Webmaster Central forum, John Mu stated that:

"Another factor that Lysis mentions is ads. For our algorithms, ads generally don’t play a big role. However, they can play a role with your visitors."

So once again the SEO community is left scratching their collective heads wondering what to do. I think the best practices approach for SEOs is a matter of balance. Let’s break that down a bit…

  • Ads DO affect ranking
  • Placement of ads is important
  • The number of ads is important
  • There is an ambiguous ad-to-content ratio that determines the influence on page rank
  • Too many ads results in a poor user experience

One does have to speculate how Google is determining ad content from page content to begin with, but at least Google is consistent with stressing the fact that overall user experience is paramount in determining a site’s ranking.

As far as best practices go, I like to work under the premise of what would I do if there was no Google, no search engines, or rankings. AS SEO’s, what would you or I do to get people to visit, like and stay on our site? The answer is that we would provide a great user experience and develop premium content that engages our audience. We would want to distract our message an d force our visitors to wade through a quagmire of advertisements to find our content.

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