Google’s Algorithm Change: When Too Many Ads Attack

    January 21, 2012
    Chris Richardson
    Comments are off for this post.

If your site looks like one of those “Post No Bills” wall that’s covered in assorted flyers, ads, and various forms of clutter, there’s a good chance Google’s new algorithm change will result in these ad-covered sites being punished, especially if the ad assault appears above the fold. News of Google’s latest algorithm adjustment, something that’s been hinted at before, was recently announced on Google’s Inside Search blog, and the details are pretty straightforward, that is, until you ask “how much is too much?”

Are you one of the site owners Google is referring to? If so, do you plan on moving your ads around or are you going to wait and see what happens? Let us know if Google’s new algorithm adjustment affects you.

While there is no “x amount of ads exceeds our standard,” the blog post does offer some theoretical details about how the change targets the “too many ads” sites, while emphasizing their “above the fold” standard. The [emphasis added] sections are ours:

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.

This algorithmic change noticeably affects less than 1% of searches globally.

For more on Google’s change:

How Is Google’s Algorithm Update Determining “Ads Above The Fold”?
If you’re a user then you’re probably clapping and cheering Google for this update. If you’re an SEO expert, or an owner who’s sole income comes from a website or group of websites then depending on how neurotic you are, you’re either slightly concerned or freaking out… Read more here

Google’s Ad Related Algorithm Update Analyzed By Experts
There’s one specific aspect of this topic that many experts have been questioning, and it’s whether or not Google is being hypocritical in regards to their latest algorithm changes penalizing sites with too many ads above the fold… Read more here

The question everyone is asking is how much is too much? Does Google have a number of ads in mind before it starts dolling out updated algorithm punishments? Based on what Google’s saying, if the ads make accessing the actual on-page content a chore, and the proliferation of ads appear above the fold, there’s a good chance your site will be stung.

As indicated, Google made the point of saying the new adjustment will only affect under one percent of searches, meaning, from Google’s perspective at least, the act of stuffing ads on a site, ads that obfuscate the content, is not an epidemic. From Google’s perspective, the updated algorithm is presented as a housecleaning tool, one that improves a user’s search engine experience by pushing ad-loaded sites down, while bringing the quality content up, at least theoretically.

For those sites that might have been punished in lieu of the new algorithm adjustment, unfortunately, you may be stuck with your site’s adjusted position in Google’s index, even if you make the necessary changes immediately after you’ve been punished. As pointed out by Danny Sullivan, around the time the above-the-fold ads algorithm change went live, he received an email from Google’s AdSense team, suggesting his personal blog put more ads on it, and they even sent a diagram suggesting how these ads should be positioned around the content.

Essentially, Google wants the content surrounded by ads, they just don’t want you to over do it, especially for content appearing above the fold. Google’s email also refers its recipients to a video about ad placement, which also suggests avoiding a proliferation of ads, especially at the top of the page:

Essentially, the lesson is this: don’t let ads push your site’s on-page content down, unless you risk being punished. Furthermore, the algorithm update punishes the entire site, not just the pages that have lots of ads above the fold. This means if 99 percent of your site is compliant, but you forgot to clean up one of you ad-heavy pages that obscures the content, there’s a chance the site as a whole will be dinged by the new algorithm.

The question is:

Google ad-heavy SERPs
Click for larger image

Will Google punish themselves?

As you can see, the search engine results page for the query “Samsung TV” pushes the organic content almost off the page. What happens when the gatekeeper quasi-violates their own rule, especially when they are making a point to inform site owners about the potential damage they can cause search engine rankings by making their pages top heavy with advertisements?

Does Google’s new algorithm change give you pause when it comes to placing ads on your sites or is this much ado about nothing? Let us know what you think.

  • http://www.travelbloggersguide.com/ James

    Google Search should then tell Google Adsense to stop sending out emails saying that we haven’t added enough adsense ads on our sites.

    • http://www.alexsolerjover.com Alex

      I agree with you James! It’s like the right hand doesn’t know what the left one is doing!

  • http://www.aceviewcentral.net Aceview

    How much is too much? I have 4 banner ads around the content. Will Google punish it with its new algorithm?

  • http://www.bazics.net Bazics Newsfeeds

    What does “fold” mean here? Thank you.

    • http://www.cdesmarketing.com Gordon Lincoln

      Above the fold means the portion of the site that is visible without scrolling down.

      Avoe the fold is a term borrowed from the newspaper industry where the articles that appeared ‘above the fold’ were considered to have been given premium placement since the readership could be as much as twice as high for articles appearing ‘above the fold’.

  • http://www.tronixmartmall.com Dalton Crist

    I own a retail site and my site is set up to advertise my own products and most of these ads are above the fold. Will this affect my PR? Also, whT if I wanted tto use a page specifically for nothing but ads and links so it wouldn’t clutter up my product pages or my home page? I don’t see how doing this would effect a customer’s search experience because they wouldn’t have to view that page unless they navigated to it on purpose.

