Google Panda Slaps Advertising Top-Heavy Sites

January 20, 2012 · 74 comments

in SEO

Is Your Blog Top Heavy
With Ads?

In another move to further improve the visitor experience, Google has announced that their algorithm will now penalize sites that run too many ads “above the fold”.

What does that mean?

It means that if you have a website that, when viewed at a normal (not high) quality monitor size, has the content pushed down low on the first part of the site you see when the page loads… you may have a problem.

Check out your site, using Google’s Browser Size tool, to see how your website would look under different screen resolutions. (Pro Tip: I suggest checking it at 1024 x 768 and 1280 x 1024)

Google says this impacts less than 1% of search results. But many heavy marketers are shouting that this affects millions.

It’s true of course that we’ve all hit a site that is “over the top” with ads and often has not just one advertising box but TWO before the article starts.

Me personally, I’m not a fan of embedding a lot of adsense within a post as it makes the user scroll around it… but that’s just me, and what do I know ;)

Google specifically says: “This algorithmic change does not affect sites who place ads above-the-fold to a normal degree, but affects sites that go much further to load the top of the page with ads to an excessive degree or that make it hard to find the actual original content on the page.”

 So it sounds like sites running an ad in the header probably will be unaffected unless they are running a lot of ads elsewhere. Whew!

What is not clarified is whether sites with HUGE header images at the top will be shielded or counted as a false positive. We’ve seen a trend towards reduced header total size and that is probably a good thing in light of this.

Its worth considering that optin boxes sitting under the header probably are going to count as ads (for good reason). This is making me reconsider if I will turn back on the optin box I have coded that sits below the header but above the content (full-width).

I probably will as I run few ads but others might think twice.

As I mentioned in “3 Google SEO Changes That Rattle SEOs and Bloggers Alike!“, Google is really pushing back both on so-called “traditional SEO” and also on micro-niche sites that are adsense trips. But because of this, it’s possible for an unsuspecting blogger to get caught in the middle accidentally if they don’t follow some basic tips.

Does this mean that some people that are using Google’s own product, Adsense, are going to be penalized? Sure does. (And in my opinion for good reason.)

But site owners have a choice of how much they use on their site and where they place them so it’s logical both that some have “gone to far” and that those that have can probably reasonably easy return to a more visitor-friendly level.

Google has to walk the fine line of creating enough advertising clicks via affiliates with keeping a very happy searcher audience. Not an easy thing to do!

(Don’t think there is not some irony however that the search results page on google.com is ad heavy!)

I personally rarely share posts from adsense heavy sites as I just don’t like visiting them or reading them… what about you?

~ Kim ~
Simple Tech Tips For Marketing

 

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{ 72 comments… read them below or add one }

Sophie Lizard January 21, 2012 at 4:02 am

Thanks for the summary, Kim – I keep ads to a minimum and below the fold, because I don’t want to disrupt the reading experience, so it’s nice to hear that Panda(s) won’t eat me alive on that count! Interesting point about false positives on header images and forms, too.

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Kim Castleberry January 21, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Hehehe Sophie I think with that game plan that you shall be mighty safe from being eaten by pandas! Hehe! I took a look at your blog and it has the clean appearance and good branding that Google is favoring these days. I don’t think you have anything to worry about on that side. As long as your content is relevant, current and quality (and since your a writer I can’t imagine you having an issue with that) Panda should not be an issue for you.
Kim

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Steve Hughes January 21, 2012 at 7:33 am

The Pot calling the Kettle Black comes to mind. I definitely think is a good thing as well. Some sites feel like an obstacle course in order to locate the content, but as you mention Kim the irony is thick.

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doug_eike January 21, 2012 at 10:19 am

I’m amazed when I discover things that are about to become true that I already assumed were true! This is one of them. Google has always claimed to be about passing to the consumer the best-quality content possible. If fhat’s the case, it should always have been obvious that the reader’s experience was diminished by ads placed between the title and the text. I’m glad they’re finally getting around to penalizing for those ads, but my initial reaction is “duh.” Thanks for the insight!

