AdSense is a Google ad product that allows publishers to monetize their content by displaying targeted advertisements on their website. Publishers earn money when people view or click on these ads.
So why do some people believe AdSense is a ranking factor? Ads have nothing to do with organic ranking, right?
Well, the belief is that sending traffic to pages with ads served by Google also serves Google’s interests as a company.
When a website is monetized with AdSense, it becomes another platform for Google’s advertisers to serve ads on.
Ethics aside, there’s an incentive for Google to send traffic to pages displaying AdSense ads.
More traffic means more ad clicks and views, which means Google’s advertisers are happy to pay for more ads.
But would Google let its interests as a company get in the way of delivering unbiased organic search results?
That’s the theory shared amongst those who question whether AdSense is a ranking factor.
Conversely, there are concerns AdSense ads could impact rankings in a negative way, as Google has specific guidelines on proper ad placement.
Let’s dive further into these claims, then look at what the evidence says about the impact of AdSense on search rankings.
The Claim: AdSense is a Ranking Factor
There are various claims related to AdSense as a ranking factor.
AdSense is a Positive Signal
One theory suggests that putting AdSense ads on a page has a positive effect on rankings because those ads generate profit for Google and its advertisers.
With Google having many of its services intertwined – such as organic search, Google Ads, and AdSense – there’s bound to be speculation that they share signals between each other.
Just as theories circulate about Google Ads being a ranking factor, which we debunk in another chapter, the same line of thinking gets applied to AdSense.
Lack of trust in Google?
An element connecting all these theories appears to be a distrust for Google.
People believe these claims because there isn’t enough trust in Google to keep search results fair and objective.
Google’s reputation as a trustworthy company has been damaged by lawsuits and investigations into alleged anticompetitive business practices.
Government officials have accused Google of such things as favoring its own apps on Android, and favoring its own products in search results.
Antitrust charges have been filed against Google in Europe and the United States in the past. Google is often under the microscope of the U.S. Department of Justice for claims related to anti-competitive behavior.
Despite being ordered to pay fines, Google maintains it didn’t do anything to stifle competition.
Continued investigations into Google’s practices do significant damage to its image of being a company people can trust.
That’s why AdSense continues to come up in discussions about ranking factors.
AdSense is a Negative Signal
Another claim suggests site owners have to tread lightly when participating in AdSense.
Using too many ads, or using them in the wrong places, is thought to negatively impact rankings.
This theory stems from the fact that Google is gradually putting more emphasis on pages that offer a good user experience.
Crowding a page with ads creates a poor user experience in a number of ways that Google considers important.
An abundance of ads can make the main content difficult to identify, cause the page to load slower, and cause the page to move around as it’s loading.
Each of these could lower a site’s page experience score. That’s why AdSense may come up as a negative ranking factor.
According to claims, AdSense either boosts rankings or lowers them. Which one is it?
Here’s the evidence.
The Evidence: AdSense As A Ranking Factor
This section is separated into two parts for each of the adjacent claims.
AdSense is a Positive Signal
The question of whether AdSense affects a site’s search rankings comes up so often that Google addresses it in the official AdSense Help guide.
Google confirms that AdSense does not impact a site’s position in the SERPs:
“Participating in Google AdSense does not affect your site’s rank in Google search results and will not affect the search results we deliver.
Google believes strongly in freedom of expression and therefore offers broad access to content across the web.
Our search results are unbiased by our relationships with paying advertisers and publishers. We will continue to show search results according to our PageRank technology.”
Site owners shouldn’t use AdSense under the assumption it will have a positive impact on search rankings, as that’s confirmed to be untrue.
It’s worth keeping this in mind if you’re doing a competitive SERP analysis. If a competitor is using AdSense and your site is not, you don’t have to worry about it being a factor that will contribute to better rankings.
Will it lead to worse rankings? Here’s the evidence on the other claim.
AdSense is a Negative Ranking Factor
As we learned in the above section, AdSense doesn’t impact rankings either positively or negatively.
Advertisements in general can, however, degrade the user experience in Google’s eyes and lead to lower rankings.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with putting ads on a website. But the ways in which they’re used can cause trouble for SEO.
When it comes to ad placement, Google asks site owners to follow the Better Ads Standards which list unacceptable placements of ads on mobile and desktop.
In addition, the AdSense Help Center has a section on best practices for ad placement, which site owners are asked to follow.
Lastly, Google’s page experience update takes into consideration how a site uses ads.
In communication to site owners regarding the page experience update, Google says:
“A site must not use advertising techniques that are distracting, interrupting, or otherwise not conducive to a good user experience.”
There are various ways sites can use ads that negatively impact rankings, but that isn’t exclusive to AdSense.
To that end, Google has gone on record saying AdSense is not exempt from the negative signals that ads could potentially generate.
Invasive AdSense ads are treated the same as any other type of invasive ad.
Google AdSense as a Ranking Factor: Our Verdict
Google confirms that AdSense is not a ranking factor.
