Footer links (also known as site-wide links or boilerplate links) have been a hot topic in SEO circles for many years, but they’re only just beginning to get the attention they deserve.
It’s a highly debated topic:
- How many footer links should I have?
- Should they be nofollowed or followed?
- Can I use external footer links?
- What pages should I link to?
- Will footer links affect my SEO?
All of these questions and more will be answered in this article. We’ll review the basics, look at the SEO implications, and discuss the best practices for optimising your website’s footer links in 2023.
Let’s dive straight in:
Footer links are site-wide links that appear at the bottom of each page on a website. They serve two main purposes:
- To provide visitors with quick access to important pages on your site (like About Us, Contact, etc.)
- To help search engine crawlers properly index your website by providing easy access to its content.
Most of these links are internal (pointing to pages within your website), but you may also include external links.
In the past, Google relied heavily on footer links to help it understand the overall structure of a website. But nowadays, Google is much better at understanding how websites are organised and interact with other parts of a website.
The short answer is yes. Footer links still matter in 2023.
However, search engines have evolved and are now smart enough to detect the overall structure of a website without relying on footer links.
So, it’s not about footer links in and of themselves but about ensuring that your website is properly organised and structured so that search engines can easily access all of its content.
Here’s what we’ve learned over the years:
Google closely examines every link you place in your site’s footer and pays special attention to whether any links are solely placed there to manipulate search engine rankings or enhance the user experience.
If the links in your footer look suspicious, there’s a chance that Google may choose to ignore them. But if your footer links look natural and are helpful to the user, they’ll send a positive signal to Google.
It’s about getting the right balance between user experience and search engine optimisation.
The best way to use footer links is to ensure the links can help the user navigate your website faster.
Some people prefer only to place the link on the most important pages of their website. That is a good practice, especially if your website contains much content, and you don’t want to bombard visitors with unnecessary links.
Here’s a comprehensive list of links you can place in your footer:
The key to placing links in the footer is to ensure they’re relevant, helpful, and important to your site visitors.
Here’s one way to look at it:
Think of the footer as an extension of your main navigation. It’s a great way to give users quick access to important information without cluttering up your website.
You only want to place footers on pages your site visitors will want to see – like your homepage, product pages, and category pages.
You can have external links in your footer too.
They won’t boost your SEO or that of the external sites you link to, but they can help users find more information about your business.
Google devalues external footer links. And, if they’re too many, they could even attract a penalty. That’s why if you must link to external sites, it’s best to keep the count low and, most importantly, add a “nofollow” tag to them.
Putting it All Together
The footer is a great place to add important links for your users. They can help them easily navigate your website. You can also include external links, but keep the count low and apply the “nofollow” tag.
To ensure visitors find what they’re looking for quickly, organise your footer content into relevant categories and include keywords highly relevant to your business.
When done right, optimising the footer can give a nice boost to your SEO efforts. Just be sure not to overdo it, or you could be in for some serious trouble with Google.
What links should you include in the footer? Here are four things to consider:
Google Devalues External Footer Links
Footers aren’t new. They’ve been around since the early days of web design. That means search engines have had plenty of time to understand how people use them.
They can easily identify website footers and what’s included in them. That’s why, no matter how well-optimised they are, Google doesn’t give external links in the footer as much weight.
They have no SEO value. So, any site you link to from your footer won’t get any SEO benefit.
Footers are strictly for usability. They only work with internal links. You can include one or two external links if necessary but don’t expect to get any SEO value from them.
Here are a few cases where you may want to include external links to your website’s footer:
- When listing other connected businesses, like a different branch of a company
- When linking to partners, affiliates, or sponsors
- When providing links to legal documents, such as terms of service and privacy policies in pdf (preferably just create an internal page for this).
- When linking to your social media accounts.
- When providing access to press releases, awards, and other newsworthy events related to your business.
- When linking to review sites and other sources of user-generated content.
Footer Links Get a Very Low CTR
No one pays much attention to footers. Most visitors don’t scroll down that far on a website, so it’s no surprise that they get very low click-through rates (CTRs).
That means you shouldn’t expect too much from the links in your footer. Keep them precise and relevant, but don’t expect a tremendous response.
Think of them as a last resort to help visitors quickly find what they want.
Cramming them with too many links isn’t the most efficient way to drive traffic to different pages of your website.
Instead, you want to focus on optimising your navigation bar and internal link structure and developing content that naturally includes many relevant internal links.
Too many links are a healthy link total risk. Google can punish your website for having too many links, especially if they point to irrelevant pages or redirect visitors to non-existent ones.
Here’s where the problem:
Your footer links will appear on every page of your website. That can make it seem like you have a lot more links than you actually do, sending Google’s health link total algorithm into a tailspin.
That’s especially true if they’re external links. So, be careful what you put in there.
Allow us to explain:
Google uses a number of algorithms and metrics to measure website health. The total number of links is among the things they look at when assessing a website’s page quality. If a page has a ton of links but not enough content, Google will consider the page spammy and punish it.
If you’re not careful with your footer links, they could drag down the rest of your website’s health metrics. Stick with what’s necessary and relevant to your content, and you’ll be alright.
Organising Your Footer Link is a Time Suck
Organising your footer link is a time sink. For starters, you want to develop a solid footer link structure.
