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This 33 message thread spans 2 pages: 33 ( [1] 2 > >     
Has the Google search team and the AdSense team finally made peace?
AdSense launches "best practices" for ad-layouts

 7:36 pm on Apr 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

Since the early days, the AdSense team has been pressing publishers to increase the aggressiveness of their ad-layouts. It started with the AdSense heatmap [google.com]. In the graphic on that page, content clearly takes a back-seat to ads.

Then in the aftermath of the Panda update, Matt Cutts said the following in a wired.com interview [wired.com]:
Does this site have excessive ads?

This put the AdSense team and the Search team at odds with each other: AdSense was pushing aggressive layouts, and the Search team using aggressive layouts as a negative signal in their algorithm.

Today, AdSense released a best practices guide [google.com] that seems to try to balance increased monetization with improved user-experience.


Sally Stitts

 7:59 pm on Apr 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

... but avoid aligning images with your ads or making nearby content mimic their formatting

Don't use the same color font?
Don't use the same font typeface?
Don't use the same font size?

Before - "For highest CTR, use the same background color in the ads."
Now - "Use a different background color for the ads?"

Before - "For highest CTR, don't use borders - blend in your ads."
Now - "Use borders to prevent blending in of ads?"

Before - "For best performance, place your ads above the fold."
Now - "At least SOME content MUST be above the fold?" And just how much would that be? Seven lines of text? Twenty per cent of vertical screen space? Fifteen? Which crystal ball do we use? The aggressive one, or the conservative one? By making the criteria WHOLLY subjective, there is NO WAY to determine the desired, required objective, thereby making the entire exercise arbitrary. Not good. Catch as catch can. Maybe you are good, maybe you will be penalized. Your proper guess determines your success. And the training, bias, opinions, attitude, and objectivity of the Googler doing the reviewing. Just hope he isn't having a bad day.

Before - "You are losing revenue, by not using more ads." I got this a lot.
Now - "While our policies allow you to place 3 ad units, 3 link units, and 2 search boxes on each page of your site, placing the maximum number of ads on your page may make it look cluttered. I have been saying this for 6 years.

Some times, short ties are "in"; other times, long ties are "in". If you miss the trend, and are not "stylish", you will get zapped. Just be hopeful that the Googler inspecting your site is not Mr. Blackwell, of fashion fame (now deceased). Trying to do the right thing, and improve your appearance, may spell doom for many hapless dressers (guessers).

[edited by: Sally_Stitts at 8:41 pm (utc) on Apr 21, 2011]


 8:38 pm on Apr 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

It's common sense. It's fine to blend the look and feel of the ads with the overall design of the site, it's not to make it appear ads are content and to encourage accidental clicks. I don't see the difficulty.


 8:59 pm on Apr 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

The term "above the fold" refers to the part of a webpage that users can see without scrolling down.

OK, define a minimum screen position, don't play games.

If I have to scroll on a netbook is it below the fold even if I don't have to scroll on a laptop?

On my 24" monitor I see most pages full screen at a glance, should I just design for 24" monitors?

Vague nonsense.


 9:02 pm on Apr 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

There was no doubt in my mind that sites have been pandalized for that, so they felt guilty. Too bad the rankings are no where to be found


 9:15 pm on Apr 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

i wonder if the AdSense team is going to go back and update their old pages about this... this best-practices page conflicts with many optimization tips that the AdSense team has blogged and tweeted about.

Sally Stitts

 9:22 pm on Apr 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

Having read the new "Best Practices Guide", I can honestly say that I know less than I did before.

Perceived correct practices have now been replaced with "Arbitrary and Subjective" guidelines.

No. The dichotomy between Google Search and Google AdSense has NOT been resolved. Not by a long shot.
Maybe the "steel wall" between Search and AdSense in not such a good idea, because of the conflicting interests of the separate entities. Google needs to present a coherent, consistent protocol for webmasters, which they are not currently doing.

