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Footer Links Targeted By Google?

3 Comments
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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Penguin 2.0 And Beyond In 2013

2 Comments
May 14  |  Link Building  |   Ryan Clark

 
Here’s the latest video from Matt Cutts talking about what to expect in regards to how Google will treat links in the coming months. The war on link spammers rages on and Google at this point in time is still heavily gamed and the results for any money making keyword is full of junk.

Pay close attention to what he says as this is an unusually long video for this series and it is full of insight. He covers not only Penguin 2.0, but all the other link changes coming to the table including;

  • What Penguin 2.0 will go after
  • How Google will handle hacked sites
  • How Google will go after tiered link building
  • How Google will better choose authorities in a niche..AuthorRank anyone?

I’m not too worried about these updates as we never target anchor text, nor do we actually build links for clients apposed to earning them. It’s a different world but if you’re wanting to run a real brand, you cannot be out there chasing junk links just to pick off those coveted keywords.

Here’s a transcript of the video for those who cannot watch it:

Opening and Disclaimers

Hey everybody, today’s webmaster video is answering the question: “What should we expect in the next few months in terms of SEO for Google?” Okay, so, first off, we’re taping this video in early May of 2013, so I’ll give you a little bit of an idea about what to expect as far as what Google’s working on in terms of the webspam team. In terms of what you should be working on, we try to make sure that is pretty constant and uniform. Try to make sure you make a great site that users love, that they’ll want to tell their friends about, bookmark, come back to, visit over and over again, ya know, all the things that make a site compelling. We try to make sure that if that’s your goal, we’re aligned with that goal, and therefore, as long as you’re working hard for users, we’re working hard to try to show your high quality content to users as well. But at the same time, people are always curious about, OK, what should we expect coming down the pipe in terms of what kinds of things Google’s working on. One of the reasons that we don’t usually talk that much about the kinds of things we’re working on is that the plans can change. Ya know, the timing can change, when we launch things can change. So take this with a grain of salt. This is, as of today, the things that look like they’ve gotten some approval or they look pretty promising. Okay, with all those kinds of disclaimers, let’s talk a little bit about the sort of stuff that we’re working on.

Intro to Penguin 2.0

We’re relatively close to deploying the next generation of Penguin. Internally, we call it “Penguin 2.0″. And again, Penguin is a webspam change that’s dedicated to try to find blackhat webspam and try to target and address that. So this one is a little more comprehensive than Penguin 1.0 and we expect it to go a little bit deeper and have a little bit more of an impact than the original version of Penguin.

Paid Ads/Coverage/Links

We’ve also been looking at advertorials that is sort of native advertising and those sorts of things that violate our quality guidelines. So again, if someone pays for coverage or pays for an ad or something like that, those ads should not flow PageRank. We’ve seen a few sites in the US and around the world that take money and then do link to websites and pass PageRank. So we’ll be looking at some efforts to be a little bit stronger on our enforcement as far as advertorials that violate our quality guidelines. Now there’s nothing wrong inherently with advertorials or native advertising, but they should not flow PageRank and there should be clear and conspicuous disclosure so that users realize that something is paid, not organic or editorial.

Examples of Specific Niches to Be Targeted

It’s kind of interesting. We get a lot of great feedback from outside of Google. For example, there were people complaining about searches like “payday loans” on Google.co.uk. So we have two different changes that try to tackle those kinds of queries in a couple different ways. We can’t get into too much detail about exactly how they work, but I’m kind of excited that we’re going from having just general queries be a little more cleaned to going to some of these areas that have traditionally been a little more spammy including, for example, some more pornographic queries. And some of these changes might have a little bit more of an impact in those kinds of areas that are a little more contested by various spammers and that sort of thing.

Going Upstream and More Sophisticated Link Analysis

We’re also looking at some ways to go upstream to deny the value to link spammers–some people who spam links in various ways. We’ve got some nice ideas on trying to make sure that that becomes less effective and so we expect that that will roll out over the next few months as well. And in fact, we’re working on a completely different system that does more sophisticated link analysis. We’re still in the early days for that, but it’s pretty exciting. We’ve got some data now that we’re ready to start munging and see how good it looks and we’ll see whether that bears fruit or not.

Hacked Sites

We also continue to work on hacked sites in a couple different ways, number one trying to detect them better, we hope in the next few months to roll out a next generation of hacked sites detection that is even more comprehensive, and also try to communicate better to webmasters, because sometimes they/we see confusion between hacked sites and sites that serve up malware, and ideally you have a one stop shop where once someone realizes that they have been hacked, they can go to webmaster tools and have some single spot they can go where they get a lot more info to sort of point them in the right way to hopefully clean up those hacked sites.

Shout out to the Spam Lords

So if you’re doing high quality content whenever you’re doing SEO this shouldn’t be some big surprise you shouldn’t have to worry about a lot of different changes. If you’ve been hanging out on a lot black hat forums and trading different types of spamming package tips and that sort of stuff then it might be a more eventful summer for you.

Authority Sites

But we have also been working on a lot of ways to help regular webmasters. We’re doing a better job of detecting when someone is sort of an authority in a specific space, could be medical or could be travel or whatever, and trying to make sure that those rank a little more highly if you’re some sort of authority or a site that according to the algorithms we think might be a little more appropriate for users.

“Borderline Quality” Sites… Possibly Good for Sites that Were Pandalized

We’ve also been looking at Panda and seeing if we can find some additional signals and we think we’ve got some to help refine things for the sites that are kinda in the borderzone/in the grey area a little bit. So if we can soften the effect a little bit for those sites that we believe have some additional signals of quality that will help sites that might have previously been effected to some degree by Panda.

Ranking Multiple Pages of Same Domain for the Same Query

We’ve also heard a lot of feedback from some people about that if I go down three pages deep I’ll see a cluster of several results all from one domain. We’ve actually made things better that you’re less likely to see that on the first page and more likely to see that on the following pages. And we’re looking at a change which might deploy which would basically say that once you’ve seen a cluster of results from one site then you’d be less likely to see more results from that site as you go deeper into the next pages of Google search results. And that has been good feedback that people have been sending us. We continue to refine host clustering and host crowding and all those sorts of the things. But we’ll continue to listen to feedback and see what we can do even better.

Back to Hacked Sites

And then we’re going to keep try figuring out how to get more information to webmasters. I mentioned more information for sites that are hacked and ways they might be able to do things, we’re also going to be looking for ways we can provide more concrete details, more example URLs that webmasters can use to figure out where to go diagnose their site.

Conclusion

That’s just a rough snapshot of how things look right now, things can absolutely change and be in flux we might see new attacks, we might need to move our resources around, but that’s a little about bit of what to expect
over the next few months in the summer of 2013.
I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m really excited about a lot of these changes
because we do see really good improvements in terms of people who are link spamming or doing various black hat spam would be less likely to show up I think by the end of the summer. And at the same time we’ve got a lot of nice changes queued up that hopefully will help small/medium businesses and regular webmasters as well. So that’s just a very quick idea about what to expect in terms of SEO for the next few months as far as Google.

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