Google Looking at Ad to Content Ratio

Industry leaders, speakers, sponsors, and exhibitors descended on Las Vegas, Nevada, US, this week for PubCon.  The conference/trade show is designed for web pros and site owners, with an emphasis on search and social media innovation.  Even if attendees lose a little at the tables or slots, the coordinators of the event say they are “confident that every attendee will come away with valuable new ideas and solutions for their businesses.”  One of those ideas may be rethinking their ad placement strategy.

Google’s money-maker, AdSense, has always advised web owners:  “all other things being equal, ads located above the fold tend to perform better than those below the fold. Ads placed near rich content and navigational aids usually do well because users are focused on those areas of a page.” They even provided a handy graphic which highlights the best position for ads, and sure enough, the best spot is dead center, above the fold. But during his keynote address, Matt Cutts indicated that the search engine may consider ads that are placed according to this layout to be spammy.

Cutts, head of Google’s web spam team, said, “What are the things that really matter, how much content is above the fold. If you have ads obscuring your content, you might want to think about it.”

Google has revamped its “best practices,” and offers new advice: “While placing ads above the fold is a good way to improve ad performance, also make sure that users can easily find the content they are looking for. For example, if your site offers downloads, make sure the download links are above the fold and easy to find.”  They also want ads to look like ads so end-users don’t confuse content with advertising, which is easy to do on some sites.  To avoid being tagged as spam, evaluate your site and make sure that:

  • Content is distinguishable from ads and easy to find.
  • Ads do not mimic the layout or format of content.
  • Placement eliminates “accidental” clicks on ads.

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