Do AdSense Ads Cost you Google Rankings?

RankingMeasures.com released a press release about their new survey in which they tested the effect of having contextual advertising on your site in correlation to the ranking effects for that corresponding search engine’s rankings.

They conducted a monthly study of nearly a million search engine results for over 15,000 popular keyword phrases and found a strong negative correlation in the big three search engines where rankings dropped significantly when the site carried that search engines contextual advertising on their websites.

Sites displaying contextual PPC advertising are consistently ranking lower than similar sites without these ads. These ads are taken from the search engines’ own advertising networks…

RankingMeasures.com has found that for over 75% of searches, sites with contextual advertising from the search engine network are more likely to rank lower in the natural results. For example, on one major search engine 816 sites with contextual ads were found in search engine ranking position one while 1,356 sites were found in rank position 20.

While I can certainly understand the desire for Google to toss out sites that are simply trying to manipulate their rankings to drive traffic to pages that only contain AdSense ads, as we have seen with the recent changes to the company’s quality score rankings, it does seem like they are often throwing out the baby with the bath water.

It also seems some what hypocritical to be making so much money on contextual advertising on one side, and then hurt sites that are hosting their contextual advertising ads on the other, kind of like biting the hand that feeds you. I have been feeling the same was as a Google Adwords advertiser as I see my rates getting jacked up for no apparent reason.

So what are the options?

Without any clear picture of what effects these rankings hits, it would appear that webmasters have a few options:

1. If you want to continue to rank in Google, consider not running AdSense on your site.

2. If you feel you want to continue running AdSense, consider the quantity of ads you have on your pages, perhaps maxing out the number of ads you can display isn’t brining in the bang for the buck you are looking for. If I was Google, I would certainly be looking at the quantity of AdSense ads you have on each page since the made for AdSense sites tend to max out the total number of ads they can display.

3. Start testing out other contextual advertising solutions which don’t run their own search engines. This move by the search engines could be a big boost to their competition.

About Adam Viener

Adam Viener is the Chairman & Founder of imwave, inc, a leading performance search engine marketing agency. Imwave focuses primarily on building and launching effective pay-per-click search engine keyword marketing campaigns for companies paying commissions on sales and leads generated. In both 2009, 2010 & 2011 Imwave was recognized as one of the fastest growing privately held companies by Inc. Magazine. Imwave recently announced they had served over 5 Billion ads for their clients!

Adam, a serial internet entrepreneur, founded one of the first commercial internet service providers (ISPs) in 1993. He has a deep understanding of internet technologies and profitable internet marketing tactics. Adam currently sits on the publisher advisory boards for Commission Junction and the Google Affiliate Network.

Social Media:

Twitter: adamviener
  • http://www.revenuesource.com/ Revenue Source Affil

    Wouldn't the more established (and typically "authoritive") sites be less inclined to have contextual advertising anyhow? I don't think it's proper for one to say, "AdSense doesn't appear on Edmunds, Kelley Blue Book, or Cars Direct, so AdSense *must* hurt your chances of ranking for 'new cars' in Google."

    The fact remains that there really isn't a reliable way to test such a theory. And business sense also says that Google would benefit more by including Adsense sites higher in their results. Is it really plausible to believe that Google is intentionally hurting the view rates of their AdSense network? No. From a broader perspective, it's also very unlikely when Google tends to play the "impartial results" card. I just don't see them manipulating results for reasons other than spam/duplicate content filtering.

  • http://www.amazing-bargains.com Michael Coley

    I tend to agree with Tom. I think the researchers are implying causation, when it's really just a correlation.

    If I do extensive research and find that most basketball players are taller than average, it wouldn't be correct for me to assume that playing basketball makes people tall.

  • Eddie Wilson

    This analysis seems to suffer from the old problem of correlation vs. causation. (People eat more ice cream in summer, and crime is high in summer, therefore ice cream eating is the cause of crime).

    Isn't it possible that the types of sites that rank well might happen to not have AdSense installed, and that the types of sites that don't rank well might also happen to be the type that have adsense?

    Top media properties sell their own space, and few use AdSense. Smaller webmasters are mor elikely to use AdSense because their revenue generation options are limited.

    The fact is, it may just be possible that a crappy site is more likely to use AdSense than a quality site.

    Until the analysis is done using comparable sites, it is meaningless.