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Joyce Edwards January 21, 2012 at 1:05 pm

Hey Kim, Thanks for the info. It is a fine line between ads that will bring in people and over advertising and this is a problem. We are online to make money so we must advertise. I think that some of the real reason that one is posting has become a little lost. We must give quality content first then the sale pictch.

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Donna Merrill January 21, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Thanks Kim for putting Google’s changes in a way I can understand them. There is so much talk about changes on Google and it has caused such an uproar. It is so great that all I have to do is come to your page and find out what is going on. Especially now, that I’m making some changes to my blog. I’m off to review the Browser Size tool right now. Many Blessings, Donna

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conference merchandise January 21, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Hey Kim, we’re on the same ground. I also do not like visiting sites with too much adsense sites. Makes me really confused and all used up. I just hope this Google Panda would serve its purpose and not otherwise.

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Catwoman January 21, 2012 at 9:32 pm

Very informational text, I haven’t heard about these changes on google. Thanks you for the useful warning, I have to change some things:)

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marquita herald January 21, 2012 at 10:48 pm

Sounds like there are a few areas to review to make sure and avoid problems but, strictly from a reader perspective, I have to admit I find it really annoying when a site is so top heavy with ads you have to search for the content.

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Sire January 22, 2012 at 6:28 am

Yeah, I was wondering about the header size myself Kim. I read the bit about users having to scroll down to read the content and a large header would definitely force them to do that.

Personally, I’m not at all fussed about it as that would only cause me more work and headaches and I ain’t about to do that just to please Google. Besides, if I land on a site because it appeared to have something I’m interested in I won’t mind having to scroll down a bit to see it.
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personalized items January 22, 2012 at 7:17 am

Hi Kim, I read your article and it’s the first time I heard about Google penalizing sites that run too many ads. I actually couldn’t imagine how you are supposed to follow the size of the ads as I have not really taken care of designing my own website but has Google sent shoutouts or email and media blasts on this. If they are to penalize then it’s gotta be announced beforehand.

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Doug Caywood January 22, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Thanks Kim great info. In your opinion what effect does this have on industries such as auto dealers that are usually heavy on internal links above the fold? Many have content “available” below the fold by clicking on “more info” to reach the content which is often nothing more than keywords.

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Kim Castleberry January 22, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Doug, those are definitely on the “disliked by the Panda algorithm” pages. Whether or not they are classed as ads the whole layout of the page is not conductive to putting readers on the content immediately. Google is slowly making calculation shifts to ensure pages like that get less favoratism in the future.
Kim

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Laura-Lee Walker January 22, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Good for Google. They understand that marketers are gaming the system and as the premier internet search engine, they have a responsibility to guide searchers toward content not buried in keywords and flash ads.

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The Nerdy Nurse January 22, 2012 at 7:38 pm

I hate ads above the fold and only recently starting using one. I’m running it as a test to see how much revenue I can generate, but if it’s not worth the space, then I’ll likely take it down because it just looks horrible to me.
I think they sites that have too many adds should be penalized in search results.

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Amanda January 23, 2012 at 3:54 am

In my opinion, there should be something done about all these ads that are everywhere on the Internet. But I hope that Google won’t be very strict to everyone, because it’s business….

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Anonymous January 23, 2012 at 3:55 am

The pot calls the kettle black, I think there are some good sites to find the contents of the courses that I feel like the thickness of the walls, but the irony is Kim.

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Nik January 23, 2012 at 4:01 am

I don’t have ads on my site since it is monitised by my services. However I am sure most people have noticed that the top of the search results now have 3 ads rather then two. These 3 ads are obviously above the fold. Nice user experience :)

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Peter Fuller MBA January 23, 2012 at 7:06 am

Hello Nik

If you think about it Googles content is search results which includes ads. That is why they are so tough on us, so that the ads deliver what we are looking for.

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Saurabh Mukhekar January 23, 2012 at 6:57 am

Hi Kim,nice to see ur article, i am victim of this update :( my traffic decrease drastically ,approx 70% loss.So can u review my blog and tell me ur suggestion of advertisement placing.