Search wants to optimize user experience.
AdSense wants to maximize Google income.
These two objectives are not compatible, and have never been.
Will they ever be?
Will Search ever say, "Let's fill every page with ads?" No.
Will AdSense ever say, "Let's cut Google revenue for esthetic reasons." No.
There you go. No resolution will be forthcoming, IMHO, as far as I can see.


 9:51 pm on Apr 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

It'll be interesting to see how highly blended premium sites like wiseGEEK respond to this (if at all).


 9:56 pm on Apr 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

No resolution will be forthcoming, IMHO, as far as I can see.

I view this guide as a first step, but I agree that it is quite vague. someone above both departments needs to realize the conflict and hash out a clear guideline so everyone can get on with their lives. the search guys' paranoia about spammers reverse-engineering their algorithm needs to take a backseat here... there are literally hundreds of signals that they use so, giving clear guidelines for one of the signals is not going to undermine the entire algorithm.

Not revealing the threshhold by which the keyword-density flag is tripped -- ok, I get that.

Not revealing the ad-heaviness threshold is tripped? no, I don't get that considering that the threshold is likely tripped by following the advice of another google department.


 1:20 pm on Apr 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

I've always implemented the ads using the second illustration, where the ad is after the first or 2nd paragraph of content. That's where my biggest moneymaker is.

The only rule I think anyone should consider is: what do YOUR users think? Do they confuse the ads with your content?

With this Panda update, it forces everyone to reconsider how the ads are placed with regards to user experience -- regardless of what Adsense peeps even say.


 4:09 pm on Apr 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

Suddenly having a banner image at the top of each page seems like it might be a bad idea. Regardless of where you define the "fold," you can fit more unique content above it if you don't start by wasting a bunch of space with a banner.


 4:16 pm on Apr 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

I haven't had any issues so far, but I'll probably be revisiting some of my color schemes.

I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall during some of the internal conversations that probably went on between Google Search and Google AdSense over the past couple months.


 6:41 pm on Apr 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

It's interesting that in all three of these layout examples, the content is always the first thing on the left.

There is no example of a three column site with navigation on the left.

Is Google basically demanding that all websites fit to this one, specific format?


 7:14 pm on Apr 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

I doubt it. They probably just dashed out the three examples they thought of first.


 7:37 am on Apr 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

I know this is an adsense thread, however ive took on board the new guidelines and removed one unit that was at the base of all post, it rarely got clicked so I figured no loss.

What I am reluctant to do is remove a header ad that is not adsense, its an affiliate network and makes me a few hundred per month..I wonder if these "new guidlines" also include affiliates aswell as adsense...


 8:19 am on Apr 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

ads are part of the web, don't worry. IMO, just don't put blocks of adsense on top of the content section.

I see some pages that barely have any content (I'm talking a few lines) but have 4-5 ad blocks on all sides. IMO that screams "ban me" to Google.

simple simon

 8:52 am on Apr 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Hi All

I posted some info on Google arbitrage guidelines in a Google SEO Thread regarding Panda. The post was completely ignored :(

Anyway, the guidelines tell us that the screen resolution Google uses for 'above the fold' ad weighting is 1024x768.


 10:02 am on Apr 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Adsense guys want you to take a risk. See News Site > Content page in the One Click Optimizer. Then see Blog > Content page.

The Blog content page design is as they say on the main post. Content should sing, while Adsense should play second fiddle.

Now see the News Site content page design. Ads still are very prominent. Adlinks are at the top, Ad block is above the fold, all the way on the left.

Note that this seems to be the the only design they have where they have allowed an ad block and ad link at the top. (or they are just greedy - news sites not having those ad positions might affect their revenue a bit!)

So what should a content site do?

To play safe - follow the blog design. Use one ad block only, and get rid of ad links. You may call yourself a news site, but if Google thinks you are a blog, you are in trouble. Only a site that fits their definition of a news site is allowed an ad link and an ad block on the left.


simple simon

 12:37 pm on Apr 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

Minimum UI requirements from Google arbitrage guidelines

1. For any given page, ads should take up no more than 25% of above-the-fold real estate on a standard 1024x768 monitor.

simple simon

 12:38 pm on Apr 23, 2011 (gmt 0)


Minimum content requirements

1. Ads should not make up more than 25% of visible content on a page.
2. Ads may not be shown on pages that have no actual content or as a replacement for missing content (e.g. for site searches that come up empty).


