Does the number of ads on your website affect it’s linkability? IMHO, yes it does. I do most of my reading on my iPad, using either Ziteapp or Instapaper. Both of these tools do a good job of stripping the content down to its most essential elements and displaying it in a readable format. Unfortunately for publishers, this includes stripping out the advertising (see Advertising and Usability).
Often, I will come across something I enjoy reading or that I am inspired by and want to link to and will email it to myself in a link. When I get to the full page version, I am often shocked. Recently I had this happen on a post called How To Write A Killer Article in 30 Minutes. Compare the stripped-down version in instapaper on the left to the ad-saturated version on the right:
IMHO, the number of advertisements on the website might be negatively affecting the number of links the post gets. Now this may seem a bit hypocritical because anyone who views my site will see a similar number of ads in the sidebar and integrated into the content. That said, I think the SEO space in general is a lot more tolerant of advertising than many other vertical markets, but I have made some conscious decisions about implementation.
Post Age – Ads don’t appear on posts when they are published. They only appear on posts that are more than 7 days old.
Ad integration – I can’t tell you how many websites I visit where the first thing on the page–sometimes even before the post title–is an advertising banner or an adsense block. I made a very conscious decision to show the title, picture, and byline before showing any ads. IMHO nothing screams MFA like a block of ads before content (yes images are content–see my posts on image optimization for more information). I operate many websites not in the SEO space and have avoided linking to, tweeting about, sharing on Facebook, and social media bookmarking many related sites because of their overly aggressive advertising implementation.
Finding a Balance – I think it’s important that sites monetize themselves (see Adsense: Why Bloggers Don’t Get it). I also think it’s important to integrate ads and thank your advertisers (see Blog Advertising is Broken). It”s something I do every month. However, I think that having too many ads can work against you. The extra pennies you make don’t offset the links and social signals you are giving up. Google recently filed a patent about ad detection … just sayin’ …
Dealing with Ad Blockers – Ad blocking plugins and integrated browsing/reading technology like Instapaper and Readability are on the rise. In fact, Apple will be including the technology in an upcoming browser version. Publishers need to find ways to display ads in a format that allows them to remain financially viable.
What are the takeaways from this post:
- Look at your site from a user’s perspective. Does your site have so many ads it turns readers off?
- Look at your pages from a long-term linkability angle. Is your ad placement too aggressive, and is it turning off the linkerati?
- Try to find a balance that allows you to make money without turning off the linkerati or discouraging social social sharing.
- Look at your website using ad blocking technology. Find a workaround that shows your ads but isn’t offensive.