On-site advertising such as Google Adsense isn’t a huge factor in most cases, but if itsn’t improperly implemented it could potentially harm your website or even cause an action sometimes referred to as “penalties”. There have been a few studies in the past that has shown a slight negative connection between advertising and search engine rankings.
In 2011 Google released the Panda algorithm that targeted low-quality websites. After the Panda roll-out a large amount of websites containing excessive or low quality advertisements were penalized as a result. Back in those days it was very common to read posts about optimizing your website for maximum ad CTR (click through rate). These were the days when AdSense Farms (Google’s own advertising network) dominated the search results and publishers were making loads of money with.
So many SEO’s have optimizing for CTR ingrained in their heads that they are shooting themselves in the foot from an SEO standpoint.
Before 2010, there was a gold rush of people creating blogs or “content farms,” ranking them on Google using blackhat techniques and stuffing them when advertisements. It was very common to see many users making $100-$1000 or even more every single day. Many of these websites were total garbage and that is one of the main reasons why Google took a stand and created the Google Panda algorithm adjustment.
Google’s Panda algorithm update rocked the SEO community forever. This update targeted websites with low quality content, with a heavy focus on websites with advertising. Since the initial update, Google has released incremental Panda updates that have gotten more and more focused.
On top of the Panda algorithm update, Google also released the Page layout algorithm update that targeted pages with content that is difficult to find, or hidden with ads. This algorithm really targeted websites that were “top heavy” with ads. One way to kind of test your website is to use Google Analytics Browser Size tool to check if your content is above or below the fold. If you are finding that you are “failing this test” you can always change your theme or template and check again.
One thing you really need to know about Google’s algorithms: if your website does get penalized by Google Panda you’ll have to wait for that update to roll out again in order to get un-penalized. Example:
February 1: Panda Update
February 3: You notice you are penalized
February 23: You fix your website
In the above scenario, you might need to wait 3-12 months in order for the penalty to be lifted. Since the initial roll-out of Google Panda there have been quite a few Panda updates.
If you are an affiliate marketer and are relying on SEO as a traffic source, watch out. Some SEO’s speculate and have even directly correlated that using affiliate links within your website may lead to a higher scrutiny from Google and can lead to a penalty much faster. That is not to say all affiliate programs are bad for SEO. As with any aspect of SEO, moderation is the key.
Be warned, if you are an AdSense user and violate Google’s guidelines and get your account banned Google will also take their money back. They are very quick to ban people from their ad program. In general they do give people a warning before they ban them, but they do not play.
One might think that Google would actually give your website preference since you are actually helping them make money, but it is actually quite the contrary.
Follow these tips and you’ll be just fine. Choose to push the envelope and stuff as many ads as you can into your website and you might wake up with a note from Google. The Google Panda algorithm update is an algorithmic penalty that happens automatically when you go past a certain amount of thresholds. A manual action is when a representative from Google manually deems your website unacceptable and applies a penalty. If you’ve got a thin website with lots of ads you might get a notice that looks like this:
In order to have this penalty removed, you need to go through an extremely intensive audit of your website, fix everything, write a letter to Google, beg for forgiveness and request a review. This has spawned an entire industry “Google penalty removal.”
Google isn’t against websites that have advertisements, they are against websites with bad user experience. Concentrate on having a layout that promotes your content, not your ads. Perform usability issues on your website and see if users are having a hard time finding your content.
If you’ve followed Google’s guidelines, you shouldn’t have any problems.