We’ve seen an increase recently in the number of sites reaching out to us with manual penalties for overuse of footer links! This issue has led us to dig a bit deeper into what the differences are between good footer links and the more questionable ones.
There isn’t really an easy answer but what we can see are trends in the types of footer links used that tend to be targeted most
The sites that tend to suffer most from this are theme or web designing sites that use the footer as an opportunity to gain a backlink.
So, when are footer links dangerous for your site’s SEO?
The real danger in footer links lies in what kind of anchor text is used.
It seems that the sites that are most plagued by manual penalties tend to be those that use keywords rather than a brand name. OR, if the brand name can also be construed as a keyword by Google! For example:
“Web design Paris” could be construed as a keyword as you have the keywords “web design” in there! Therefore, Google could see this as over-optimization of a given keyword and you may receive a manual penalty because of it! Remember that to Google using the same keyword over and over does NOT look natural!
For sites with more branded names like; “Moz”, there would be no ambiguity in whether that is a keyword or not!
Unfortunately, that means unless you have a name that can’t be construed as a keyword, having backlinks in your footer may not work out for your site!
Does the site owner know the link is there?
According to John Mueller, this can have an effect on whether the link is seen as unnatural or not.
Now, the question is, is there really any way of telling whether the site owner knows or not?
The argument is that if the link is hidden, or in super tiny text then to Google that will look like the webmaster who put the link in is trying to circumvent the site owner ever knowing – obviously that is looked upon as a spammy, unnatural technique, and would therefore yet again potentially merit a manual penalty!
How natural does the link look?
John Mueller had this to say:
One thing that you probably want to make sure is that, again, that this whole thing doesn’t look like an unnatural link and that it’s actually a link to your business and not something like, ‘Cheap Web Hosting’ is being the anchor text. So, really making sure that it’s something where when someone from the webspam team looks at that then we can say, “OK. It’s clear that the webmaster wanted this link there on their own and they’re ok with this link being there so that this is visible as a natural link on those pages.John Mueller , Webmasters Hangout
Essentially, don’t make it blatantly obvious that there’s been some sort of bargaining or payment in order to get the link, rather than just a natural link out to your business! Of course, this really applies to all links!
Basically, if you own a web design company, server hosting etc, any sort of company that normally gets footer links, think about the type of link and the anchor text you have.
- Have you hidden a link on your clients’ pages or put it in tiny text? If so chances are Google will not look favourably upon this.
- Have you used a keyword-heavy anchor text for each link? Yet again this can look like keyword spamming to Google, which is unnatural and can lead to manual penalties.
- Does your brand name have a lot of keywords in it? If so chances are you could receive a manual penalty for over-optimization of keywords again, that’s just an unfortunate part of having a keyword in your name.
- Have you used overly pushy sales techniques in your keyword anchor text e.g. ‘get cheap hosting here’ – yet again Google will view this as unnatural and less trustworthy, and if done repeatedly could warrant a manual penalty.
- Do you use your brand a name as the anchor text (that doesn’t really have any keyword meaning) in the footer? If so chances are you will probably be okay. Google still isn’t entirely clear on it (but are we surprised?). However, that seems to be the option where you are at the least risk of a manual penalty.
- Be a really big authoritative site – they pretty much get away with anything because they have so many other trust ranking factors going in their favour!
If you think you may have footer links on various sites with keyword dense anchor text, we would recommend creating a template email to send to the webmasters of those sites just asking if they can change the footer link to your brand name (as long as it isn’t also a keyword dense brand name).
If not, we would recommend a manual review of your links, which we offer here.
The amount of manual penalties due to footer links is increasing rapidly in 2019 so it may be worth doing in order to avoid a nasty surprise and drop down the rankings.
We can go through all your links and look for any unnatural anchor text or linking and make a disavow list for you.
And of course, if you’ve already received a manual penalty we can also create you a reconsider request.
Drop us a message in live chat if you have any more questions.