SEO Footer Best Practices – 7 Facts You Need To Know

You may never have heard of SEO footer best practices.

And I wouldn't blame you.

If you're like most people you probably don't think much about the footer of your website.

And yet, what you put in your footer can damage your SEO.

But don't worry. In this article, I'll explain exactly what you should and what you shouldn't put in your website footer.

1. Footers and Sitewide Links

When anyone mentions SEO and footers in the same breath, they’re talking about sitewide links.

Sitewide links, also called boilerplate, are links that appear on every page of a website. They usually appear in footers and the blog roll in the sidebar.

Sitewide links can result in hundreds, if not thousands, of links from a single website. Back in the day, it was quantity, not quality that mattered.

People managed to get sitewide links from hundreds of websites. And their SERP rankings would surge.

One way to do this was to release free WordPress themes and plugins with sitewide footer links. It became a popular backlink strategy.

Sitewide links were a big thing in the SEO world.

Until May 2013, that is.

2. Penguin 2.0 and Links in Footers

That’s when the Penguin 2.0 update was released.

This was the algorithm that attacked unnatural link building.

It went through the SEO community like the grim reaper. At the top of its hit list were sitewide links.

In the weeks following Penguin 2.0, industry experts saw a distinct pattern. They reported that 75% of all Google penalties were due to sitewide links.

Even reputable companies were hit hard.

Anyone getting sitewide backlinks from WordPress themes saw their organic traffic plummet.

3. When are Sitewide Links Considered Natural?

So, are all sitewide links considered unnatural?

Not at all.

For example, Google won’t penalize a footer link that identifies the web designer.

Copyright and privacy policy links are also immune.

Links to another online publication owned by the same company are also fine.

Make sure, though, that the destination site is in the same niche as the linking site. Otherwise, it could look like unnatural linking.

4. Use the No-Follow Attribute in Sitewide Links

Penalties for sitewide links can affect both parties - the link destination as well as the source.

This reflects Google’s position that such links are often part of a 'blackhat' scheme.

So, if you must have an external link in your footer, enclose it in a "nofollow" tag. That was the advice of Google's John Mueller back in 2014, so it should keep you safe.

5. Avoid External Linking in Your Footer

In general, you should avoid external links in your footer. With the exception, of course, of the 'safe' types of external footer links described above.

6. Google Devalues External Links in Footers

In the fast-moving world of Google algorithm updates, 2014 is a long time ago.

There are now suggestions that external links in your footer are no longer dangerous to your SEO.

Such links will not be penalized, they simply won’t be given any weight. In effect, Google has devalued sitewide external links.

This applies to any kind of sitewide links: links in footers, sidebars, and headers.

7. So What Links Should You Put in Your Footer?

So, for an innocent blogger who wants to stay on the right side of Google, what sort of links can you safely place in your footer?

Here’s a list of links and information you can safely place in your website footer:

  • Contact Information
  • Copyright Notice
  • Call to Action
  • Graphic Elements
  • Opt-in form
  • Sitemap
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Address and Link to Map
  • Phone and Fax numbers
  • Internal Navigation
  • Social Media Widgets
  • Membership Login
  • Site Search Tool
  • Mini Gallery
  • Branding
  • Awards and Certifications Association Memberships
  • Testimonials
  • Latest Articles
  • Upcoming Events

Conclusion

In summary, avoid placing external links in your footer. If you must link to another website in your footer, use the “nofollow” tag.

Internal links are safe to place within your footer. Do use your footer for links to legal pages, contact pages, your sitemap, category pages, and your latest posts.

If you find another website linking to you from their footer, contact them and ask them to remove the link. If that doesn't work, use Google's disavow tool to avoid any potential penalties.

Rob Powell
Follow Me

36 thoughts on “SEO Footer Best Practices – 7 Facts You Need To Know”

  1. Hi Rob,

    I have been blogging for a while now, but I never really followed SEO blogs, except for a few giant publications which often talk it. I’m glad that I bookmarked your blog to learn SEO from you.

    Being a content marketing enthusiast, I know it’s imperative to have a little bit of SEO knowledge to create and put out good-quality content.

    I went through your blog post and learned many things. However, I’d like to ask you one question.

