Google's New Link Schemes: Widely Distributed Footer Links

Oct 9, 2012 • 8:38 am | comments (25) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

feetAs you know, Google updated their webmaster guidelines and I highlighted a few of the changes a week or two ago.

One change I want to bring out is mentioned in the revised link schemes document that specifically calls out footer links. It reads:

Widely distributed links in the footers of various sites

A WebmasterWorld thread is trying to understand what is "widely distributed." What crosses the line?

I mean, take a look at IAC's footer and then go to the footers of some of those properties, such as CitySearch or ShoeBuy or UrbanSpoon or others - you will see partner links in the footer. Is that okay?

I know many sites that like to link to all their properties in their footer.

So what crosses the line?

WebmasterWorld administrator, incrediBILL, said, "I think branded links are perfectly valid because the quantity of people using that brand is a clear signal of popularity."

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

Note: This story was scheduled to be posted on this day, but was written earlier.

Image credit to BigStockPhoto

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Bobby Gaglini

10/09/2012 12:45 pm

I see no issue with subdomains or proprietary partners being in the footer. It's sites that have nothing to do with you linking to you on their footer hundreds to thousands of times that one should take note of.

Nick Stamoulis

10/09/2012 01:59 pm

I agree with @twitter-351166632:disqus. If you link to your blog that's on another URL in the footer of your main site I don't feel like that should cause you any trouble. It's when you put a link/get a link from a completely unrelated website (then multiple that by however many hundreds of pages) that you get in trouble.


10/09/2012 02:32 pm

"Various" sites is the key point. How about Amazon's footer? They cleverly craft in anchor text. Amazon may own those, so is this cool?


10/09/2012 03:29 pm

I wish that Google would clarify. What if an individual has several properties (websites) and they all link? Isn't that what one would classify as link farming? I thought that was what the first Panda was mostly about. I really don't think that is fair because when I enjoy a particular website, and if the writer has more websites, I would like to know so that I could visit these and enjoy more of their content. Even when the sites are not related in subject. In addition, I feel that if an individual owns several sites, they should be able to link to those without being hit with a penalty. What's happened is that Google can't do search on content alone and has to base it on other factors, such as popularity of the site, or so it appears as such. This fist-pumping, chest-beating tactics are going to keep the little guys down for the count while the big brands soar. Ironic, because the little moms and pops are what kicked off the web. I worked for a huge well-known business at the time when the web was new and they didn't even get up a site until the early 2000's.


10/09/2012 03:52 pm

I would think branded footer links are fine, but how does Google define branded? We have been wondering if out footer links cross the line since the Penguin release back in April knocked some traffic off of many of our sites. Example and footer linked websites.

Lyndon NA

10/09/2012 04:12 pm

Hmmm. There are "Footer Links", then "Footer Links", and then there are "Footer Links". 1) Site Links : the usual Sitemap, Contact, Terms etc. 2) The Prominent pages (home etc.), or mirroring the top nav etc. 3) A few Popular or "of interest" items (a handful of articles/products) 4) Credit links (designers etc.) 5) Related Sites (mutually owned properties that deal with different topics, but have realted/similar audiences/markets) 6) Crammed Item/article links (you know, 40+ articles, all link-text heavy) 7) Irrelevant Sites (The car site that links to the footspa, wedding photography, airballoon and Submarine sites). Did I mess any? As you work down that list, the more likely you are to be "spammy". The more of them you have, the more likely to be "spammy". You also have to take "circumstance" into account. Google didn't (and probably still doesn't) have a major issue with anyone owning multiple sites ... nor linking between them - if it is relevant/useful. Don't expect those links to do that much if they are on every page, or reciprocated heavily. Further - circumstance should also include "popularity" and "importance". Yes, some of the "big boy" (and girl) sites heavily interlink their network. Then again, they are also PR7+, have a general PR3+ on many internal pages, have years of good behaviour behind them, and may well be pretty much bullet proof. Your site may not benefit from such "buoyancy" - so don't try to compare and run the risk. Another thing to consider is don't go over a certain number/threshold of interlinked sites .... or have too many such outgoing links .... or have too little relevancy ... as you may fall afoul of what ever Algo they introduce for it (Orca?). . Personally - the FooterLink Spam has been one of my biggest complaints to Google for Years. I've never understood why they haven't simply thrashed all that junk and scum out the SERPs ... as most sites that use that sort of structure/method also tend to buy the links, Attempt to Own the SERPs, keyword stuff and run what G decided to term as "content farms".

James Barker

10/09/2012 04:35 pm

I am unclear, do they mean the links the webmaster places in their OWN footer? Or inbound links in someone else's website footer? If Google has an issue with footer links, I hope they ignore them rather than penalise. I mean, if someone decides to link to you in their footer it is not in your control - another "negative SEO" possibility.

