Sacrifice Ad Revenues for Search Engine Rankings?

Cash Munny by masochismtango, on FlickrThe recent Google Panda/farmer update has caused great grief to many a webmaster. While there are many factors that may impact your site rankings, the update highlighted a couple factors that negatively impacted site rankings for many websites. Ranking hits for having thin/weak content is the most widely publicized ranking factor implemented in Panda.  The other big hitter is sites that have an excessive amount of advertising.  Specifically above the fold, or above the content type advertising.

With regards to weak content, I think the most SEOs have been preaching the virtues of solid content since the beginning of search engine optimization. Even black hat leaning SEOs recognized the value of strong content despite making a living pushing the latest tricks and gimmicks for quick gains. So sites like Mahala, a personal “dis-favorite” of mine was whacked pretty hard for having content that just did not offer much value. Content that is not unique and content that is basically not providing any new information is prime target here. In a quick word, if you are paying writers to spit out yet another article about how to repair credit without putting a new spin on it, you are likely putting out a page that will never rank really well (ie, limited search traffic will be coming in).

Back to advertising, while my personal belief is that the general intention of Panda was to limit the effectiveness of the latest made for Adsense (MFA) pages, the practical impact is that sites which are not really MFA, but heavily weight ads above the fold and specifically above content may have been hit as well. Some specific examples presented by Google indicate this.

So, as a Geek Business-person who may have been hit by Panda with regards to advertising what do you do? As I see it, you can take one of two approaches.

One - let it ride. If you can afford to stick with it, do so. It would seem counter-intuitive to just sit there while your traffic, and associated revenues wither away. I think it is safe to say that there will be tweaks to Panda.  It is possible that the tweaks will reverse some of your traffic trends. I think it is also reasonable to assume that future changes may present even more of an challenge for you.

Two - take a hard look at your page layouts. Are your pages loaded with top banners and squares above your real content? I realize that ad placement can significantly influence CPM.  You need look no further than Google’s own heatmaps to verify this as a fact. However, if your content is good, moving ads down in to content is something to seriously consider. Good content will keep the readers attention and even ads below the fold will draw clicks.

Ad networks of course will want you to place ads as close to the top of the page as possible, most even require or strongly encourage. Ad networks may have to take notice though that publishers have less ad space to offer in aggregate if search traffic is down. There is likely a compromise you can work out on your site to make the ads more user friendly while at the same time not totally killing your monthly revenues.

As with almost everything about being a successful Geek Business though, you will likely just have to experiment to see what works on your site.

Filed in: Feature Articles, SEO, Website Monetization Tags: , ,

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