The Impacts of Removing Video Ads from a Blog

Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on July 9, 2024.

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Ever since the major Google updates of late 2023 and early 2024, SEO experts have been seemingly throwing spaghetti on the wall to try and figure out what factors could have made an impact.

But because of the size of these updates, arguments could be made for trends everywhere. From having a privacy policy, contact page, or having display ads, virtually every best practice was flagged as a possible point of concern at some point.

When nearly everyone was impacted, it is easy to make these leaps.

One argument we saw several times is that sites with ads or aggressive affiliate plays were impacted more than others. While we personally did not see this being a factor as much in our own sites, it did make us curious, particularly around video ads.

So we put together a test to see what would happen if we turned video ads off one of our sites!

Are Video Ads an SEO Issue?

Before diving into this test, we should take a moment to highlight why we're focusing on video ads specifically.

To start, we need to re-iterate that no clear trends are present in the recent algorithm updates. That said, we've heard some recurring commentary about ads being a possible ranking factor and the slightly more intrusive video ads being part of that issue.

While we have not heard any large-scale studies that we think would be quotable here, we've seen enough anecdotal evidence from blogging friends and colleagues to make us interested in seeing for ourselves. Add to that the fact that users often do not like video ads (myself included at times), and it was enough to give it a try.

I will admit, however, that I was reluctant to remove video ads, if only because they generally have such high RPMs ($7-$10+) that I would be effectively shooting myself in the foot financially by turning them off. But, in a weird twist of fate, one of my sites was impacted so much by the recent updates that turning off video ads would have a rather small impact on my bottom line.

So, with little to lose, I turned video ads off on my travel blog.

What Happened After Turning Off Video Ads?

When it comes to measuring the impact of turning off video ads, we have to look at multiple angles, particularly around ad revenue, affiliate sales, traffic, and other user-specific metrics like bounce rates.

As you can imagine, the most critical impact of turning off video ads is losing revenue. My travel blog routinely pulled in $7-$8 RPM for the video player, and, as expected, my RPMs dropped from $25-$30 to $17-$22 literally overnight.

This was a big RPM drop, but, as mentioned above, this site's traffic dropped so much in all the recent algorithm updates that in the grand scheme of things, I wasn't really losing that much money overall- an easy choice to make for a test like this.

Going beyond ad revenue, some in the blogging space make the argument that intrusive advertising, like video, may impact your ability to earn money on affiliate sales. I can see the logic in this one, so I looked at the data for our biggest earner, Stay22, to see what happened next.

The month before turning off video ads we made 18 bookings at $354 total commission and the month after we made 20 bookings at $396 total commission.

On the surface, this one seems to be more or less the same. However, in the previous year we saw a marked drop in bookings from 27 to 18 over the same period (albeit with a massive jump in earnings due to a few high dollar amount bookings in the second month).

Is it possible that we overcame a drop and just happened to break even all because of turning off video ads? Maybe. But we also have to admit that most of our bookings here are dominated by Stay22's popup feature, NOVA, which should not be as impacted as much here over other affiliate products that rely on viewability, clicks, etc.

So, for us, it was a bit of a wash. That said, even looking at all of our other affiliate products that did require a bit more overt user engagement, I can't say that there was much of a change. But this is a your mileage may vary case. Personally, I saw no appreciable impact.

No Impact in User Metrics

After letting this one run for a while, I took a look at the rest of my metrics and have to admit, I saw very little change in any other possible metric I could look at. Our ranking position, click-through rate, bounce rate, time on site, and even overall page views remained about as steady as can be given the current chaos.

Compared to my other websites, where I did not make this change with similar ad settings (used as a control for any broad algorithm issues), I honestly would go as far as saying that removing video ads likely did nothing to my rankings or user experience in the short-term.

My RPMs for display ads, on the other hand, still tanked upwards of 25%-35%.

At a certain point, I had a decision to make- do I let this test run longer, or do I turn video ads back on for a more consistent revenue? Considering the limited test didn't show any notable increase in affiliate sales, I have to admit the answer was pretty easy for me- I turned video ads back on.

One Potential Issue With This Test

Ultimately, there was one issue with this particular test that we did not get to look at, and that was whether or not video ads are part of something like the Helpful Content Update, where algorithmic performance may be impacted only when that specific update is rolled out.

While this is entirely possible that video ads could be lumped in here, and is something only waiting until the next HCU rollout happens to see for sure, I have to admit that my gut feel here is no. (This is purely an opinion not based on data, mind you.)

The reason for this is that most major ad networks follow Google advertising rules and best practices to every last detail, and it would seem silly (but, not unheard of) for Google to simply call those practices without rolling out new guidance to these companies.

To me, if video ads have any impact on your site performance, it would be in the user experience side of things. If a user doesn't make it to the end of your post or, worse, bounces because they don't like the ads on your site, this could have an impact on both affiliate earnings and SEO in the long run.

These are metrics that have very real impacts on our sites.

The fact that I did not see any appreciable change in my time on site, bounce rate, pages-per-visit, or any other metric that could detect a shift in user experience, to a statistically significant degree at least, suggests to me that most visitors simply don't care about video ads one way or another.

If that is the case, then the impact on how much money I make via affiliate earnings is likely too low to be measured, and I feel content with my decision to turn video ads back on.

All this should be taken with a broad caveat in that this scenario only really works for my site and in the context of this test at large. We've read numerous accounts of bloggers with affiliate-forward sites swearing by reducing (or removing) ads to improve conversions and others who, like me, have seen no difference. Since every site is different, it truly is hard to say.

The best advice I can recommend is that if you think any form of advertising may be impacting your affiliate earnings and/or rankings, you can simply run a test to see. Broad algorithm changes may not get updated overnight (like the HCU rollout issues above), but you should see over a period of time if your performance data changes after making a shift. If its positive, keep it! If it isn't, well, you only are a few clicks away from turning ads back on like I was.

While I'm still not the biggest fan of video ads, I'm going to continue to run them purely because that high RPM earner is too much to overlook. If that costs me a sale or a periodic bounce, so be it.

Have you tested removing video ads from your site? Did you see any performance changes? Comment below to share!

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