  • http://www.imwave.com Adam Viener

    I am reporting the findings they are saying from their report, I don't know one way or another of they are true.

    I do have a gut feeling from my work, that my pages with less adsense on the do much better in Google's search engines.

    On the flip side these ads bring in revenue and the sites do tend to rank well in other search engines besides Google.

    It would be interesting to see a study done that could prove correlation, and I think that is what these folks have tried to do.

    When you take that along with Google's clear disposition to go after the made for adsense arbitrage sites, it all seems to fit into place…

  • Jonathan (Trust)

    Some good points were brought up, I don't really see it myself either but I only use it on one site. I can tell you it hasn't hurt my Yahoo or MSN rankings at all.

    "When you take that along with Google's clear disposition to go after the made for adsense arbitrage sites"

    I'm not really sure they want that. If they really wanted that, don't let the sites into the program or throw up PSA ads on all the sites. Good way to kill the problem.

    Off topic but maybe another blog to have. Do PPC ads kill your SE rankings. I read around and every now and then someone will bring that topic up. I don't think so it all but am curious as to what other people think.

  • http://www.viener.com Adam Viener

    Interesting point Jonathan, I have only seen this in one case where it a client of mine had a top rank Local listing in Google that was showing up under a local search, and when his PPC ads started he was gone from the local listings.

  • http://www.unitedsharingnetwork.com Mike

    There are a ton of made for Adsense sites out there – this sounds like Google's way of cutting the fat.
    I have seen evidence of this on websites that have no ads at all getting higher rankings. But maybe the Google algorithm is just rewarding for good content, and not ad laden websites?

  • http://www.playing65.com Mike Pale

    I have to agree with the writer. I've seen this stuff happen even at Backgammon strategies.
    Still you need to make a buck right?!

  • Mary

    My personal experience. I have a business site with a Pagerank of 4 or more throughout my site. A few weeks after I started posting Google Adsense on my site, not only I lost ranking with other Search engines, buy I lost 1-2 points on my Page rank! After two months I can't afford this anymore as is hurting my business.. these ads are coming down today.

  • http://www.sitepromotionnow.org Michael Keenan

    Google is very hard to predict at any time all I do is use the power of the force and guestimate a possibly favourable result. Sometimes I win most times I lose. Although common sense does win most of the time and the the lesson to be learned is not to build low content/low purposed based sites just for adsense revenue.

  • http://www.web-marketing-concepts.com James Mackinlay

    I have been around on the net about as long as Adam and have seen a number of crazy things go on with the search engines.

    As far as Google goes I really dont even worry all that much about them anymore I used to be a Googleholic but have kicked the habit.

    Because of all the crazy changes they made and are always making all the time it's really not worth pulling my hair out trying to stay ontop in the rankings all the time.

    I have found it much easier to rank in Yahoo, MSN and others as well as using other ways to generate traffic to my sites rather then go nuts with Google (I think Google has shot themselves in the foot)

    It seems to me they have forgot what made them so big in the first place the general public now all they want to do is take over the world.

    Jim Mackinlay

  • http://www.maintour.com Bryce

    I was already convinced that Adam's theory here is true, the more AdSense items I post onto a webpage the worse it seems to perform in the Google Rankings. That was before I found this blog article.

    Now while I'm busy stripping off all excess Adsense, I'm trying to figure out if posting even one adsense block will hurt my rankings?

    Fortunately, there is more than one way to make money off my webpages.

  • http://www.playing65.com Yoti

    Yes!
    Look at Play65 that's what happened there

  • http://www.abccarparts.com ABC Car Parts

    Certainly AdSense creates a conflict between other than Google search engines, plus it brings the questionable content bearing words marketing words to your pages that may not be 100% related to the subject of your site, thus decreasing the targeting niche and ranking.

  • http://blogs.ebay.com/marvelheroes982 Michael

    Yeah I agree with the prior post, I would think Adsense can bring somewhat unrelated content to your site and make your site less desirable.

  • http://www.imchat.com Chat

    I don't see the correlation between AdSense and lower PageRank. It seems silly that this would be the case considering that Google seems to make some good cash from the AdSense Program they created. Secondly there really is no way to test this theory with certainty. The only one that knows for sure is Matt from Google. Since we don't have access to his work – the point is simply moot.