Google: Content Position & Ad Position Part Of Search Ranking

Nov 10, 2011 • 8:20 am | comments (30) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

google page layoutYesterday, during the PubCon keynote Hot Google Topics & Trends Matt Cutts & Amit Singhal Matt Cutts made a point to talk about what changes in the algorithm will be happening in 2012.

One change that stood out was that content position on a page is going to be a ranking factor. He said "GoogleBot is getting smarter" and that determining the position of the content on the page, like what is above the fold - will be a factor. He added having a lot of ads in annoying spots can hurt the page.

Danny Sullivan covered this immediately with the title Google May Penalize Ad Heavy Pages, writing:

Ever encountered an ad-heavy page, where you struggle to find the actual content on that page? Google's looking at penalizing those in its search results.

The concept of looking at what is content is in which position of the page is not new. We discussed it in 2004 with Block (Passage) Level Link Analysis from Microsoft (back then, MSN Search). We also mentioned in in 2009.

Google will now look at this more carefully. So if you have ads in annoying spots, like where users expect to see content. I bet it will have a serious impact on that page's rankings in Google.

So be prepared!

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

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11/10/2011 02:11 pm

The image in your post says it all: they've been recommending above the fold as the place to put Adsense. Now they're saying this may be bad for your rankings.  WTF?

Barry Schwartz

11/10/2011 02:12 pm

nice catch ;-)


11/10/2011 02:16 pm

Again, these google guys don't know what they are doing. :) Well, it may be good for actual users though.


11/10/2011 02:28 pm

Here is the link with Adsense team telling people to put ads above the fold. Not to mention all the emails from Adsense telling people to put more ads on the page.


11/10/2011 02:38 pm

Interesting. Google worrying about Ad positioning on the page?


11/10/2011 03:03 pm

Do a search for "credit cards" or "mortgage" in Google.  90-100% of the Google page is Ads! Do as I say - Not as I do. 


11/10/2011 04:16 pm

I read here few days back an article which suggested google's one hand doesn't know what the other is doing. That should not happen, adsense say something else, search team is on a different path. There should be a proper co-ordination between the two.

Ben Johnston

11/10/2011 05:06 pm

Sounds to me like the left hand and the right hand know exactly what the other is doing. AdSense: "Put more ads on the page. Go on, you'll get more money and so will we. Everybody wins!" Webmaster: "OK, that sounds like a good idea." Search: "Yay, they did it - kill their rankings." Webmaster: "But I need that traffic to pay my rent!" Search: "The Algorithm cares not for your petty concerns, mortal." Adwords: "What if I told you there was a way to get that traffic back?" Team Google wins again. /tinfoilhat

Dan Whitehouse

11/10/2011 05:07 pm

Interesting. But not really ground breaking. You don't need to be Matt Cutts to figure that one out..


11/10/2011 05:48 pm

The algorithm is likely going to calculate the amount of content vs. ads in a given area. I can see how it would be beneficial to rank natural looking pages higher than a pages optimized with ads in hotspots. It all comes down to user experience and what Google determines is a useful site for it's searchers.

Barry Schwartz

11/10/2011 06:24 pm

I asked Matt yesterday, I thought you did this already. He said, it is being ramped up, implying it is going to be pretty big.

tennis livescore

11/10/2011 07:45 pm

No doubt content  is getting more and more important after updation in panda algorithm.

Rock That

11/11/2011 02:07 am

I do not care as much what they do as much as I would just like to know how to make my pages conform to their guidelines that are often too elusive and vague.....


11/11/2011 05:30 am

Hey thats quite strange, Coz they say content is more important and a ranking factor come on,,,,,,, Wats new in it ? Wat about the articles, press releases content ??   How does google determine content ?  Is there any ratio ?  

Razvan Gavrilas

11/11/2011 08:00 am

Page Segmentation is a big thing. They are trying to split the page in different segments and tell which one is more user oriented, identify advertising areas, navigational areas etc. The technology probably is close to something that will have low false positives and they started rolling it. They surely tested it for some time now.

Nathaniel Bailey

11/11/2011 10:58 am

So does this mean to be safe, sites should not have ads above the fold? Or will say a banner rotation in the header be ok? Because for example, I have one of my sites where I have a number of affiliate banners rotate in the header as I dont need a site banner as such like is used here and on most other sites, so would google look down on this or is this more aimed at the content in the main section of a page? If so will be need to tell googlebot where the main part of our sites or pages content begins? Don't get me wrong I think this is great as i hate it when you land on a page thats full of ads and you cant tell what's content and what's not. But I think this may impact some sites wrongly if googlebot dont know where the main content begins like with my example above.

Razvan Gavrilas

11/11/2011 11:05 am

they probably use the same principale as "Panda" does. Trained algorithms to match patterns. Of course they can fail in some cases ...

Dewaldt Huysamen

11/11/2011 12:36 pm

Funny at the recent g|south africa 2 event from Google South Africa, I confronted Eve Andersson from Distribution Lead for EMEA, London. She did not even know what Google Panda was. Its disturbing and funny I said that Google Adsense says the perfect layout is having ads above the fold, but in reality that drops ranking since Panda and even if you use it as inline ads.

Nick Stamoulis

11/11/2011 02:52 pm

You make a great point about Google Adsense. Looks like the right hand doesn't know what the left is doing! I wonder if their guidelines will change to say "keep you ads above the fold, just put fewer up there."


11/11/2011 04:16 pm

How will the mass of ads on the large news publishers have effect ? They have way more display ads than and other site out there

Roie S

11/12/2011 06:44 pm

About time the bot got smarter, almost too late it seems...


11/12/2011 11:14 pm

Since people's livelihoods are at stake, why can't Matt Cutts just tell people how many ads above the fold are too many instead of this vague B.S.? Is he telling some people the answer and not the rest of us? If so, is that anti-competitive. Or does he just glory in the power of letting publishers twist in the wind wondering what the Grand Pubah actually wants?

SEO Translator

11/13/2011 11:05 pm

That's not surprising. It follows the trend set by the Panda algorithm for quality websites. You are very correct in stating that sometimes the ads do not let you see the content.

Web Design Bangalore

11/14/2011 10:20 am

GoogleBot says: We need to maintain only  Original Content for a website

SEO Best Tips

11/15/2011 02:46 am

I think overall ad vs. content ratio is very important, positioning is more and more so, but you should be fine if you aren't cluttering the ratio above the fold.  Keep your strong content and titles well presented, blend in ads as you go.

Alireza Sefati

11/15/2011 04:11 am

again google is trying to set standards for the internet! IMO who cares if a user likes an ad heavy page then google should like it as well.


11/15/2011 12:45 pm

Every webmaster knows having a google ad as close as possible to content above the fold is optimal.  Removing these ads from above the fold will hurt google's revenue hugely.  When that happens they will put a leash on Matt...  He is out of control now.

Dan Whitehouse

11/15/2011 05:43 pm

Understood, but it's another classic case of one department not talking to another. They want to do away with the majority of ads? Then what's with all the publicity around ad sense at the moment? Confusing..


11/16/2011 12:07 pm

If Ad is related to content..??

Dewaldt Huysamen

11/16/2011 12:42 pm

Or they know and probably try to make it as fair as possible for the end user when it comes to user experience and search.

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