 1:18 pm on Apr 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

simple simon, you got a link on 1024-786 screen thingy?


 10:07 am on Apr 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

It looks as Google search team with Matt won here. And it is pathetic for Adsense team and for all us.

I believe that they need to change many of optimization tips made in past.


 3:06 pm on Apr 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

It is total capitulation by the Adsense team - and I don't mind that! After all, these are the guys who pushed content publishers to splash their ads everywhere. I did it too (and became a Google case study). Well, the Google Case Study has been Pandalized!

For Adsense to put up this new set of guidelines which are moving very far away from the earlier guidelines, there must be some very good reasons indeed.

It is quite likely that they have been told in no uncertain terms that Adsense ads everywhere is affecting site experience. Not just that - the Pandalization has probably hit their revenues too.

It is in some ways shameful that many of us have been hit because we listened to Adsense more, and to Matt Cutts less. Now at least, we know who to listen to!

There is no doubt that the new Ad layouts (except the News Content Page one) are easier on the eye and more user-friendly. So even at the cost of my revenues, I am a bit thrilled that the Adsense team has learnt a lesson.


 11:31 pm on Apr 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

I just read this at the link you posted....
"Less can be more: While our policies allow you to place 3 ad units, 3 link units, and 2 search boxes on each page of your site, placing the maximum number of ads on your page may make it look cluttered. If users can't find what they're looking for on your site, they may turn elsewhere for information."

And got this from Adsense two days ago...
" At least 259 of the pages on #*$!#*$!x.blogspot.com are running less than three ad units. Adding any of our top performing units (336x280, 300x250, 728x90 or 160x600) to prominent sections of your pages will substantially increase your ad impressions and overall revenue.
Add more units!
Across the pages we analyzed, you could potentially add at least 514 units on #*$!#*$!x.blogspot.com."

So which is it Google?


 4:38 pm on Apr 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

Minimum UI requirements from Google arbitrage guidelines

1. For any given page, ads should take up no more than 25% of above-the-fold real estate on a standard 1024x768 monitor.

As I posted elsewhere, I don't know what "Google Arbitrage Guidelines" are; I question whether they actually come from Google.


 4:41 pm on Apr 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

> I question whether they actually come from Google.

Thanks netmeg, me too!


 6:15 pm on Apr 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

I just heard from Google.

They are telling me no ads above the fold and also be sure to have no ads below the fold or near navigation. Do not have pictures or anything that draws attention near an ad. Do not have many ads. The more ads you have the less you will rank in results.

You can place the maximum number of ads on each page, but you may lose rankings because of it. But don't have less than three ads on each page or you're losing out on revenue.

You should not use the same colors for ads as the rest of your site, but you should blend.

If you use no ads, you will rank #1. Each additional ad you add will = a loss in ranking.



 6:41 pm on Apr 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

i was actually fuming by line 3!

damn you


 1:26 pm on Apr 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

I got another e-mail from Adsense this morning about the same site....


We've noticed that you're running less than three ad units on 259 of your pages on #*$!#*$!#*$!.com. We recommend that you add any of our top performing units (336x280, 300x250, 728x90 or 160x600) to prominent sections of your pages currently showing only 1 or 2 ads in the placements our heat map suggests.
A single unit can have a big impact on your AdSense performance. You have at least 514 unused ad units on the pages we reviewed, that's a lot of untapped potential! For example, you could add more units to #*$!#*$!#*$!x.com/. Check out our case study to see how surgerysquad.com increased their AdSense earnings by 200% by adding a third ad unit to their pages.
Click here to create new ad units and start earning more!

The Google AdSense team

So three "is" better?


 7:24 pm on Apr 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

I got the same email and it shows the old heatmap not the updated 'best practices guide'. Really looks like 1 hand has no idea what the other is doing at times.

This 33 message thread spans 2 pages: 33 ( [1] 2 > >
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