That involves thinking about what pages you should link to, whether any of the categories need special treatment, and how many links you should include in your footer. You also want to make sure your footer looks good visually and matches the overall aesthetic of your website.
Next up, you actually need to execute the formatting of those links. You want them to be easy to read, have a consistent size and colour scheme and link to relevant pages.
Finally, it helps to have multiple versions of your footer link across different platforms and browsers.
Now that you know the basics of setting up footer links and what to watch out for, let’s talk about how you can take advantage of them.
Footer links aren’t bad, but they do need to be used strategically. Here are some tips to consider when using footer links for SEO:
Only Add the Most Important Pages for Your Readers
Footer links are a great way to highlight important pages, but don’t overload them with too many links. You want to stick to the ones that will help your readers find what they need quickly and easily.
Let’s use Amazon as an example:
Amazon is a huge website with millions of pages and product listings. On average, the website receives about 2.45 million visitors per month. That’s why it makes sense for them to include an overwhelming number of links in their footer.
But let’s agree on one thing: they have done an excellent job only adding the most relevant pages to their footer.
Take a look at Amazon’s footer links – each link is neatly placed under a heading:
- Get to Know US: Amazon understands that most visitors want to learn more about the company. So they have placed links to their About Us page, Careers page, and even an Investor Relations page in the footer.
- Make Money with Us: Amazon also knows some visitors may want to make money through them. Again, they have placed links to their Affiliate Program page, Sell on Amazon page, and even an Advertise with Us page in the footer.
- Amazon Payment Products: Amazon hasn’t forgotten about those who want to pay for their products. To make it easier for visitors, they have included links to their business cards, reloading your balances, shopping with points, and Amazon currency converter pages.
- Let Us Help You: Customers may also seek help with their orders. Amazon has included links to their Customer Service page, Returns & Refunds page, Amazon Assistant, Your Orders, Your Accounts, Shipping Rates & Policies, and Manage Your Content and Devices.
It’s also worth noting that their footer section is broadly classified into two:
The upper section with categorised footer items, and the lower section with links to their products.
By understanding the needs and purpose of their website, Amazon has managed to create a footer section that’s intuitive and quite effective.
You can bet users actually use them.
Include Links to Each Product or Service Group
If you want to optimise your footer links, include a link for each product or service group. Visitors can easily access the page they’re looking for without sifting through multiple links.
Apple does this exceptionally well.
When you think about this giant brand, three products come to mind: iPhones, iPads, and Macbooks.
But Apple offers much more than that—they have 50+ products and services, including their Music, TV+, Arcade, and iCloud services. Let’s mention the variations of these products, from the Apple Watch to iPad Pros.
They also run an entire product support section containing troubleshooting guides, repairs, and service options.
To make it easier for all their customers to find what they need, Apple has organised their footer links into separate categories such as:
- Shop and Learn: Here, you can find links to their store, Mac, iPad, iPhone, AirPods, Apple TV, Apple Watch, Accessories, and Gift Cards pages.
- Apple Services: Includes links to their Music, News+, Arcade, TV+, Card Services, and More pages.
- Support: Here, you can find links to their support page, repair services, and technical assistance.
- Apple Store: A page that shows all their Apple Store locations. They have links such as Find a Store, Genius Bar, Apple Camp, Apple Camp, and Apple Trade In.
- For Business: Here, you’ll find links to their Business page, where businesses can find the perfect solutions for them.
- For Education: Includes links to their Education page, where educators and students can find the best tools for learning.
- About Apple: A page that contains links to their About Apple, Investors, Events, and Job Opportunities pages.
- Apple Values: Here, you can find links to their Environmental Initiatives, Accessibility Initiatives, Supplier Responsibility, and Privacy pages.
Apple understands the importance of organising its footer links properly. With this structure, customers can easily navigate their website to find what they need.
So, once again, it’s all about the user and their experience when they visit a website.
Ideally, you want to ensure your website visitors can easily navigate to their desired destination. Businesses must ensure their footer links are properly organised and regularly updated.
Simplify the Layout
A cluttered footer can be overwhelming for your visitors, so it’s important to keep things organised and easy to understand. Avoid cramming too many links in the same column or section; instead, break them up into multiple columns or sections that are easier to read and understand.
WebFX might not be as big as Apple or Amazon, but they have a well-organised footer. Their approach is to group similar topics and make them easy to find.
Here’s what we mean:
- Services: They have listed all their services, such as SEO, PPC, Web Design and Social Media.
- Resources: Includes links to their blog, About Us page, Marketing Guides, Tools, Locations, Contact Us page and Careers.
- Company: This section features the different departments within WebFX, like the digital marketing agency, SEO agency, social media agency, web design agency, PPC agency, content marketing agency, and social media agency.
- Knowledge Base: If you’ve got a quick question, this is the place to go. They have articles on digital marketing topics like SEO, PPC, web design and more.
In the top-right corner of the footer, they have even included the amount of revenue they have generated for their clients over the past year.
The Wrap Up
There you have it — everything you need to know about the power of footer links. They are often overlooked but can be incredibly useful for optimising your website’s SEO and keeping visitors engaged.
So, remember to go back and take a look at your footer links every now and then. Make sure they are up to date, organised, and relevant to your site — it could make all the difference in 2023.