Google To Punish Websites For Pre-Content Ad Overload
January 22, 2012

Google To Punish Websites For Pre-Content Ad Overload

Due to user complaints, Google has announced that websites containing an excessive amount of advertisements at the top of their pages will now be penalized in their search engine rankings.

The changes were announced by engineer Matt Cutts in a January 19 entry on the Google Webmaster Central Blog. In the piece, Cutts writes, "We´ve heard complaints from users that if they click on a result and it´s difficult to find the actual content, they aren´t happy with the experience."

"Rather than scrolling down the page past a slew of ads, users want to see content right away," he added. "So sites that don´t have much content 'above-the-fold' can be affected by this change. If you click on a website and the part of the website you see first either doesn´t have a lot of visible content above-the-fold or dedicates a large fraction of the site´s initial screen real estate to ads, that´s not a very good user experience."

These types of websites, Cutts said, "may not rank as highly going forward."

Websites that use pop-up, pop-under, or overlay style ads will not be affected by the change in Google's algorithms -- rather, the company will only penalize overuse of "static ads in fixed positions," Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land said Google told him on Thursday. In addition, Cutts told Sullivan that the company did not plan to release an official tool for webmasters to gauge whether or not they had too many ads placed above the page's content.

"This algorithmic change noticeably affects less than 1% of searches globally," Cutts said. "That means that in less than one in 100 searches, a typical user might notice a reordering of results on the search page. If you believe that your website has been affected by the page layout algorithm change, consider how your web pages use the area above-the-fold and whether the content on the page is obscured or otherwise hard for users to discern quickly."

On Friday, IDG News Reporter Juan Carlos Perez said that many webmasters had already voiced their displeasure with the changes, with some responders to Cutts' blog post saying that it was, in Perez's words, "hypocritical of Google to punish sites for something that they believe Google itself is often guilty of, while others suggest that it shouldn't be Google's business how sites decide to lay out their ads, especially when the Google policy could impact how effective the ads are."

To help shine some light on what might be considered acceptable under the revised algorithms, Knoxville Social Media reporter Barbie Crafts studied a how-to video from Google's own Adsense advertising service. The Adsense help information, she says, "encourages bloggers to place two ads at the top half, one beneath the header and one beside the content."

The announcement comes less than a week after Google's January 13 announcement that they would be improving the way that their ads would appear on smartphones, tablet computers, and other non-traditional computing devices.

"We´re making our text ads smarter and will soon display them differently so they perform optimally depending on where users are viewing them from: computers, tablets, or smartphones," Priya Gupta of the company's Mobile Ads Engineering division wrote in an Inside Adsense Blog entry. "The best part is that our ads do the right thing automatically -- without any changes required to your web pages -- by detecting what device your web page is being viewed from."


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