Placing Too Many Adsense Ads Above the Fold Will Hurt
Placing too many ads above the fold is a practise that bloggers used to get away with, but like everything in the blogging world, things change. Back on January 19th, 2012, Google announced that they would be rolling out a new algorithmic change that would take aim at the layout of a webpage due to countless complaints from users who were finding it difficult to locate actual content on web pages that were top-heavy with excessive ads above the fold.
In case you have not noticed, Google has been on a rampage in the last year to demote lesser quality sites in the search results, and provide a better search experience for their users. Among the latest Google Panda and Penguin updates, this “page layout algorithm” update is once again changing how bloggers and publishers run and operate their sites.
Webmasters who have made it a normal practice to place an excessive number of ads above the fold and push their actual post content down the page are getting penalized hard in the search results. To give more clarification, this is what Google has to say:
We understand that placing ads above-the-fold is quite common for many websites; these ads often perform well and help publishers monetize online content. 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. This new algorithmic improvement tends to impact sites where there is only a small amount of visible content above-the-fold or relevant content is persistently pushed down by large blocks of ads.
But before we go further, let’s answer the obvious question: What is considered “above the fold?”
According to Wikipedia, above the fold is defined as:
Any area of a web page that can be viewed without visitors having to scroll. Ad space in this area tends to have a higher value than that located elsewhere on the page.
Keep in mind, content that is viewed as being above the fold will vary for each user. What appears to be above the fold for you may be different than what is seen as above the fold for someone else simply due to each person’s computer monitor size and dimensions. But to give you an idea of what Google considers to be above the fold for your website, just do a search for “site:your-site-name.com.” This will list every page of your site that Google has indexed.
Then just simply hover your mouse over a particular search result, and the preview of how Google sees your page will automatically show on the right-hand preview column. This is referred to as Google Instant Previews. What you see there in that preview is a good indication of what Google is considering as content above the fold. If you mostly see ads or blank space and if very little content is visible in this preview, you potentially have a problem. What Google sees is what matters.
So, what is considered as too many ads above the fold?
Just like every update that Google rolls out, they do not give a straight forward answer. They leave this up to the judgment of the webmaster, but as always, common sense should prevail.
A couple of weeks ago, I was doing a search related to Google Panda, and found the following blog. This is a very good example of what would most likely be considered as too many ads above the fold:
I was laughing like crazy when I came across this blog post, and just had to take a screenshot of it. This webmaster is much braver than I am. Being a blogger myself, I am very sympathetic towards the ways that bloggers try to make a few bucks, but this blogger went over the top and did not win my respect. I stuck around on his/her blog just long enough to take a screenshot.
Take notice of the “0 Comments and 0 Reactions” directly below the post title. This blog post was published on October 29th, 2011. I came across this post in June 2012. The point that I am making is that not a single visitor has commented on this post in 8 months. The simple truth of the matter is that most visitors did not take the time to scroll past his or her ads to actually read what they had to say. They were annoyed and left the page. This defeats the purpose of taking the time to research and write a blog post if no one sticks around to read it.
Since Google does not give us an answer for how many is too many, we should all learn from this blogger. Although comical, this is the exact ad placement practises that Google is targeting.
While finding ways to monetize a blog is a major priority, providing useful and high-quality content in a manner that focuses on delivering the best possible user experience should be a blogger’s highest priority. Bloggers who continue to publish content for the sole purpose of making money instead of focusing on the visitor experience will continue to get slapped by Google now and in the future.
It is important to note that if your blog has been adversely impacted by Google’s page layout algorithm update, it will most likely take a few weeks for Google to recrawl your blog and reflect the changes that you have implemented to your page layout. If you have suffered a severe drop in traffic as a result of having too many ads above the fold, do your blog a favor and cut back on these ads. I know that removing your best performing ads is a tough thing to do, but losing a few more clicks here and there is a small price to pay to get back in the good graces of Google. Focus on the visitor instead of income, and Google will reward you accordingly. But once you make those changes, you’ll have to wait a few weeks before you notice any results.