Fact is that all big search engines have their own advertising programs, in fact these programs account for most of their revenue (whether its Google Adwords/Adsense, Microsoft Adcenter or Yahoo advertising).
Spam or low quality sites are typically over-optimized when it comes to ad placements, meaning that the users will be almost forced to click through one of the ads during regular navigation, further meaning the number of clicks will be higher than usual. Also the content offered on these sites tends to be of lower quality so the users will be more inclined to click off through an advertisement. This has the result of more money spent by the advertiser and at the same time lower conversion for them.
On high quality sites the situation is opposite. Higher quality content means that visitors will be more likely to find information they need so less users will feel the need to click through ads, and those doing so will be more likely to be genuinely interested into the advertised product/service. So end result is less money spent by the advertiser, with better sales.
It is not hard to imagine which situation is better overall, both for the advertiser and the end user.
Since Adwords can be set to monitor conversions, Google has this information out of the box and can use it not only to increase the quality of their own advertising service (which they already do in fact, with the so called smart pricing algorithm) but also to improve the quality of their search results (by pushing better converting sites up in the rankings).
By constantly monitoring the conversion rates, changes in ad placements and quality of offered content could have a significant contribution to search result rankings. This is especially true in situations where all other ranking factors for two sites are very similar - then the one with better conversion rates for the given term could be pushed up by the search engine.
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Posted in: SEO
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