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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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Google Link Disavow Tool Launches

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October 16  |  Link Building  |   Ryan Clark

 
A lot of people have been screaming and bitching about Google launching their link disavow tool and well folks, it’s finally here. Matt goes on to say that “most people shouldn’t need to use this”, unless you’ve been mass spamming and using blog networks etc etc etc. I will be doing a video soon for our new inbound marketing podcast where we use the tool to clean up a test site we had hit on purpose, and we’ll see what happens. Matt also does say that this tool will disavow the bad links, but it will take weeks for Google to re-crawl and re-evaluate your “juice” so to speak.

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Spam Still King In Google SERPs

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October 11  |  Link Building  |   Ryan Clark

So we’ve had a Panda, Penguin and EMD update all within the past 30 days, the Google search results should be pretty clean right? We most definitely shouldn’t be seeing link spammed, keyword stuffed, EMD based 3-5 page max websites ranking for some of the most lucrative keywords…right?

Well I decided to check one of those keywords for the sake of seeing what’s going on and it seems even worse than last month to be honest. Below are my results for the keyword “payday loans online”, so obviously these won’t be the same everywhere. I’d like to hear what you folks are seeing because one of out ten results being an actual brand is kind of scary. The majority of the results crossed out below all had thousands of links dumped at it within the past month. As well, they only have 3-5 pages max so you’d like one of these updates took out these kinds of sites?


 
This is laughable to say the least although the latest Penguin update was just a refresh, and not a tweak to the algorithm itself(correct me if I’m wrong on that one though). Matt has been caught saying that the next real update will be “jarring and jolting”, so we’ll see what’s up in the coming months. I imagine they’re trying to get these updates out of the way before the holiday


What about non-shopping results?

While not every top 10 result is going to be this bad, but I just keep saving searches I come across as a user and this was a recent find of mine. I have a BenQ projector and recently had to figure out what was going wrong with it and how I could fix it. You’d think BenQ would come up on the first page, but instead it’s 99% FixYa and their pages are mostly just disguised Adsense ads and no real fix for anything.


 
More so annoyed more than anything really….link to your crazy search results in the comments below if you have something to share.

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Google Adds To Their Link Schemes Page

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October 9  |  Link Building  |   Ryan Clark

I recently noticed that Google has added some more rules to their Link Schemes page, so I thought I’d alert others and break down what I see that’s new. While I’m happy to see some more clarity in what not to do link building-wise, there are still a lot of unclear tactics left off the menu.

I can tell you from experience that not a whole lot of people have read this page, and as someone who does inbound marketing, you should. Google’s updates this year have thrown a lot of people for a loop, especially when it comes to building/attracting/buying/stealing links to your website. While I think a lot of it still has to do with anchor text ratios and not so much link types (yet), why bother building junk when you can attract gold?

Ok, So What’s New?

Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link

I may be wrong on this one, but there seems to be some new words added to this paragraph this time around, mainly the part about sending someone a “free” product in exchange for a link. Sending a product to the biggest bloggers in your vertical so they can give an honest review is a great way to get feedback on your goods. While you may get a link in your review, you should certainly be getting social media signals, pictures and hopefully video content from the reviewer. Google shouldn’t have any say in this form of marketing as it’s completely natural to me. I’d just make sure you don’t have the reviewer give you any special anchor text other than “view website/site/brand name” etc.

Using automated programs or services to create links to your site

This was a much-needed addition, as there are SO many people using automated scripts and tools to mass create links. You know the usual suspects like Xrumer, SENuke and Scrapebox. 99% of the “SEO Services” you find on webmaster forums are usually done with some sort of software and it’s ALWAYS spam. Even SENuke.com may need to change some of the copy on their website after seeing this one.


Questionable, to say the least…

Links that are inserted into articles with little coherence, for example: most people sleep at night. you can buy cheap blankets at shops. a blanket keeps you warm at night. you can also buy a wholesale heater. It produces more warmth and you can just turn it off in summer when you are going on france vacation.

This is fairly obvious and I imagine their AI can detect this kind of stuff by now… Well, at least in a timely manner. I wish I could properly do a study to see how many “robot made” articles have been published on open article sites and web 2.0 properties. If you run a forum or UGC-based site, you more than likely deal with this crap on a daily basis. For those still utilizing something like this in their strategy, it’s going to be a wild ride if your income relies on this method. While it may boost your rankings for a while, I’d certainly not want tens of thousands of “un-cleanable” links out in the wild.

Low-quality directory or bookmark site links

This is a another obvious hit on the list, although notice the choice word of “low-quality”; this still leaves a lot of room for interpretation. I know a lot of folks don’t like the idea of Google determining what is not of the utmost quality, but it’s their search engine so some sort of line has to be drawn.

