Semalt Tells How Google Reacts To Spammy Webpages With Too Many Ads



On the 11th of December 2020, Google held a Search Central live stream in which John Mueller, the company's Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst, was asked a question: highly ranked websites on Google often have a high amount of ad content, even though this generally creates a poor search experience. How is Google dealing with this problem?

As the live stream soon revealed, it turned out that Google had been thinking deeply about this issue. The answers that Mueller gave give us some new insights into the black box that is the Google algorithm, helping us to gain a better understanding of what the search engine is looking for in its top ranking results.

Let's take a closer look at what Mueller said, and how that might affect the way you manage your ad content and optimise your site moving forward.

What steps does Google take to stop spammy sites?

Mueller began his explanation by citing a number of algorithm updates that were aimed at removing sites that delivered a poor user experience (UX) from Google's search engine results pages (SERPs).
While it wasn't mentioned by Mueller, the 'intrusive interstitial penalty', implemented in 2016, is also designed to reduce the prevalence of spammy results on the Google SERP. This update specifically devalued mobile-optimised pages with intrusive or needless pop-ups.

In short, Google is doing quite a lot to counter the presence of sites filled with spam, or that offer a bad user experience, from appearing on its SERPs. It's in their best interests after all, as it ensures that a user's search experience is a good one.

Which all serves to make this question all the more important:

Why do sites with too many ads still appear as results?

In short, spammy sites still appear because ads and UX aren't the only things that Google has to consider.

Mueller went onto explain that the ad and user experience factors are just two amongst many. The reality is that if a web page is particularly relevant to the query at hand, especially when that query is a super specific one, the likelihood is that it will still rank well. While the presence of endless ads will usually be enough to drag a result a long way down the rankings, there may be instances where other factors, particularly relevance, can keep it afloat.

"It can very well happen that a page is extremely relevant in some regards, but still has a really bad user experience, and we will still show it in the search results" he said. "And sometimes we show it highly in the search results."

Mueller went on to cite a common example: when a user is searching for a specific site. If a user types in 'ABC Company', Google has no choice but to serve up the site of that company. Sure, it might offer a bad UX, but that is the site that the user is looking for. Again, it goes back to providing the best search experience possible, even if that experience sees a user neck deep in pop-ups.

If that's what the user wants, Google has to give it to them.

Why doesn't Google remove spammy websites?

There are a number of reasons why Google may choose to entirely remove a website from its index. Google has a policy of not commenting on the individual reasons for sites to be removed, and reserves the right to do so at its own discretion, but a few that it has cited in the past include:
This last point would appear at first glance to be pertinent to the subject of too many ads. But these quality guidelines don't mention user experience at all. They instead largely target intentionally deceptive or malicious conduct, a category that doesn't generally include ad banners and pop-ups, no matter how annoying they might be.

Mueller explains: "It's extremely rare for us to manually remove a website from search. We usually reserve that for cases where the whole website is essentially irrelevant; where it's just scraping content from the rest of the web, and there's nothing unique of value at all. Only then is it something where the webspam team say 'this is a pure spam website, there's nothing of value here."

In short, Google has decided, quite understandably, that bad user experience isn't a removable offence. If it was, and if Google did decide to remove websites with too many ads, they'd risk taking down genuine sites that were simply badly designed, and punishing innocent people and businesses that weren't aware they were doing anything wrong.

"A lot of people don't know everything they should be doing on a website, and they end up doing lots of weird things," said Mueller. "As an expert you might look at it and say 'this is clearly black hat and against the webmaster guidelines', but it might be a legitimate small business that just doesn't know any better."

What does this mean for your website?

So given Google's stance on sites and pages that are overloaded with ads, how might this information affect your website?

The main takeaway from the chat is that while too many ads won't see your site banned from Google, it is definitely a bad thing. It will mean that your website will only ever be served up as a result when someone types in something incredibly specific, such as your business name.

And if you want the full and unapologetic truth, on-page ads aren't great for business. While the internet's first ever banner ad had a barely believable click through rate (CTR) of 44%, effectiveness has only gone downhill from there. We've reached a point where the CTR for display advertising is now approximately 0.06%. It makes you wonder: is it worth annoying 10,000 people for the reward of six clicks?

Good digital marketing is about maximising effectiveness. It's about weighing up a variety of different factors to find the perfect mix for your situation. It's about finding a balance between SEO and ad revenue, ensuring the latter doesn't affect the former.

And to do all that, you'll need the help of experts.

Finding the perfect digital marketing mix with Semalt

Question: when was the last time you can remember manually typing a complete URL into your browser? For most people it will be hard to recall. If you need to go to a specific website, you've probably typed in an approximation of the site you're looking for, and been directed to it via a search engine.

This means that Google is now the gatekeeper of the internet, and if you want to get as many visitors to your website as possible, you need to play by its rules, which means making your site as user friendly as possible.

The reward you get from optimising your website for Google will far exceed any reward you get from on-page advertising. This statement is true for almost every website on the internet. And as you can see by the algorithm updates we mentioned earlier, search engine optimisation is a tricky business. You need an experienced and innovative team in your corner, helping to make your site as alluring to Google as possible.

That's where the team at Semalt comes in. As global leaders in SEO, we bring extensive experience in getting websites onto the first page of Google. We've helped over 650,000 registered users and over 1.5 million websites to find the perfect balance between ads and SEO, ensuring that they get the best from each.

Our complete suite of proprietary technologies, including AutoSEOFullSEO and Semalt SEO Dashboard have been designed to simplify much of the optimisation process, while our committed personal managers will be there to guide you through your journey.

Too many ads will be bad for your Google ranking, which means they'll be bad for your business. It's time to replace them with a smarter, more effective approach.

It's time for Semalt.