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
Matt Southern has been the lead news writer at Search Engine Journal since 2013. With a degree in communications, Matt has an uncanny ability to make the most complex subject matter easy to understand. When he’s not ferociously following and covering the search industry, he’s busy writing SEO-friendly copy that converts.