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Website Navigation – Footer

Footer links, in the past, have been a big opportunity for SEO’s to optimise, providing authority and keyword rich anchor text links to internal pages. Times have changed though and now the footer carries less benefit from a SEO perspective.

There are still quite a few things to consider when designing or reviewing footer navigation as part of a website audit, which we cover here.

User Experience

The footer provides an opportunity for the site to link to internal website pages and primarily should be targeted towards improving the user experience. For example; links to the terms & conditions, sitemap, contact, privacy, and ‘find us’ pages are all valuable links to put into the footer for the user.

It may be that all pages of the site require legal information of disclaimers, if so these can be added to the footer without impacting the user experience.
Anything that can assist in the user journey or deliver a better user experience can reasonably be added to the footer.

Another user experience factor to consider with footers, as with all visible site components, is how they appear on different devices. Mobile and tablet traffic are higher than ever, constituting the majority of traffic to many websites and this is only increasing the technology becomes cheaper and more readily available.

Large footers with lots of links and text need to tested on smaller screens.

Avoid Too Much Keyword Targeting

Additionally linking to popular content or categories on a website can provide a valuable navigation to users, but it is important to keep this natural and not too ‘exact match keyword’ targeted. For example if a popular page on the site exists that sells red widgets, good anchor text could be “Red Widgets”, spammy anchor text would be “Buy Red Widgets”.

Especially if this is located on hundreds or thousands of pages and is accompanied by additional anchor text like “Buy Yellow Widgets”, “Buy Cheap Widgets”, etc.

Another example; if you compare financial products, listing them in the footer as links to the most relevant page for each product is fine. E.g.

Home Loans
Credit Cards
Personal Loans

But adding “compare” or “comparison to each product could be considered to be keyword stuffing in the footer.

Do not use the footer simply to stuff keyword rich anchor text links to 30 pages targeting your top tier keywords. There should always be some consideration for SEO, but the user experience is a better guide as to what should be in a footer.

Footer Link Over-Optimisation

Ensure that the footer isn’t used as a ‘link-dump’ or sitemap, as this can be viewed negatively and dilutes the link authority around the website. All sites should have a primary source of navigation, therefore adding countless links into the footer is both unnecessary and potentially harmful.

Internal linking is a powerful tool, but adding 100 links to the footer will devalue the authority that each link passes on. See our article on Internal Linking here.

External Site Links

Do not link out to external sites from the footer with keyword rich anchor text, this will create potentially hundreds or thousands of identical exact match anchor text links. Google could see this as unnatural and the site being linked to could be negatively impacted.

Also consider adding a “nofollow” tag to external links to prevent leaking authority from every page of your website.

The Value of Footer Links

There is research to suggest that Google devalue footer links as part of their algorithm and as such the footer may not provide as much value as it once did.

Linking to pages that are linked to from the main navigation or elsewhere on the page will have less too no SEO value as Google primarily looks at the first link on a page. Thus adding pre-existing links need not be done for the purpose of optimisation.

Because the footer is, by definition, at the bottom of a page it will usually contain the last links that Google will crawl, as such the value of those links are significantly reduced.

Footer links also typically have a very low CTR (Click Through Rate) given that they are at the bottom of the page they are less likely to be seen and hence clicked.

The longer a page the fewer people will scroll to the bottom of it, thus the footer although useful is not a very sharp tool in the SEO’s tool box!

Technical Considerations

Ensure that the footer doesn’t obscure sidebars or content elsewhere on a page, especially when being viewed on mobile devices. Although unlikely to incur a penalty from Google, this does impact the user experience.


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