A lot of online companies get money to run and to profit from their websites by publishing advertisements. It’s something that has been going on since 1994. In many ways you can’t blame the website owners; after all why not make some money of the side for doing virtually nothing?
The Google watchdog
Search engine guru, Google, places its main focus on user experience. For example, they promote websites that make it easy for users to locate what it was they are searching for. They want to ensure that users have a positive reaction to the websites they visit. From this point of view, advertisements will generate revenue for the website owner, at the same time they can have a negative impact on the user experience as a whole.
What Google said in 2012
Back in 2012 Google reported that they had received complaints from users who clicked on websites they were searching for, only to find that it was difficult to locate the content they expected to find there. They were not happy. In general, users want to be shown what they’re looking soon as they arrive on the website. They don’t want to have to go searching for it.
Of course this doesn’t indicate that Google is againsy advertising per se. What is does means that the ads have to be placed strategically around website so that they do not annoy visitors. Google will rank websites more highly if they provide visitors to those websites with the answers or solutions they’re looking for, quickly and easily.
In simple terms formula is: better experience = better ranking.
Summary of algorithm updates penalizing advertisements
In recent years Google have made a number initiatives in an effort to control the frequency of ads appearing on websites.
January 2012 - above “the fold” penalty algorithm - penalizing the placement of too many advertisements positioned above “the fold.”
October 2012 - Page presentation revision 2:- Mr. Cutts broadcasts an update modifying the original page presentation algorithm.
May 2013 - Non-specified updates: In typical Google fashion, the precise specifications of these updates were never revealed. However, it was broadly thought by industry experts that these updates were all targeted and related to improving user experience.
February 2014 - Page presentation revision 3: Notification of a further revision by Google to the page presentation algorithm.
January 2017 - Intrusive pop-up penalties: Google introduce a penalty for websites that contain aggressive interstitials and pop-ups that annoy website users.
Advertisements issues that frequently interfere with user experience
An over abundance of advertss placed above “the fold.” Typically this is when the major content of a web-page is positioned lower down the page, by the ads above it, making it necessary for the user to scroll down to view what he/she is searching for.
Gratuitous advertisements. This is when too many ads appear on a Web page which are of no use to the user, but are purely there to make money for the website owner.
Roaming interstitials and pop-ups. These are advertisements that tend to float above the content as the user scrolls down, and are very difficult to get rid of. This also relates to interstitials that divert the user from the content he/she was looking for and doesn’t offer them a way back.
Videos and advertisements that start automatically. Targets videos or soundtracks that automatically begin to play as soon as the visitor lands on the site. Said visitors usually find this extremely annoying.
Adverts that con the user. We’ve all come across these before. These are adverts designed to mislead. They provide no material benefits to the user.
Over paginating. Again this is something that we’ve all seen. It is where, in order to read the specific content users are looking for, they have to click through a number of slides or page before they get there. With each click a new advert appears.
Just think about it. When these issues appear on websites you visit, you’re unlikely to be happy. You’re not the only one course and this is why Google has made it its mission to improve the situation. All of the points we list above and below are taken from Google’s Search Quality Guidelines, because they downgrade the quality of the web-page.
Look at it from the user’s point of view
No specific tool exists that you can apply to your website to see whether or not it follows best practice. Because of this you must look at your website as if you were a visitor yourself. You should be able to see whether or not the web-page is fit for purpose, or whether it has been designed to specifically get visitors to click on the advertisements.
How best to go about positioning
Positioning your advertisements is something that needs to be done on a strategic basis. Remember that the prime objective of getting visitors to your website is to read the content. You therefore need to ensure that your ads don’t detract from the content being sought. If you don’t get the balance right, you will be penalized.
Research has shown that advertisements do their jobs best when they are positioned above the fold at the top, or to the left, or to the right. Although I said earlier that ad placement above the fold is a problem, it’s actually only really problematic when it pushes the content down the webpage, or it seriously interferes with the main content.
Don’t try and disguise ads
When you choose your ads, you want them to fit in with your website in terms of style. However, you need to avoid misleading visitors into clicking on the ads solely for the purpose of generating click throughs. This will help to avoid the user becoming annoyed.
If you stuff your web-page full of advertisements, it will lead to the page looking far too cluttered and will put users off.
For more information about Google’s attitude towards placing ads above the fold, please click here.
There is no doubt that ads on websites can provide a good source of income. There are many excellent examples around of websites that have done a great job with ad placement, that allows best user experience.
The thing to remember however, is that you must take care when placing ads on your websites. You need to bear in mind that it’s not just about generating revenue. You have to get visitors to your website in the first place, and that will only happen if you follow my advice with the strategic placing of advertisements, to increase your website’s ranking.