Google Warns Some Navigation Menus Might Be Spam

Dec 22, 2010 • 8:21 am | comments (13) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

A Google Webmaster Help thread has Googler JohnMu sharing a tidbit on how not to have your navigation menu structured.

The thread has a webmaster complaining his site dropped in ranking. It appears the reason the site dropped was because Google felt the site was keyword stuffing and spamming. Why? Well, he had most, if not all, of his site's structure in the footer navigation menu. John explained this often might be confused with keyword stuffing and result in a penalty of some sorts.

John said:

In general, having a full "sitemap" in the footer rarely helps, and might be mistaken for an attempt at keyword stuffing. Using a normal HTML-sitemap page is probably a better idea -- or just linking normally between the pages in a way that gives context to each page as you're doing now. So given that change, I'd let it settle down a bit now, and just generally continue working on your site.

Now I should add there are many sites out there, including this one, that puts a tremendous amount of the site's structure in the menu and navigation. I don't put it in the footer but I do put a nice portion of it in the top menu bar. Not all of it, because that just isn't useful.

I do not know exactly how much of the site's structure he had in his footer menu bar, but it does seem like he put it all there.

So just be careful how you handle your menu and navigation structure. Make it useful for the user and you should be fine.

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

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James Hussey

12/22/2010 01:30 pm

That's nuts - no reason that a navigation menu should be deemed as spam. Isn't Google's algo smarter than this? I've seen entire themes on WordPress do this for aesthetics.

Barry Schwartz

12/22/2010 01:32 pm

Well, to be fair. You and I did not see the menu. Maybe it had 200,000 links in it on the footer of every page?

James Hussey

12/22/2010 01:35 pm

Too true, Barry.

SEO Moves

12/22/2010 04:37 pm

Man You would think Google could figure out in 2010 that a website with navigation is not keyword stuffing. Google is becoming difficult to deal with these days.

Kevin Gamache

12/22/2010 04:38 pm

I think what John was getting at is not necessarily navigation per se but putting a link to every single page of your site (I imagine this is only applicable to medium to large sites) in the footer section. All this does is present a lot of links (that probably are developed with keywords if they are smart) that the person using the site does not usually look at or have a clear designation of where to go to next on the site. So, not useful from a user experience view and thus an issue with the Google gods. If you are a small site and have a small amount of links with relevant navigation I would hope this would not be an issue!


12/22/2010 04:48 pm


Barry Schwartz

12/22/2010 04:50 pm

Yea, not sure, tough one...


12/22/2010 06:33 pm

I would guess a lot of this is the quantity of links, how themed or consistant the links are and how they are marked up in the code. An in the footer fir example would be a significant indication of navigation module whereas a block of hrefs could potentially look a lot spammier.

software company

12/23/2010 02:03 am

"in general, having a full "sitemap" in the footer rarely helps," What is considered a full sitemap ? partial sitemap. How many links are considered spam? What is the max limit etc ? Wonder when google will come out with the specifics on everything.

Joshua Dorkin

12/23/2010 05:58 am

I see companies in the real estate niche pull this stunt all the time. It is very obvious that it is a clear attempt at stuffing in most cases; good for Google for recognizing this new attempt at an old trick.


01/04/2011 05:20 pm

Google will never come out with specifics. On anything. Where have you been?

Sourceworx Blog Design

01/22/2011 02:26 am

I see stuffing all to often. Everywhere I turn local small business websites have spam blocks at the bottom. Sad really because some legit sites have their nav both top and bottom and they get dinged too. I keep my nav above the content in HTML, was considering duping it at the bottom but after reading this I'm not so sure. Chris

Chris Lancaster

11/12/2011 07:06 am

I have 5 links at the bottom of each page for navigation. I hope that doesn't qualify for stuffing. Oahu real estate

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