    • HC

      I agree with you. I prefer a separate page for ads, juat as an alternate model for the reader/consumer to enjoy versus the standard crap way of doing Mad.Avenue business. Mad.Avenue, by the way, believes it’s ok to shove crap in our faces that we don’t care about, or to trick us, or screw with our heads. I think they’re deranged.

      And Google is just the next evolution of Madison Avenue douchebagism.

      I prefer the Vogue magazine model of advertising — people buy Vogue specifically to view the ads, that’s where they get a lot of their knowledge about fashion, what’s in and out and so on. Imagine, people seeking advertising on purpose — it would put the MadMen and Google twits out of business, who wouldn’t be able to justify their own (manipulative) existences (and high salaries).

      My experiences with Google suggest they perpetually have their heads up their own behinds, everybody is just too afraid to call them on it.

      (for reference, see the scene in the movie “Men in Black” about the best of the best of the best)

  • http://mobileexchange.co brett

    So how will smaller sites gain revenue from their site if google is going to penalise it for having too many ads? and yet surely this is how google makes loads of cash – from advertisers who want their ads displayed on our sites, but surely the advertisers are not going to gain as much exposure for their campaigns if we can not display so many ads,

    I’m confused.

  • http://www.eshkol.com Giora

    I have a Mona Lisa as a 3d character on you tube!
    they had insight turned into google analytic.
    till the change my Mona lisa had over 150 avr a “day”
    after google took over it is now for several weeks next to zero!!!! what is going on here ?
    google do not respond to several mails from me!!!

  • http://thechiropractoratlanta.com janedd

    Funny that they would slap advertisers that use the very same ad placement that they use themselves!

  • http://www.the-web-guys.com roger

    Amazing. Transparent. Shameless.

    Since Google decides how the Internet works for all, and have taken on this “policeman” position of what is right and what is wrong, who will police the police?

    Considering that an enormous part of Google’s revenue comes from…um…oh yes…ads! …this is a very hypocritical position. For clarity, we don’t make any money with ads in any way, so I don’t have a dog in this race.

    I am truly concerned about Google’s changes, not just this one but many of them. They are all so transparent to me. What they are doing is trying to make sure that Google is best positioned to sell ads, and they are controlling what others do to continue and maybe increase their dominance.

    Have you looked at search results on freakin Google lately? What a farce this hypocrisy! Ads everywhere. AdWords and ads in Google Places spots push the “real content” WAY BELOW THE FOLD. Often you don’t see organic content until position 6 or lower.

    Google is all powerful and there is nobody to police them. I will sign off with this: “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Look out everyone!!l

  • http://www.LanceFrank.com Lance Frank

    We need to know what google defines as “an ad.”
    I use IDX links extensively as do most real estates agents. Are these going to be looked at as ads by google?
    Seems like this is another anti competitive move by Google to try to hog the entire Internet advertising market.

  • james

    People should be able to find what they are looking for on line, not shady adds for loosers to drive up prices to pay loosers that post unwanted adds.

    • http://barryrdgers.com Barry

      James you can’t spell and obviously do not have a brain.

  • http://barryrdgers.com Barry

    I get so tired of Google playing God.

    I do not rely on any one search engine for my traffic. Thank goodness for that!

    If the big G continues down this route somewhere down the line it will lose out.

    Advertisers investing good money in Adwords campaigns should contact Google ask ask what the bloody hell they are playing at and whether or not Google still wants their money.

  • http://www.thatsawrapper.com Lorene

    My website went from on Alexa to in the 1,000,000 family group to the 5,000,000 family group. Combination of new rules and I was taking the time during the algorithm changed everyone fears to update my pages, better, titles, descriptions, keywords and content. I shot myself in the foot as you say. I went from making $2200 in commisions on my links to $345 this month. Still working to add to my site and doing my best with google, but for the average person who can not afford the hourly wage of a programmer. I am struggling. My sales are coming back but slowly. I indexed all my pages on my google webmaster tool account and opened a alexa account. any more suggestions?

    • http://teakdoor.com Thailand

      If alexa is so important to you, (no idea why) just get your friends to install their toolbar and visit your site, your alexa rankings will shoot sky high, although I can think of many other ways of wasting your time more productively.

  • http://www.facebook.com/SiteSell/posts/314460885266054 Dave


  • http://www.facebook.com/SiteSell/posts/314460885266054 Dave


    Just in case, here’s the link:

  • http://chessads.com Ole Schneider-Konrad

    The gatekeeper doesn’t quasi-violate their own rule,
    because they have the rule above all that says we
    (Google) can do what we want.
    Arrogance, hypocrisy and greed defines Googles brand.
    Of course it’s all about making sure most money for ads
    is spent with Google and not with others.
    So they found a clever way to punish site owners who
    finance their website with ads (other than adsense) too.

