19th April 2013
Making Sense Of Google AdSense Part 3: Panda Problems
This article is part one of a three part series:
Part 1: Is AdSense Right For You?
Part 3: Panda Problems: Laying Out Your Website To Avoid Panda Attack (You Are Here!)
You may remember the webmasters of the world getting in a bit of a tizz over a panda.It wasn't a panda that refused to reproduce and create more cute, sneezing baby pandas that the tech world was up in arms about, instead it was a Google algorithm change which dented the rankings of a fair few sites across the web.
Still none the wiser? Not sure how it relates to Google AdSense? We're here to help:
What is the Panda update?
Panda did a lot of things - its main goal was to reduce the poor, spammy results which seemed to clog up the first page of Google’s results during 2010/11. The change meant aggregators and "boilerplate" sites with duplicate content were hit hard as well as many directories.
Prior to the release of the Panda update Google didn't seem to care how you laid out your site. You could, for example, have a site which only showed a few lines of content above the fold and the rest of the page could be dedicated to ads. The problem was such that "built for AdSense" sites popped-up everywhere, targeting some fairly long tail keywords efficiently and taking a click for nearly everyone landing on the page. The only goal of these sites was to gain a click from the visitor and fill the coffers of the website owner and Google. This might seem like a good situation for you, a website owner who wants to use AdSense as a revenue stream, but you know in reality it damages all parties and doesn't produce long term business.
(NOTE: Google obviously does care how you lay out your site when it comes to ranking, otherwise they wouldn't have produced the Panda update.)
Since Panda, Google have said website owners (AdSense publishers) have to be a bit smarter about their AdSense layout.
The new ranking factor which Panda introduced was partially designed to combat those "built for AdSense" sites. Why would Google do this? Surely they were making money?
The nature of most of those "built for AdSense" sites was one which laid AdSense out to appear as page elements, content, menus and generally take up screen real-estate with "non-content".
It's fair to say that a fair few of the clicks which trickled through these websites were clicks which were placed by mistake, or without understanding that what was being clicked was an advert.
While the publisher gets paid, it hurts everyone in the end. Google loses the trust of advertisers because advertisers get lower quality clicks, visitors are grumpy and don't visit the publisher's website any more (you could argue that this works out fine for the publisher, assuming they've got enough new traffic) which kills any repeat visits, sense of community or otherwise. This isn't the kind of website which Google wants to be associated with sending people to.
How To Avoid Panda Problems With Your AdSense
Naturally we all like to stay on the good side of Google. So how do we avoid these Panda penalties?
A rule of thumb is to ensure that at worst your AdSense is on an equal footing, or complimentary, to your content.
Don't Make The Page Useless
A visitor should know what they're doing on a page and not feel they really have to hunt for the page/blog title to give them their bearings. If your visitors are having trouble getting to you actual content, because of your ad placements, you probably need to rethink the layout.
Place Content Before Ads
While sticking all your ads above the fold is great for catching mistaken clicks, this layout will get you penalised by the Panda update. Ensure the balance of your ad units are below the fold. Put your ad units next to your content, not before or above it. This allows you to have the best of both worlds - the visitor is able to engage in your content and will also have a chance to see the ads.
Avoid Overdoing The Ads
While it's good to have a variety of adverts on a page, don't "overdo" it. If there are certain parts of a page which, when you pass over it, are a kind of desert filled with flashing advertising where visitors would have to look very hard for any substance... then you're probably doing it wrong. Keep the balance healthy.
Really, Panda doesn't change anything very much compared to the old ad sense guidelines, if you were following it closely back then your site is unlikely to be penalised. If you've been affected by Panda then it's likely you were going a bit overboard!