Ad companies dont allow you to mark the advertisements as advertisements? I have dealt with many advertising agencies and that was NEVER the case. In fact my current one requires me to label the ads as such.
you are proving my point shatner. mirror.co.uk clearly labels there ads:
"Advertisement - article continues below » "
thisismoney.co.uk is a far cry from most of the other hit sites, only 3 ads on an article page, and there adsense ad appears below the comments and has a border, unlike most of the others who have an ad at the start and bottom of the article.
I have been doing SEO for over 14 years and full time for about 6. I have owned literally over 500 websites. I have recovered over 60 websites successfully from google penalties. I have had a ton of MFA websites most notably myspace type websites (I bought my first house at the ripe age of 22 from my myspace layout website). I used to deceive visitors to click on the adsense and yahoo ads. I was the inventor of many creative methods to trick clicks. Do you remember when people used to place icons next to adsense ads? I was the one who came up with that.
Needless to say I dont want to toot my own horn but I have more than paid my dues, I know what a MFA website looks and feels like.
Is this the only factor? heck no! there are many factors that go into it..its never cut and dry. I can look at a site and say "wow, I really respect them for doing that" because I know how much it drives leads down when you label an ad an ad.
I can explain most of the pandalized sites. Doesnt mean I will always be right, but I bet you I am pretty close.