We on occasion will recommend some directories for clients, it all just depends on the situation. There are a lot of city/location-based directories that are useful for the traffic, never mind the link. Let’s say, for example, that I’m a local car dealership – there are going to be options for links that are vertical-specific, and which also provide more value than just a link. A perfect example being Dealerrater.com, which provides real user reviews for each specific dealer.

As for social bookmarking, just stick to the most active sites by creating worthy content. There are tons and tons of bookmark sites made with Plugg or Scuttle, and that’s what you have to steer clear of. What’s the point of trying to keep thousands of ultra low quality pages indexed for a lousy link? Putting your time and effort into, say, good content and Reddit, would pay off to a much greater degree.

Redbull is a corporation that does a bang up job creating content, and they have a hot link on Reddit daily, most often multiple times! The end goal is to draw more “fans” into their brand and this is when you start experiencing the life beyond Google’s organic search traffic.

Links embedded in widgets that are distributed across various sites, for example:
Visitors to this page: 1,472
car insurance

I like to usually follow three rules when someone wants to utilize widgets as part of their link strategy. The first being that you should create something unique and useful, and not another loan calculator or phony badge. Second, you should most likely slap a nofollow tag on that link. Lastly, do not use a “money anchor text” for your link, just stick to a site/brand name link.

Widely distributed links in the footers of various sites

I’ve heard a lot of people come into trouble with themes for the likes of WordPress and Joomla. The problem here being a money anchor text as the link in the footer, and this is a clear manipulation of Google’s algorithm. If you’re a theme developer then I don’t see any problems coming from a tactic like this, just stick to nofollow and the site/brand link again. There’s nothing wrong with providing something awesome for free and getting something in return. If you’re not a web designer, I’d steer clear of developing a theme just for the footer links… There are better things you can do with your time and money.

Forum comments with optimized links in the post or signature, for example:
Thanks, that’s great info!
– Paul
paul’s pizza san diego pizza best pizza san diego

The easiest targets out there are forums and blogs, because the platforms are almost all the same, and they’re easily exploited via AI. Forums are great for marketing, but the last thing to worry about is a link! There are better ways of getting legit forum ROI by being a part of the community openly. Any large forums in your niche also have advertising options, so don’t waste your time trying to blast links on forums. This makes your business look bad, and it creates a giant mess you’ll eventually have to clean up… Assuming Google does come out with that link ignore feature.

Creating Amazing Content is Truly Worth It in the Long Run

I’m perhaps sounding like a Google fan boy right now, but if you want to play ball and get that free traffic, you might as well play by most of the rules.

The best way to get other sites to create relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can quickly gain popularity in the Internet community.

It is not only the number of links you have pointing to your site that matters, but also the quality and relevance of those links.

It all comes down to you wanting to continue that traffic flow, which hopefully is converting into sales. I think the worst part is that if you do get to the top 10 by spamming, you’ll have 9 other people analyzing your links and looking for a reason to report you. So, continue focusing on doing the things that make you stand out from all the rest; this is where you’ll find success in the long run.

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Link Spammer Complains To Google About Spam Not Working

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August 13  |  Black Hat  |   Ryan Clark

I just caught this while helping out companies on Google’s webmaster help and thought you folks might get a laugh out of this one. There are sadly way too many “SEO’s” who have 0 clue as to what’s against Google’s TOS in regards to building links. This bloke is definitely lost at sea as you’ll quickly figure out from reading his post:

Hi,
 
I’m doing only white hat SEO for my site www.e07.net but it is caught in Penguin update and it has given low ranking, it should be on top for the keyword “forum posting service” it is on the seventh place.
 
I don’t know where I made the mistakes.
 
Thanks

Yikes… While 7th place is no penalty, his site will surely end up much worse over the next few weeks. I know most of you forum owners most likely want to punch this spammer in the face so settle down… one more will bite the dust soon. A quick look at the site’s link profile shows more ignorance as they’ve just been spamming forums with a couple of targeted anchor texts. This is exactly the kind of stuff Penguin is automatically looking out for in its hunt – not to mention ALL the links are of one type.


 
So this brings me to another point. If you’re hunting around for a service provider to attract links for you, do your homework on them. A lot of folks have no idea what to do and where to start, so knowing what’s going to cause your business trouble in the long (or short) run will make your life a whole lot easier.

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More Garbage Google Results

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July 29  |  News  |   Ryan Clark

I was shopping for a specific watch and I think among any type of search result, shopping ones are such garbage. Post Panda you’d think things would be better off but a clear example of what should have been fixed, is well, spammed out. Duplicate pages from two sites littering the search results albiet the top few are actually form Omega. This post really doesn’t bring much substance out, more so just a quick rant from an online marketer when I’m actually in shop mode.