Kevin Gerding

10/09/2012 06:53 pm

If I don't request the links or pay for them, why should I have to police my backlink profile as if I'm guilty? I just don't understand why this nonsense is needed. It takes me away from other tasks such as research for content. That's what algorithms are for. Message to Google - quit trying to throw more of a burden on webmaster's backs. Find the algorithmic solution to discounting these links for people, such as myself, that are not participating in link schemes. I have absolutely no control over if and how webmasters link to me.


10/09/2012 10:26 pm

I am wondering where Google got the idea that they control what people have on their websites. A tad bit overbearing. If they don't want to index the footer, that is fine, if they only want to index X number of links in the footer great, but to tell you what you should put in your footer. That is just going to far.


10/10/2012 05:16 am

Well, they can't really control what we do to our websites.. We can put whatever we like on our site (look at all the sponsored links on the right nav of this site). Most of us only abide by their rules because we wanted their organic traffic, so, its a pretty suck thumb situation.. The best thing we can do is to work on getting more traffic elsewhere if we do not want to be controlled by Google's rule...


10/10/2012 05:25 am

hmm.. One way to look at it, those footer links are mainly there for the sake of sharing other web properties that the write have and the writer cares about getting organic traffic from Google, he can put a nofollow on all the footer links.. In this way, he can still share his other web properties with visitors without fear of being penalized.. Of course, one can argue that why should he go through the trouble of putting nofollow just for the sake of Google.. it really depends on how much he needs/want the Google organic traffic..

Yogendra Chavda

10/10/2012 07:00 am

Nice mentioning barry. there are some more points by google webmaster's blog which can be taken into consideration. such as getting backlinks from widgets etc. But i am still confused about one site which is ranking on 1st page of google for "SEO Company" term! The website is on joomla platform and maximum of their backlinks are coming back from joomla widgets which isn't visible for user!! That website has PR 7 also! even after all these updates the keyword rank of that website is same!! I am sure you know which website it is. If anyone(also google) have any idea about how they are still ranking on 1st page(in some coutries 1st position also) then please let me(us) know.

Yogendra Chavda

10/10/2012 07:48 am

i forgot to mention that this joomla widget is available on other website's homepage which are sending this website backlinks! all those websites which are having that widget has PR 1+ (no backlinks from PR 0)


10/10/2012 11:12 am

I agree with this. My site was hit by the penguin update even though I had never done any "SEO" on it. I invested my time into writing quality content that attracted a lot of traffic from me just sharing the content on my own personal social accounts. Ever since these updates, I've had to start monitoring my backlink profile using Ahrefs and other similar tools. Honestly, I wish I could just invest my time into keyword research and writing content that people would be able to find -- but quality content is being pushed down while people are STILL manipulating the algorithm and garbage is being pushed to the top of the search results.


10/10/2012 11:14 am

I read some extremely helpful advice somewhere -- I think it was on SEOMoz. It said to stop focusing on Google as your source of traffic; that doesn't mean to give it up, but just stop relying it as your sole source of traffic. Try actually marketing your website (such as social media)... when your site starts getting traffic, there is no way Google will be able to ignore it (as long as your site is of good quality).


10/10/2012 11:14 am

What if we have internal links to our own website in the footer -- e.g., links to each page on my website? Would that be penalized as well?

Dewaldt Huysamen

10/10/2012 11:29 am

I would love to get more details on branded footer links or credit links using brand name as anchor.

Trafficfundi SEO

10/10/2012 11:35 am

Honestly. What started all this crap was something called WORDPRESS. Wordpress has been the downfall to many SEO sites. If you're running wordpress sites and you're using other peoples templates chances are you're going to be dropped. Wordpress does not allow you to easily manipulate the onpage links i.e. widgets, are sitewide unless you have templates for variosu pages etc but most beginner users don't do that they use the templates. So why doesn't Google just come out and say STOP using WORDPRESS :)

Dewaldt Huysamen

10/10/2012 11:53 am

lol I can not agree with you on this. It is not saying you will get penalised if you have a link to a site in your footer like a credit link. It is saying if there are various sites with footer links pointing to your site then you will get penalised. And who uses a template for wordpress they have not customly designed? Or bought and branded and removed the credit links. Wordpress is the best thing for SEO if you know how to use it and set it up correctly. I see we lost some rankings and the major reason I can think of is too many of our links were footer links even if it was branded


10/10/2012 12:51 pm

Here's an idea - everyone stop using Google!

Nauman Lodhi

10/10/2012 03:02 pm

Google's Dream: An internet world where web sites link to each other or to themselves only when the content of the page demands.

John Brown

10/11/2012 05:03 am

you tanked our really quality sites, google. do you think we will care about your guidelines if not getting traffic?

John Brown

10/11/2012 05:04 am

so you cannot handle your site in way you want it anymore. But what the payment for it? No traffic from google like right now after jarring and jolting updates?


10/12/2012 07:53 am

Are the sidebar links on searchengineland that point to marketingland considered widely distributed?


11/27/2012 02:03 pm

We had a site that might have been hit by this of course no clarification from Google!category-topic/webmasters/crawling-indexing--ranking/lrnS6x-dEY0

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