The way AdSense ads are used on a page could lead to lower rankings, but that’s true of all ads. Therefore it’s not accurate to say AdSense is a potential negative ranking factor, either.
Featured image: Paolo Bobita/Search Engine Journal
How to Write For Google
Are you writing your SEO content based on the latest best practice tips?
I originally wrote this SEO copywriting checklist in 2012—my, how things have changed. Today, Google stresses quality content even more than before, conversational copy is critical, and there are revised SEO writing “rules.”
I’ve updated the list to reflect these changes and to provide additional information.
As a side note, I would argue that there’s no such thing as “writing for Google.” Yes, there are certain things you should do to make the Google gods happy. However, your most important goal should be writing clear, compelling, standout copy that tells a story.
I’m keeping the old headline in the hopes that I can convert some of the “write for Google” people to do things the right way.
Items to review before you start your SEO writing project
– Do you have enough information about your target reader?
Your copy will pack a powerful one-two punch if your content is laser-focused on your target reader. Ask your client or supervisor for a customer/reader persona document outlining your target readers’ specific characteristics. If the client doesn’t have a customer persona document, be prepared to spend an hour or more asking detailed questions.
Here’s more information on customer personas.
– Writing a sales page? Did you interview the client?
It’s essential to interview new clients and to learn more about their company, USP, and competition. Don’t forget to ask about industry buzzwords that should appear in the content.
Not sure what questions to ask to get the copywriting ball rolling? Here’s a list of 56 questions you can start with today.
– Writing a blog post? Get topic ideas from smart sources
When you’re blogging, it’s tempting to write about whatever strikes your fancy. The challenge is, what interests you may not interest your readers. If you want to make sure you’re writing must-read content, sites like Quora, LinkedIn, Google Trends, and BuzzSumo can help spark some ideas.
– Did you use Google for competitive intelligence ideas?
Check out the sites positioning in the top-10 and look for common characteristics. How long are competing articles? Do the articles link out to authoritative sources? Are there videos or infographics? Do the articles include quotes from industry experts? Your job is to write an essay that’s better than what’s already appearing in the top-10 — so let the competition be your guide.
– Did you conduct keyphrase research?
Yes, keyphrase research (and content optimization) is still a crucial SEO step. If you don’t give Google some keyphrase “cues,” your page probably won’t position the way you want.
Use a keyphrase research tool and find possible keyphrases for your page or post. As a hint: if you are tightly focusing on a topic, long-tail keyphrases are your best bet. Here’s more information about why long-tail keyphrases are so important.
If you are researching B2B keyphrases, know that the “traditional” keyphrase research steps may not apply. Here’s more information about what to do if B2B keyphrase research doesn’t work.
– What is your per-page keyphrase focus?
Writers are no longer forced to include the exact-match keyphrase over and over again. (Hurray!) Today, we can focus on a keyphrase theme that matches the search intent and weave in multiple related keyphrases.
– Did you expand your keyphrase research to include synonyms and close variants?
Don’t be afraid to include keyphrase synonyms and close variants on your page. Doing so opens up your positioning opportunities, makes your copy better, and is much easier to write!
Are you wondering if you should include your keyphrases as you write the copy — or edit them in later? It’s up to you! Here are the pros and cons of both processes.
— Do your keyphrases match the search intent?
Remember that Google is “the decider” when it comes to search intent. If you’re writing a sales page — and your desired keyphrase pulls up informational blog posts in Google – your sales page probably won’t position.
— Writing a blog post? Does your Title/headline work for SEO, social, and your readers?
Yes, you want your headline to be compelling, but you also want it to be keyphrase rich. Always include your main page keyphrase (or a close variant) in your Title and work in other keyphrases if they “fit.”
– Did you include keyphrase-rich subheadlines?
Subheadlines are an excellent way to visually break up your text, making it easy for readers to quick-scan your benefits and information. Additionally, just like with the H1 headline, adding a keyphrase to your subheadlines can (slightly) help reinforce keyphrase relevancy.
As a hint, sometimes, you can write a question-oriented subheadline and slip the keyphrase in more easily. Here’s more information about why answering questions is a powerful SEO content play.
– Is your Title “clickable” and compelling?
Remember, the search engine results page is your first opportunity for conversion. Focusing too much on what you think Google “wants” may take away your Title’s conversion power.
Consider how you can create an enticing Title that “gets the click” over the other search result listings. You have about 59 characters (with spaces) to work with, so writing tight is essential.
– Does the meta description fit the intent of the page?
Yes, writers should create a meta description for every page. Why? Because they tell the reader what the landing page is about and help increase SERP conversions. Try experimenting with different calls-to-actions at the end, such as “learn more” or “apply now.” You never know what will entice your readers to click!
– Is your content written in a conversational style?
With voice search gaining prominence, copy that’s written in a conversational style is even more critical.
