I’ve been toying with different blog themes and page layouts and made a discovery that may be costing you when it comes to search engine optimization. Worse, if you’re using Google Adsense to monetize your blog, a change in layout or format may also be costing you money.
I used to allow full articles to be posted on the home page, 5 in total. The rest of the posts were either found by clicking on an “older post” link at the bottom of the page, or could be found in the archives or linked to from the side column. I changed to excerpts with a “read more” link at the end of each to be able to have more articles appear on the home page. This blog is an example of what I switched the layout to.
Before long I notices two troubling changes. Firstly, the Google Adsense banners I always place in the side column became far less targeted, often totally irrelevant to the niche. In fact, other than geographically relevant, most were of little interest to readers. I attempted to research this phenomenon, but found little concrete information.
Secondly, and most troubling, I saw a decline in the PR of the home page. However, there was little change to the Page Rank of individual pages.
I suspect the problem to both the irrelevant Google banners and lower PR are a result of the limited content appearing under each post heading. Google’s recent reiterations of it’s Penguin algorithm penalizes websites that contain shallow content. I assume a short excerpt followed by a link to the balance of an article is being interpreted by visiting SE bots as a page containing a jumble of articles, all having shallow content. Worse, it’s possible that because the excepts contain low keyword density, and/or the entire page contains numerous keywords relevant to each of the posts, search engine bots aren’t gaining an adequate understanding of the blog niche to determine how the page should be indexed.
I’m considering various tweaks to help bots determine the best keywords each blog should be ranked for. I have edited the meta descriptions to be much more descriptive and keyword rich. I plan on testing a fixed table containing content at the top of each box as well, which will contain a keyword rich description of the blog’s niche. Hopefully this works to offset the negative impact shifting to excerpts from posts is having.
If you are seeing a similar, negative impact to your page rank and/or the relevance of Google Adsense banner ads, please comment and together we may come up with a solution that helps everyone.