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Kim Castleberry January 27, 2012 at 3:38 am

Even though I dislike Adsense, your site actually feels pretty good. It’s well laid out, clean and easy to navigate. Have you already made changes?
Kim

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Saurabh Mukhekar January 27, 2012 at 3:45 am

Ya i did some changes and resubmit Sitemap through Google Webmaster tools.Still not getting good traffic.Down’t know why I was affected as my blog is in-born stage !!! I asked this question to Matt Cutt during his Google + hangout india,but yet my query not resolved , waiting for him for good reply !!! if u have any suggestions then pls mention it for me ,good Day

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Kim Castleberry January 27, 2012 at 3:47 am

Now that you’ve cleaned up… and resubmitted… I think I would take my top 5 links that got hit the hardest and do some manual link building on them. Chase down some high PR sites and put a few high PR and a few mid-range PR links and a bunch of regular links onto those posts. Some healthy link building might help you pull it out while they sort it out.

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Saurabh Mukhekar January 27, 2012 at 3:50 am

Ok ,thanks for your suggestion will try it and let you know about its impact ! hope so its positive for me :)

Kim Castleberry January 27, 2012 at 3:49 am

I’d also focus on getting both authorship and publishership set up correctly. Your running dual authorboxes so you may not have this going on correctly. (I didn’t check). Also be sure that you have not allowed guest post outgoing links from any company that is considered “bad neighborhood” (pharmaceuticals, porn, casinos, gambling, etc ect)

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Peter Fuller MBA January 23, 2012 at 7:04 am

Hey Kim

As always content is king for Google.

Peter

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Jon Loomer January 23, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Interesting! Advertisers typically want above the fold placement because it typically does the best. But if getting that above the fold placement means that the site on which you are advertising now does poorer in search results, it makes you wonder… Will it be better to advertise below the fold because of the additional eyes you may get due to search results? Going to need a lot of experimentation here.

Thanks for the post!

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Thomas January 23, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Hi Kim
I think that it is only god that Google tried to send out a message here. Nobody wants to read a post that is more about the Ads than about the post itself. I don’t have many ads on my blogs, because I want my readers to fill welcome when they visit my blog.

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Angel Collins January 23, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Thanks for this info and I pretty much agree on this one. I do get some troubles locating the real content of a website because of the interjecting ads between the contents. I do hope that this will cause a much greater positive effect for the many.

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rahul roy January 24, 2012 at 2:51 am

This means if you use adsense alternative Google will penalise you.

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Edyta January 24, 2012 at 10:57 am

Hi Kim,

Thanks for sharing it.
I think that it is a good decision to penalize sites that run too many ads “above the fold”. The quality of site is the most important factor for me.

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David Merrill January 24, 2012 at 8:17 pm

I suppose everyone hates ads… until they’re looking to buy something, anyway.

But when ads are essentially sponsoring VALUABLE content, then I think most people are ok with it, especially if it’s subtle. More than that, I think people are actually happy to buy from venodrs who offer really good content in return for their ability to be indirectly compensated for it, via ads.
That said, bloggers and even micro-niche folk ought not (in my opinion) catch an attitude with Google because again… as usual… Google is trying to deliver a good product (ie., blog) that readers want. Isn’t that our goal too? If not, it should be.
You make a great point about the domination of Google ads on the search page, but even with that, Google has done a lot to try to control that too, to the dismay of a great many MLM, Biz Op, MMO advertisers.
It’s pretty dicey business and I really appreciate your advice and alerts on the never-ending (I hope! vs. SOPA and more to come) world of internet marketing and blogging.

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Raena Lynn January 24, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Hi Kimberley,

Personally, I don’t like ad-heavy sights. I usually leave quickly because they are a pain to get around. If content is relevant and quality, then there is nothing to fret about! Interesting information…..thanks again!

Raena Lynn

PS Love your newsletter!

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Kevin Martineau January 24, 2012 at 9:32 pm

Hi Kim:

I find this to be a very interesting move on Google’s part. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is a step in the right direction but I wonder how much it is going to affect their overall bottom line.

Kevin

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Ileane January 25, 2012 at 2:48 am

Hi Kim, I see this on Blogger blogs a lot. The title of the post, then tons of AdSense ads before you finally reach the content. Many times the content is pretty good too and I think it’s such a shame for it to be obscured by all those ads. I’m sure this update applies to affiliate ads also, even though most of the time it’s done with AdSense. Thank for the post Kim!
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John Gaydon January 25, 2012 at 4:28 am

Hi Kim,

This is a good thing. I spent some time today going in circles between sites full of adsense. Basically I searched for something, saw an interesting result and when I went there got a bunch of links to other sites, and so on and so on.

