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How many ads are just too many?

     
4:24 pm on May 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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We are playing around with removing & adding advertisements on a web property to see if we can identify an ads/content ratio that impacts ranking & potentially indexing.

It seems the last big update was in February 2014.
- Only include 1 or 2 ads ATF and put the emphasis on content
- There should always be more content than ads on a page. But what is this magic number of text versus ads.

If you have experience with similar tests it would be interesting to hear from you!

Thnx
11:03 pm on May 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I personally wouldn't worry about finding out the exact percentage or pixel limit. I worry more about good usability. When you provide a higher value user experience you often can generate much more traffic. From my perspective I may lose some revenue let's guess that it is 10% but it helps me generate more traffic let's guess 50%, so overall I can theoretically make more money even when not maximizing my ad exposure ... at least that is what I hope :)
11:52 pm on May 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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One ad takes away 10% of user experience, 2 ads take away 20%, 3 ads take away 30% etc.

No ads = 100% (the best) user experience.

Goodroi is right - it's better to 'lose' some revenue in short term to gain more traffic/exposure/best user experience in the long term.
11:55 pm on May 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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One ad takes away 10% of user experience, 2 ads take away 20%, 3 ads take away 30% etc.

Is this just your opinion, or can you provide a credible source for these percentages?
12:32 am on May 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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It comes indirectly from Google because they don't allow more than 3 ad units per page. Assuming 60-70% is an acceptable user experience it all adds up.
1:17 am on May 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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The question begets another question: What's an ad?

Some ads (such as display ads or AdSense PPC text ads) are clearly ads, and too many of them can overwhelm the content and clutter the page.

But what about affiliate links, especially those that are related to the site's topic and meet a specific user need? They're ads in the sense that they earn money for the site, but they don't necessarily detract from the user experience--in fact, they may enhance it.
1:50 am on May 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Actually Google allows many more ads than 3 via doubleclick...
1:33 pm on May 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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And you can use other ad networks in addition to Google so you can fill up the page if you want.

The answer to the question "how many ads is too many" isn't a set number. I don't care how many ads you have on a page as long as it doesn't get in the way of the content. And therein lies the rub. If your 47 second video requires me to watch a 30 second ad first, it's in the way. If your ad opens and closes in a fashion that moves the content around the page (DAMN I hate that) then it gets in the way. If you have 15 slow-loading ads on a page that I have to sit here and wait for, then it's in the way. If you load up your sidebars with ads, and they *don't* get in the way, then I don't really care how many there are.
1:54 am on May 10, 2015 (gmt 0)

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The best answer is "when it looks ugly and contrived".

In the old print media (magazines, newspapers, pulps, etc.) the mag sold up to 50% landscape (total pages) for advertising... BUT, the primary stories/topics had few to no ads. For THOSE pages the best ad limit was 1./4th page (25%) (sold in 1/8th increments up to full page). These "magic" numbers came from hundreds of years experience.

The WEB is the nearest thing to print media these days, so a good rule of thumb in up to 1/4th the content OR 3 ads for shorter pages, and even then, look at the page from the USER point of view. If 3 is too many...

YMMV, but ultimately, if the page looks stuffed for ads the average user will back click and look for content (thus losing any opportunity for ad clicks).
2:12 am on May 10, 2015 (gmt 0)

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In magazines, 1/3- and 2/3-page ads are pretty common for text pages (such as articles after the initial page or spread). Of course, one big difference between the typical magazine "inside pages" and a typical Web information site's pages is the fact that the magazine normally isn't showing a plethora of ads and sandwiching them into the body text.

I think netmeg makes a valid point when she suggests that ads are more acceptable when they don't get in the way of the content, but what's acceptable in the eyes of the reader may vary with the type of site and the nature of the ads. If I see a page that's loaded with ads for diet pills, payday loans, and the like, I'll probably think less of the site than I might otherwise. The same rule of thumb holds true in print media: Many magazines have ad standards to keep their reputations from being tarnished or cheapened--which isn't unlike Web publishers blocking certain categories of AdSense ads on their sites.
8:10 am on May 10, 2015 (gmt 0)

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The question begets another question: What's an ad?

