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Footer Links Targeted By Google?

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June 3  |  Link Building  |   Ryan Clark

I recently got into a discussion with a crew of marketers and “SEO” folks I meet with for beers and the topic of footer links was something that kind of had me stumped. With all the confusion and weirdness surrounding links now thanks to Google and whatnot, it’s hard to have the right opinion on without knowing the right facts.

What we do know is that Google isn’t a big fan of of them and I suspect for the most part they will be devalued, especially if site wide. Taking a look at Google’s link schemes guide it clearly states they have distaste for them, but as usual there is little said which leaves a lot to the imagination.

footer links google penalty
 
Flash back to 5-10 years ago and site-wide footer and sidebar links were the equivalent of gold in the online marketing landscape. They worked so well that Google had to crack down hard although they seemed to put a lot of webmasters off of it, blackhatters were and are still buying them up like crack rock. Hell, I’ve even jumped on board with a client and saw their marketing teams doing this without even an inkling that it was against Google’s TOS.

So back to my beer meeting. One of us who wishes to remain anonymous asked us if he should be nofollowing his web design credit links on client sites. I know this is a topic that has been talked about before(here, here, here and here), but I still wasn’t too sure especially after reading those links.

For the most part I think Google will just simply devalue those links. On the other hand, if you’re gaming anchor text then I fully believe trouble will come. I also think there could be a problem(although there’s no way to tell) if you give a client a discount in exchange for that credit link. That alone is enough to get me worried so I thought this topic could be touched on yet again as well leave it open for others to comment on as time goes by.

Matt Cutts On Footer Links

 
While that video is a little old it gives us a little more insight despite Matt being vague as f%$! as per usual. I understand he has to word it like that as things change over time and who knows what Google’s algorithm will be doing in a year from now. My personal opinion is that if most of your links from from the footer area as a credit link, you may want to reconsider your linking efforts asap.

Two Real Examples Of Footer Link Problems

Looking in the past year I wanted to mention a couple case studies that surrounded the footer link issue. Since they’re quite recent, I hope to push the discussion further. I especially get confused with links from web design companies that usually put a “designed by” credit link in client footers.

The WPMU Case: http://moz.com/blog/how-wpmuorg-recovered-from-the-penguin-update

This is an interesting case study of sorts thanks to Ross Hudgens who took the time to analyze and report on how it played out. I specifically was glued to this case because the links effecting WPMU certainly were, for the most part, in their control. The other aspect I found quite interesting was the majority of the links were not focused on a “money” anchor text.

I always like to think that Penguin or whatever algorithm update will also harshly look at how many of x type links a website has. With WPMU getting the bulk of their links from their themes and plugins with credit links we can also assume the link placements are the same. Since the Penguin update is a computer and not a human, you still have to be careful even if you’re a big brand producing great work.

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Personally, based on how quick their penalty was lifted, I suspect this was revoked manually by someone at Google. It is rare to get your case made public in the media and I would have done some damage control if I were working for the big G. WPMU also had a lot of the footer links in their control as you can see from the post. The point I want to hammer out is of course the problem with their “footer” links.

The Jit Bit Case: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5792268

This was a very recent discussion which involved Matt Cutts himself piping in quite a bit to their issue. Jit Bit creates really awesome software which does have “powered by” credit links on the sites running their gear. Here’s the bit that caught my attention in their thread over at Hacker News.

Our site WAS affected by Penguin indeed, even by the first version of Penguin a year ago. Because we sell web-forum software and ticket-software – that both have a “powered by” link at the bottom, our SEO agency advised to add that…
And we’re still trying to recover… I’m contacting our clients one-by-one and we’re changing those links to “nofollow”.

Sadly another great company gets inept advice from a “SEO” company and they’re left cleaning up the mess on their own dime. It is extremely important to vet your SEO company before taking them on, and yes this even goes to our clients.

Further down in the comments is this other tid bit from the Jit Bit team.

Which ones? The ones above? I’m not sure. Will have to contact them and get back.
I think, the links we’re being penalised for – are mostly the links that come from our software widget. Check out this page, the very-very top of it: http://algonac.thebestcityguides.com/Forum/forum4195-Minneol…
We have HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS links like this (I’mm looking at my WMT right now). I guess this is the main reason. Our site is hit by Penguin…

So if you’re implementing a strategy like this I’d be very careful as it could really effect your business. Footer links can get out of control and make for a stressful removal process some time down the road.
 

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About Ryan Clark

I'm the CEO of Linkbuildr Marketing and the brains behind our branding and blog content. I specialize in effective marketing strategies for hotels, luxury brands and real estate. If your brand is in need of a boost then don't hesitate to contact me for a free proposal. Follow me on Google+: +Ryan Clark Twitter: @Linkbuildr on Twitter. You can also come ask me a question on our Facebook Page.  

3 Responses to Footer Links Targeted By Google?

  1. My first thought is that the links could instantly be of concern by the algorithm for the simple fact the anchor text is the same on every site the link is posted. To much of the same anchor text. What do you think?

  2. Tommy says:

    google weight loss reviews, the #1 site ranks for tons of wight loss terms has a shed load of footer links.

  3. Greg Fowler says:

    Ryan, the footer link situation is convoluted to the max. I think if a site is getting footers in non-related sites that is going to pose an issue. If you get footer links on a related site I don’t think that is much of an issue as long as the link profile has stronger editorial votes. Now, web design companies put there links in the footer and so far that I can see as long as the use the raw URL “their name” so far there isn’t an issue. But go ahead a google “seo services” look at the number one spot and check out their footers through Ahrefs. If I was to get footer sitewide links on a related site – at this stage of the game I would nofollow them. I think sitewides are best left to image links without an anchor and nofollowed.

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