  • http://gundom75.tk Admin Gundom 75

    No, Thank you.

  • http://www.macappware.com Kyle Banks

    Does this affect websites that promote affiliate products?

  • Mary Pearson

    My estimated earnings and finalized earnings for Nov and Dec were so huge that I went on the AdSense Forum to find out why (since there is no way to contact Googe). There are pages and pages of publishers who are upset about this. For months we have been complaining, and only yesterday did Google address the issue with an unsatisfactory response. None of us are to be reimbursed, and they will not provide us with details of our own accounts to clarify the discrepancies.

    To see the complaints, follow the thread at http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/AdSense/thread?fid=3d1732834a6407c60004b6fe6d29269d&hl=en

    Google wants us to advertise for them but they don’t want to pay fairly for the space we provide for them. There are an awful lot of people who are pretty ticked off. I am looking for an alternative.

    • Javyan

      AdSense = Smatly-crafted scam

  • http://vapeiq.com The Vaporizer

    Good, I am sick of seeing so many above the fold ads. On some sites there is close to 0% content visible above the fold due to being completely covered with various ads. Google is a big offender themselves and the way my search results look after this Google Search plus your world is terrible.

  • http://courseinmiracles.com Tony

    I hate fucking ads!!Period.
    When i want something i do a search/research, find what i want then buy it.
    End of story.

    Punish away!!

    • http://www.topweddingquestions.com Wedding Etiquette

      So – what if a completely terrific product cannot rank well (yet) and cannot be found by you?

    • http://www.sciencelives.com Suzanne

      So what funds the sites you visit?

  • http://teakdoor.com Thailand

    Strange that google doesn’t see their own adverts in first post of many forums as intrusive, so many forums have google as top banner adverts, side banner and now included in first post, maybe it’s just other advertisers that should be penalised in their minds?

  • http://www.artehierro.com/en Rustic bathrooms

    I think what this means is that they will raise the price of ads for advertisers

  • http://www.scp-garant.ru/ Dmitriy

    Many thanks for video. Very much all so граммотно is built, we use and Google analyzes
    Repair of laptops http:// http://www.scp-garant.ru/in St.-Petersburg

  • http://dreamspublicity.com Curt Bizelli

    I have one particular site I think of when reading this. I’m going to take action immediately because I’ve had negative feedback about it anyway. I really like the way it looks, but it may be too much for the eye. Unfortunately, I believe Google has crawled most of my sites already today.

  • http://www.brandableplr.com Evelyn

    I’m sure they’ll punish people with banner ads on their sites. But it’s doubtful they’ll punish people who have their precious Adwords ads above the fold. We’ll see if THEY actually give up income for an algo change for once!

  • http://www.captaincyberzone.com CaptainCyberzone

    Sounds like Google caught the Nanny-Bug!

    They are going to protect me from to many ads because I’m to much of a moth or to stupid to know the difference between the content and the ads.
    Typical Liberal Think!!!!!!

  • sr

    It looks like I’m just going to have to ride out the storm. I already know that if I place my ads below the fold and away from people’s faces I won’t make any $ and I’m spending all of my time wrighting helpful articles for free.

    • http://www.captaincyberzone.com CaptainCyberzone

      No offense meant, but I advise you to use “spell check” when you are “wrighting” those helpful articles.

  • Javyan

    Awww… Someone please look at their SERPs. They are aggressively putting all sort of ads on their pages to recover $500m penalty that they had to sustained recently for displaying illegal drugs on AdWords. Do No Evil = Do a # of Evil

  • http://iportal-movie.blogspot.com/ santos

    help me to page 1 google

  • http://iportal-movie.blogspot.com/ santos

    help me in google

  • http://www.mitrapenerjemah.com jasa penerjemah

    I hope, more result for my advertise in google…thanks

  • JohnTo

    I welcome this move – but Google’s move is indicative of a much wider problem with the Internet:

    1 – Domain Squatting. Seems like folks are buying up all of the premium & “clever” domains for the sole intention of listing them on domain sale markets. News Flash: No one buys domains anymore. The problem with this is, a massive proportion of domains have no website. When I realise that no one will buy my clever domain name, I set up a ad-ridden landing page. Pointless. I think if every person who owned a domain actually produced a useful website/service, this would make a massive difference to the quality of the web in general. This is what Google wants – a web of quality. Not ads, or feed agreegators – website with quality content/services.

    2 – SOPA is good! Yes! I’m glad Mega was shut down, it was costing industries massively. Creatives like you and me, 3D artists, engineers, producers, loosing their jobs because we all ripped them off. Aren’t we all brother. Hopefully we’ll see less website/ads to illegal file sharing and pirate websites.