Which itself begets another question: What's content?

Unfortunately, images do not qualify as "content" by Google's standard, so you need some good text pieces above the fold... and then it gets crowded.

we can identify an ads/content ratio that impacts ranking & potentially indexing

Why do you think ad position has a SERP-impact on a page level basis? The "Page Layout Algorithm" was a site wide penalty. Are you aware of other ranking factors?
11:25 am on May 10, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I have been sent to so many crappy info sites designed to sell ads that now, when I go to a new site, if it looks like it was designed to sell ads, i am gone. So 1 ad in the wrong place is too many.
6:11 pm on May 10, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Which itself begets another question: What's content?

Sometimes it's ads. I once attended a meeting where the CEO of a large publishing firm said that, according to reader surveys, many people read his company's trade and enthusiast magazines "for the ads." Back In the pre-Web era, magazines like PC and Computer Shopper often ran several hundred pages of ads per issue. The ads were useful not just for shopping, but also to keep up on the state of the art.

It's easy to see why relevant ads might add value to a niche site. On something like a general news and entertainment site, ads are more likely to be a distraction--or, even worse from an advertiser's perspective, they're more likely to be ignored.
6:40 am on May 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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The ads were useful not just for shopping, but also to keep up on the state of the art.

That would be an advertorial (as opposed to editorial). I agree that these kind of ad pages are useful. However, most people will look at banner ads in a different way.
1:00 pm on May 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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So riddle me this? Why does a page on "about dot com" contain NINE adsense blocks, plus a few other affiliate ads yet ranks above the fold across the board for literally thousands of unrelated key phrases?
1:59 pm on May 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@samwest Just because many people jump off bridges to commit suicide, doesn't mean I should jump off a bridge and commit suicide. I would be careful in blindly following what other websites do.

I'm not about.com and I need to be responsible to do what is best for my own situation. Doing a site:about.com search on Google shows about 3 million pages. If you look at a website with 3 million pages I am confident you can find many examples of things that are probably not a good idea for your own website. At the end of the day I need to be smart enough to decide what is best for my own business. Sometimes what is best for my business is not making Google happy but focusing on making my consumers happy.
2:06 pm on May 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Why does a page on "about dot com" contain NINE adsense blocks, plus a few other affiliate ads yet ranks above the fold across the board for literally thousands of unrelated key phrases?


Acually, About.com's new design is a lot more user-friendly and less ad-centric than the old one was. (I say that as someone who's no great fan of About.com.) The ads are mostly in the sidebar.

In any case:

1) Search rankings are the result of many factors, not just one, and...

2) For the search queries that I watch, About.com isn't even in the running most of the time. (IMHO, About.com is getting a lot less Google love these days than it once did.)
2:12 pm on May 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Check Alexa to see the trend of "about dot com". That may answer your question
2:22 pm on May 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@goodroi - I'm not suggesting you follow that model. I'm just wondering how it thrives in Google's "great user experience" world. It crashed my browser every time.
Not sure why you thought I was directing that at you...I wasn't.

@guggi - It's a start, but pos 90 to 140 isn't much of a dive. I'd like to see 90 drop to 100,000 + for the way they abuse advertising and sling thin content.
2:41 pm on May 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I'm sure About is a premium AdSense partner and probably a search partner too (as well as a massive scraper of my sites at least, but I suppose that's neither here nor there) They have different rules.
7:14 pm on May 11, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@ netmeg - thanks for saying what I was thinking. I'm trying to mute my usual "accusatory" tone.
5:44 am on May 12, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@samwest We have to look at the reach index instead of position. I don't have that info but I assume that traffic dropped around 30%- 50%. Look also at the percentage of search traffic. You may wanna see them gone, but IMO they were hit quite hard.
7:04 am on May 12, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I think it is not right thing that is you are saying here.. According to me you can put 4-5 ads and it don't create any problem.Please just try...
7:20 am on May 12, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@jaidevraghu it is against the terms, your account will be blocked after a while