In my opinion this is ruining google for those of us who offer quality content rather than hijacking innocent searchers to grab money from google!

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Sadie-Michaela Harris January 25, 2012 at 7:56 am

Thanks Kim!
I have to say I’m not a fan of in your face adverts on sites and I especially don’t like those which are flash based and leap about to catch the readers attention… most annoying!

At this juncture may I ask what is the plugin you use with for share icons please? Digg Digg has gone quirky on me and I have deactivated it. I pop over and ask this on your Facebook Page actually as others there may like a tip on this too :)

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Kim Castleberry January 27, 2012 at 4:10 am

Sadie, I’m actually not using any plugins for any of my share buttons. All of that mess is hard-coded added to the theme’s custom php file. That’s actually two different sets of coding you see… one for the standard share buttons which always get me the best conversion to share rates … and then the row of icons for other more non-typical sites that i didn’t feel like adding twelve rows of stuff for.

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Sadie-Michaela Harris January 28, 2012 at 11:26 am

Thanks very much for explaining Kim, I really appreciate it :)

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Hans Schoff February 1, 2012 at 3:49 am

Hey Kim, I too find adsense sites annoying. If I have to keep jumping all over the page just to read an article or get a little info, I usually will just look elsewhere to get my info. It also sometimes makes me wonder how good the info is if there are ads everywhere, as if the content is only there so they can have ads…
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clare February 1, 2012 at 11:09 am

Hi Kim,
I hate sites with loads of adverts and I just click away. There is a balance to be struck. If you look at all the big blogs out there, they don’t slap adverts everywhere suggesting that this policy just doesn’t make sense. I love to read reviews about products and services because I am learning by doing so. However, you can also quickly ascertain whether the particular review is real or not. Some are so phoney – just words to get you to click to a landing page!

Clare

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Chris February 13, 2012 at 6:32 am

Nice post, although that browser size app isn’t too reliable, because it doesn’t take into account websites with fluid width.

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Rizwan Sultan February 14, 2012 at 11:24 am

Although I must agree that all points mentioned in this post will improve user experience and make a better website (no doubt), I think the SEO community still have to investigate further Google’s Panda Algo Update.

I am not convinced …

I still see sites full of ads (Adwords, whatnot), dupe content or lack of it, ranking as high if not better than ever.

In my opinion, we have not solved this issue. I know of sites which lost traffic with the first Panda Update and recovered recently, having made no changes at all even, so? Google might be simply reverting changes, not fine-tuning Panda as some seem to suggest …

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Kostas February 15, 2012 at 4:07 am

Hi Kim, it really makes sense, there are many sites that actually want to show their ads as it’s their content. Google should punish these sites long time ago but I guess never it’s too late…

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Amir Nasir February 19, 2012 at 12:14 pm

yea my traffic decreased bt 70% due to this update

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Alex February 24, 2012 at 11:15 pm

Really? These info is very useful. One of my resource in advertising my sites.

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john February 28, 2012 at 2:05 am

Thanks to share a great tips.mostly blogger faces a google panda update problem.if you blog is full of ads then i can be bad for you.because google panda will punish it.

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Tejindra singh June 30, 2012 at 5:44 am

Very well said.Yeah due to this updates I have lost my ranking and visitors. Thanks for sharing your views.

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mohit sharma September 7, 2012 at 10:38 am

Very good info i reduce ads on my site

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Anonymous September 24, 2012 at 10:05 am

If you’re advertising heavy then you deserve a slap on the wrist. I can’t stand visiting an advert heavy website which then, to add insult to injury, decides to throw a couple pop-ups my way. Infuriating!

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Steve Borgman November 18, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Thanks to you and other, Kim, I altered my sites quite a bit to make sure that most of my advertising, in whatever form, is below the fold. Ultimately, the Panda changes are making the net a better place :)
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Steve Borgman November 18, 2012 at 3:31 pm

I meant to say you and others, not you and other :)

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