Until recently, footer links on websites have been an element that were thought to serve certain beneficial optimization functions. For the most part, this is a true statement as they have helped speed up indexing while providing an additional way for confused viewers to navigate around a website. With the recent release of Google’s Penguin 2.0 search algorithm update, this seems to have changed fairly significantly. Because of Penguin 2.0’s stricter rules on determining the value of links both within a page as well as going on and off a page, many have found footers to be causing more problems than increasing optimization. To regain usefulness, it is important that content in this area be re-evaluated.
Are Footer Links For Users or Search Engines?
This is a good question that needs answering before moving on to determine which connections should stay and which should go. Are footer links really there for use by viewers, laid out to be presentable to site users based on the amount of information on the pages, a convenient tool to click to a main page without scrolling?
If that is not the case and footer links are only being used to present more keywords, then such connectors should disappear as they are most likely no longer helping and are probably hurting any SEO efforts. Since the ideal layout has most important content on or above the fold, having keywords or other information further down the page provides little real value. Google now knows this as well – and interprets it as unnecessary.
Penguin 2.0 and New Rules
In Google’s continued effort to reduce the number of spam and low-quality websites that manage to get around the rules and are rewarded while honest pages do not, Penguin 2.0 has taken a much stricter view on what links are allowable. Search algorithms are more sensitive to keyword-stuffed hyperlinks, excessive amounts of connectors on and off pages, and those put on a landing or advertorial page that leads to a content page.
Because this process is done by computer based on what spiders see on websites, there is always going to be a potential for error. The go-around for websites that are experiencing reduced optimization and page rank as a result of this issue is to re-evaluate all page connections and determine quality and relevance. When a footer is being used for anything other than providing a means to connect to a few main navigational pages, a website can very easily get lumped in with spammers. While such footer usage may have been passable before, footer keyword, advertising and other non-necessary links will decrease the quality of the entire website.
Correct Usage of Footer Links
This tightening of Google’s belt in regard to the use of links actually helps web designers in a way, in that it makes the use of footer space a lot simpler. Since keywords, advertisements, and anything else different from the main navigational menu at the top should no longer be used down there, the only possible usage left are main navigational links. As long as the footer links are phrased the same as navigation at the top or side of the page, they can be safely placed in that area and be recognized as such.
All in all, though it is seemingly just one more thing that needs to be changed after another algorithm update, it is important to remember that the purpose of all these changes is to offer important benefits in the long run. It ensures that all ranking page quality is high, making the competition for any coveted high rankings much more even across the board!