Read your copy out loud and hear how it sounds. Does it flow? Or does it sound too formal? If you’re writing for a regulated industry, such as finance, legal, or healthcare, you may not be able to push the conversational envelope too much. Otherwise, write like you talk.
Here’s how to explain why conversational content is so important.
–Is your copy laser-focused on your audience?
A big mistake some writers make is creating copy that appeals to “everyone” rather than their specific target reader. Writing sales and blog pages that are laser-focused on your audience will boost your conversions and keep readers checking out your copy longer. Here’s how one company does it.
Plus, you don’t receive special “Google points” for writing long content. Even short copy can position if it fully answers the searcher’s query. Your readers don’t want to wade through 1,500 words to find something that can be explained in 300 words.
Items to review after you’ve written the page
– Did you use too many keyphrases?
Remember, there is no such thing as keyword density. If your content sounds keyphrase-heavy and stilted, reduce the keyphrase usage and focus more on your readers’ experience. Your page doesn’t receive bonus points for exact-matching your keyphrase multiple times. If your page sounds keyphrase stuffed when you read it out loud, dial back your keyphrase usage.
– Did you edit your content?
Resist the urge to upload your content as soon as you write it. Put it away and come back to it after a few hours (or even the next day.) Discover why editing your Web writing is so very important. Also, don’t think that adding typos will help your page position. They won’t.
– Is the content interesting to read?
Yes, it’s OK if your copy has a little personality. Here’s more information about working with your page’s tone and feel and how to avoid the “yawn response.” Plus, know that even FAQ pages can help with conversions — and yes, even position.
– Are your sentences and paragraphs easy to read?
Vary your sentence structure so you have a combination of longer and shorter sentences. If you find your sentences creeping over 30 or so words, edit them down and make them punchier. Your writing will have more impact if you do.
Plus, long paragraphs without much white space are hard to read off a computer monitor – and even harder to read on a smartphone. Split up your long paragraphs into shorter ones. Please.
– Are you forcing your reader onto a “dead end” page?
“Dead-end” pages (pages that don’t link out to related pages) can stop your readers dead in their tracks and hurt your conversion goals.
Want to avoid this? Read more about “dead-end” Web pages.
– Does the content provide the reader with valuable information?
Google warns against sites with “thin,” low-quality content that’s poorly written. In fact, according to Google, spelling errors are a bigger boo-boo than broken HTML. Make sure your final draft is typo-free, written well, and thoroughly answers the searcher’s query.
Want to know what Google considers quality content — directly from Google? Here are Google’s Quality Raters guidelines for more information.
– Did you use bullet points where appropriate?
If you find yourself writing a list-like sentence, use bullet points instead. Your readers will thank you, and the items will be much easier to read.
Plus, you can write your bullet points in a way that makes your benefit statements pop, front and center. Here’s how Nike does it.
– Is the primary CTA (call-to-action) clear–and is it easy to take action?
What action do you want your readers to take? Do you want them to contact you? Buy something? Sign up for your newsletter? Make sure you’re telling your reader what you want them to do, and make taking action easy. If you force people to answer multiple questions just to fill out a “contact us” form, you run the risk of people bailing out.
Here’s a list of seven CTA techniques that work.
– Do you have a secondary CTA (such as a newsletter signup or downloading a white paper?)
Do you want readers to sign up for your newsletter or learn about related products? Don’t bury your “sign up for our newsletter” button in the footer text. Instead, test different CTA locations (for instance, try including a newsletter signup link at the bottom of every blog post) and see where you get the most conversions.
– Does the page include too many choices?
It’s important to keep your reader focused on your primary and secondary CTAs. If your page lists too many choices (for example, a large, scrolling page of products), consider eliminating all “unnecessary” options that don’t support your primary call-to-action. Too many choices may force your readers into not taking any action at all.
– Did you include benefit statements?
People make purchase decisions based on what’s in it for them (yes, even your B2B buyers.) Highly specific benefit statements will help your page convert like crazy. Don’t forget to include a benefit statement in your Title (whenever possible) like “free shipping” or “sale.” Seeing this on the search results page will catch your readers’ eyes, tempting them to click the link and check out your site.
– Do you have vertical-specific testimonials?
It’s incredible how many great sales pages are testimonial-free. Testimonials are a must for any site, as they offer third-party proof that your product or service is superior. Plus, your testimonials can help you write better, more benefit-driven sales pages and fantastic comparison-review pages.
Here’s a way to make your testimonials more powerful.
And finally — the most important question:
– Does your content stand out and genuinely deserve a top position?
SEO writing is more than shoving keyphrases into the content. If you want to be rewarded by Google (and your readers), your content must stand out — not be a carbon copy of the current top-10 results. Take a hard look at your content and compare it against what’s currently positioning. Have you fully answered the searcher’s query? Did you weave in other value-added resources, such as expert quotes, links to external and internal resources (such as FAQ pages), videos, and graphics?
If so, congratulations! You’ve done your job.
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