Google’s unprecedented algorithm updates have left many pondering over whether or not footer links are bad for SEO, what the best practices for footer links are, or what the ideal number of links in the footer should be. For me to really answer this, we need to get to the nitty-gritty details by first identifying the different types of footers and all the bad elements associated with each one of them.

1. Footer with Boilerplate Text

This is a footer with a block of repeated content spread across the entire website.  There is nothing wrong with boilerplate footers – its most common use is to display a short snippet about your website. Again, there’s nothing wrong with this, but spammers have been using boilerplates with keyword-stuffed text in an effort to rank every page. This is when it becomes a problem.

  • Why Is this Bad for SEO?

Google is becoming smarter at identifying boilerplate text and ignoring it, but sometimes site owners are not aware of the best practices and end up keyword stuffing their footer links. They end up having duplicate content issues, which eventually leads to algorithmic penalty. We recommend keeping your footer link as clean as possible. Avoid boilerplates, or at least avoid too many keywords in the text, or keyword stuffing your footer boilerplates.

2. Footer with State/City Links

This is a footer with blocks of text listing cities and states a webpage is trying to rank for.  We have covered this in my previous post on Google’s latest keyword stuffing guideline update.

  • Why Is this Bad for SEO?

Google considers this a practice of keyword stuffing in your internal links to game algorithms into passing link juice forcibly to pages that create no value to users. This of it this way: how many of your website visitors will be interested in 50 different state/city links in your footer that have nothing to do with their location or what they were looking for?

3. Link-Filled Footers

Ever came across a footer with ridiculous amount of links to internal pages? We have all have.  This also raises the question of how many links are too many in your footer. First, let me answer why too many links may lead to algorithmic penalty and give you a little context on this.  Back in 2009, Google added the following to their guidelines.

“Keep the links on a given page to a reasonable number…”

If your footer links are eating up your link bandwidth, then it is likely the reason they are not ranking well is because after a certain point, Google won’t count them, or may even penalize them.

  • Why Is this Bad for SEO?

In 2009, many SEOs started using  PR sculpting as a strategy to pass link juice value to other pages from the homepage, which is the highly linked page on the website. Some spammers started manipulating this method by stuffing their footer with ridiculous amount of links. This led to creating a really bad user experience, which then led to Google officially announcing that PR sculpting is a bad idea.

In the post-Panda era, Google has been very tough on site owners with too many links in the footer, specially the ones with exact match keyword variations leading to same page.

4. Footer with External Links:

Any links without a nofollow attribute is considered an editorial link, a vote, and a recommendation. However, if you happened to purchase a wordpress theme, or you have a template with encrypted footer links going to external sites, and they are too many with different keyword variations, then you are manipulating Google’s link graph. 

  • Why is this bad for SEO?

By definition, Google’s effort to clean up paid link networks has led to the creation of an algorithm that penalizes pretty much any website that Google finds manipulating their link graph by selling paid links. External links in your footer might be the reason why you are not ranking in Google, since your link juice is being distributed to external sites that have no relation to your website rankings.

Moderation and relevancy are the keys to avoiding penalties for your footer. Contact your account manager today for a site audit, and log into your dashboard to check out our web design and development services.

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