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Pay Me To Remove Your Unnatural Link

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July 17  |  Black Hat, Link Cleanup  |   Ryan Clark

I just came across a Google Webmaster Central thread where an SEO firm doing a link cleanup kept coming across webmasters requesting a monetary fee to have the “illicit” link removed. The Linkbuildr team talked about something like this happening a few weeks ago during a company retreat and now we see something in the wild. We don’t do link takedown requests on behalf of clients for two reasons:

  1. We help people attract links, not build sh#@ links.
  2. We don’t build sh#@ links. If a major brand has a trillabazillion naughty links, the cleanup mess is going to be a bloody nightmare.

How have you been handling requests for processing fees in response to your link removal requests?

Some webmasters are now requesting processing fees from $20 to $500 to remove links from their web sites.

I don’t like paying those fees, as I did not ask them to place the links in the first place. On the other hand, they see it as a reasonable fee for the time and effort required to remove links. Nobody likes to work for free.

The web site I am currently working on has over half a million inbound links and the link removal processing fees are starting to add up to quite considerable numbers.

How do you handle such requests?

EastwoodThere is a great possibility this person is trolling, but this scenario is definitely not far fetched at all. I imagine a lot of companies will do anything to get out of Penguin’s grip and pass that manual review. I’m probably not helping the situation by blogging about this as other nefarious webmasters are likely to start doing this to other companies trying to clean up a link mess. Regardless of the negatives, what do you folks think? Would you pay a webmaster or track them down and go Eastwood on their behinds?

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Link Spam In The Wild – Post Penguin

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July 10  |  Link Building  |   Ryan Clark

Penguin has been in play for a while now and everyone is afraid to build links, well, except for the people who have dipped their toes in the post-penguin water and know what still works. It all depends whether you’re wanting your business to last in the SERPs for a while or just a short stint. The link spammers out there who target the usual big money keywords are still at it and are ranking in the top 10 faster than I’ve ever seen before. I’m not here to out anyone, nor would I, but we’ll take a look at real link graphs and keywords they’ve managed to dominate within a month…. yes in only a month!

There has not been much of an actual clean up of the SERPs in my opinion, so feel free to add a rebuttal or troll me for saying that in the comments below. In the 7 years we’ve been “building” and “attracting” links for clients, the one thing I can say is that slow and steady wins the race. The people hacking the SERPs are not doing it with any secret sauce of links, either; It’s full on junk links from junk sites and it’s quite embarrassing in my eyes for Google. I will give them some credit if the Penguin algorithm should eventually snap them out of the undeserved rankings within the next month. Within that time though, they most likely have a second and third site in the works and they’ll be right back to laughing all the way to the bank. The other spammers have noticed this as well and it’s still an all out payday for people with “turn and burn” websites.

Without specifically outing anyone, we’ll take a look at a few heavily spammed keywords just to showcase what’s still going on and what to avoid. Are posts like these productive? Maybe. Are posts like these cheap link bait for us? Maybe. Either way, I like to know what’s going on out there from all types of hats and stay informed. Keep in mind that the SERPs for each keyword are going to look a little different for everyone, but from what I’ve checked, multiple sources can confirm everyone I looked at was ranking top 5 for the term at hand. All of our backlink data was happily acquired through Ahrefs.com.

Search Term: Viagra

This first site shot up past Viagra.com for a while in my checking of the SERPS, which was pretty shocking. I won’t tell you if they’re still ranking or not but one thing is certain, they made it VERY high up for this search term quickly and easily. I’m keeping my eye on how long it last(s)(ed) and I suggest you folks do as well for the link spammers in your vertical.


Search Term: Bad Credit Loans

One of the other notorious keywords out there that’s heavy with competition and always an interesting peek into other types of link spam. The one thing I’ve noticed here is that the link volume seems to be a lot less, implying that Google is still giving a lot of weight to keywords in the domain name.


Search Term: Payday Loans

Just about every link spammer has a hard on for this keyword term as it brings in serious coin for affiliates. It’s always a hot bed of spamtivity and here, as well, I’m seeing the same time frame for quick ranking. Again, there aren’t as many links blasted as the Viagra term, but here we had another keyword domain in play so there’s that pattern again…


It’s a pretty fascinating world these “turn and burners” live in and while it’s not for me, it provides the other side with interesting details and facts. It seems the Google algorithm still has a long way to go and I don’t think we should be so quick to say “links are dead”. I’m still a big fan of doing the amazing things that make you stand out in your niche, which brings in everything you want as well as “natural” and quality links from sites that are relevant. If you’re one who does a lot of backlink research you’ll have no doubt noticed that the sites that have seen no drops and steady rankings have those great links and their anchor text levels are far from gamed.

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