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[edited by: brinked at 9:46 am (utc) on Apr 16, 2011]
[edited by: londrum at 9:55 am (utc) on Apr 16, 2011]
...AdSense links trying to draw clicks were interspersed among the the questions and non-answers. On the results I'm now seeing returned, most of that junk, at any rate, is at least 30 spots lower.
I'm sure these AdSense links got a large share of clicks which pulled people off the sites fairly quickly. While these probably resulted in more immediate AdSense income to the site owners, they perhaps also provided a not good satisfaction signal to Google in the long run.
For the queries I've run, I'm seeing the pages now at the top providing much more useful information. Many of the newly surfaced pages still run AdSense, but, on many of these higher quality pages, the styling of the ads is different. The pages which are designed to keep users around have the ads in clearly delineated boxes with tinted backgrounds. Some of the best have the ads physically separated from the discussion.
There are multiple reasons that I'm assuming that user behavior was a factor in this update, but this is one of them. I don't think that Google is directly looking at AdSense styling or placement... but it's likely that the intention of design and of the overall site, to the degree that page design may have affected user involvement, was measured and factored into the new algorithm....
[edited by: brinked at 10:01 am (utc) on Apr 16, 2011]
Then how do you explain every single site in the winners having ads clearly labeled as "ads" (or they have no ads in their content at all) and nearly every single site in the losers does not have "ads" labeled as ads?
If you think google can detect which content is truly useful for a reader then you are giving google way too much credit.
but if you're targeting content farms then there is a far better way of doing it: by looking at the content.