  • http://superiorwowguide.com Paul Burkhardt

    Great update!
    Will this be a problem if you have just 1 add above the fold or does this only apply to many adds?

  • Rodger Burton

    I believe the all powerful Google dominance of web search is not sustainable. I know they like to think so, but the web is changing, especially with more social networking sites coming to light, and frankly webmasters are fed up to the back teeth with their holier than thou attitudes in webmaster guidelines. Fact: Google is responsible for killing small businesses, and even makes it very difficult to get in the serps for new business adventures. At the same time it expects people to use its adwords programme to promote new ventures, but in the same light offers shady adsense accounting methods for ads payment on ppc. I think as the net progresses we will see more control over net based monopolies, similar to copyright events of late.
    If everyone took their adsense off their sites and promoted ads from other networks, Goog would get the message. A time will come when folk will say, “how are the mighty fallen?” …. care not, Google doesn’t care about you!

  • http://www.topweddingquestions.com Wedding Etiquette

    Interesting since i recently received an email from Google adsense saying they encourage me to place more ads because we can have up to three ad units per webpage and we currently only have two.

  • http://data-recovery-software-articles.blogspot.com/ Mac Data Recovery

    This algorithm will surely help reduce bulk of ads that appears on the sites. it’s irritating from user point of view.

  • http://elifejump.com Mark

    I not sure about Google cleaning up. We pay for advertisements and Google make a living out of it, “not that much”.
    Anyways, they have to clean up the house once in a while, I do!

  • http://www.iokasti.gr Dimitri Vasilakis

    Does the new algorithm affects my site

  • http://www.connecticutplastics.com Michele

    While doing research, I have often come across sites that that contain ads that obfuscate the content. And more often than not, they’re Google Ads! Ads from sites using Google ad words to market their product or service.

  • http://www.bumbu-sambal.com Lia

    I think Google is wise enough for this issue. 100% I agree

  • http://nicheblogpro.com Gerry | Niche Blog Pro

    Hi Chris,

    Why would a website change it’s monetization method just because of Google?

    Isn’t that amazing? :)


  • http://patriciajones.org Patricia

    The Google search page is a disgrace. Google should be made to publish a disclosure – ‘a large percentage of this page are advertisements, chances are that what you click on isn’t what you really searched for, isn’t really representative of the best quality sites (because there aint enough room on the page) and will add a huge amount of money to hypocritical Google’s coffers’

    They won’t punish themselves, just those of us who work hard to try and make an honest living.

  • http://iwannavacation.com Jamie

    We were negatively impacted overnight by what I believe is this fix. I am not sure how to get out of this purgatory, but am in the process of removing all google adwords. I never thought we over did it on our site, but who knows. Any tips? Check us out at http://www.iwannavacation.com.

  • http://www.orb-web.com Orb Web

    Same old, same old. Do as I say but don’t do as I do. Does somebody even try to count how many hours are wasted every year trying to keep up with Google will? How are we supposed to concentrate our time on writing original content IF every months we have to keep rebuilding something to please GOD Google? I pray that soon a truth competitor comes and challenge him and take at least 40% of search traffic, so, Google will stop messing with all of us…

  • http://seo seo

    Hey there! I’ve been reading your blog for a long time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Huffman Tx! Just wanted to mention keep up the good job!

  • http://www.hedgehogdigital.co.uk/ SEO Bedford

    So much for a website that has ads top, right and bottom. Isn’t that ad clutter too?

  • http://www.nyjnews.com/phpBB2/profile.php?mode=viewprofile&u=319 MypeFlulp

    surgery for erectile dysfunction http://www.sagelife.net/phpBB/profile.php?mode=viewprofile&u=736
    Complete baldness does not usually follow though so there is usually no need to be concerned about this.
    Grossan’s medical supply company has come up with its own sinus irrigator.
    This recipe for a facial mask uses the natural capacity of essential oils to help dissolve excess oil.
    The most common treatment or supplements for combating water weight are drugs called “diuretics”.
    Yoga promotes self-awareness and during the process it helps you to deal with stress in your day to day life.

  • http://googleusuck.com tocero

    I am using Bing, Blekko, Yahoo searches… Farewell Google

  • http://www.energeticasevilla.com/ Sevilla

    Google people and their strange algorithms…

  • Romero

    Google’s change will have a very negative affect unless they start making some practical changes. I am starting to use “Bing” instead of “Google” for most of my research. I do not have a problem with some advertisement on a web sites I visit, however when you can not read the page because there is advertisement all over, it’s time to move on. Greed clouds common sense.

  • Romero

    I also have a big problem with advertisement that is recorded. It is unnerving to be reading and all of a sudden you hear and see a recorded advertisement. GOOD BY GOOGLE!