    I read in WordPress codex a long time ago that WordPress has made comment URL nofollow or WordPress now assigns nofollow attribution naturally to the URLs in the comments section. But I do come across people in the SEO industry who believe that comments still do have something to do with the SEO juice.

    I so much believe in the high-quality commenting for the sake of relationship building and growth, but I don’t think it does matter much from the SEO standpoint. What’s your opinion on the blog commenting?

  2. Hi Hassan,

    Thanks for stopping by and thanks for your comment and your question.

    You’re quite right – WordPress automatically adds a ‘nofollow’ tag to all links in the comments.

    The ‘nofollow’ tag was introduced by Google in 2005 to deal with the problem of spammers using blog comments to earn backlinks. In a 2005 blog post, Google explained that the ‘nofollow’ tag would prevent ‘link juice’ being passed on to the destination site (the site linked to):

    From now on, when Google sees the attribute (rel=”nofollow”) on hyperlinks, those links won’t get any credit when we rank websites in our search results.

    However, as Rand Fishkin points out, comments with ‘nofollow’ tags can indirectly have SEO value, in spite of the ‘nofollow’ tag.

    He points out that an editor on a major online publication may see your comment, decide that it links to a valuable resource, and link to your page in his or her own online content, using the ‘dofollow’ tag.

    An example would be a comment left on Quora. Someone searching for an answer to a specific question might come across your answer on Quora, decide that your response is authoritative, and link to your page with a ‘dofollow’ tag.

    Thanks again for your question!

    Best regards,
    Rob

  3. Great info. It’s amazing how many businesses still don’t realize the potential in investing in really good SEO. It’s like building a house, if done right it will pay dividends in the long run. Really good information here. Thank you.

  4. Thanks for the feedback. I completely agree – organic search traffic is the gift that keeps on giving. Best, Rob.

  5. Hi,may i ask you two questions (1) do you think if it is fine to list all the product page links on footer ? and (2) may i know what wordpress theme do you use ? thanks

  6. Hi Peter,

    Thanks for your question.

    I would say that it’s fine to have internal product page links in your footer. However, there’s a possibility that those site-wide footer links to your product pages could be diluting the value of any contextual internal links you have pointing to those product pages. Here’s a comment by Richard Brus on this question:

    these footer links are draining the juice out of your main contextual links within in your main page’s copy. Effectively, those nice internal silo links you send to your inner pages are being watered down by all of your dofollow footer links.

    Here’s a link to the full discussion, which may be useful: https://moz.com/community/q/do-a-bunch-of-footer-internal-links-help-or-hurt

    The solution would be to make those site-wide footer links to your product pages ‘no follow’.

    In regard to your 2nd question: I use the Magazine Pro theme (on the Genesis Framework)

    Hope this helps 🙂

    Rob.

  7. Excellent recommendations for placing links! Thanks for the information! And contacts should be placed at the top or bottom? Or does it matter?

  8. This post is awesome and covers what im looking for.
    1 question is i have a local business with over 140 suburb pages.
    Im thinking of having a dropdown tab in the footer to link to all of these pages as i have seen other caterers do in my area.
    Do you think this would be too much?

  9. Hi Matt,

    Thanks for your feedback and thanks for your question!

    I had a look at your site and it looks like you already have about 30 internal links in your footer. With the suburb links, you’d end up with 170. I think that’s too many. You would run the risk of triggering some kind of red flag in the Google algorithm. I’m not entirely certain about that – but it’s better to play it safe. Could you instead add a single large link that says something like: “All Sydney Suburbs”. That would link to a page that contains internal links to your 140 suburb pages. That’s how I would handle it.

    Hope this helps,
    Rob.

  10. Hi Rob,

    I would like to know that if I put the links in the footer section of internal pages of my own website then does it affect SEO or not or it is black hat technique or fair to use this technique. For example I am currently working on my website named SLOSHOUT which is a party venue experts provider in India, but my competitors are using the multiple links in the footer section of their category pages, restaurant pages etc. Please help me and answer my question please.

  11. Hi Ravinder,

    I had a quick look at your site and it looks like your footer contains about 90 internal links. When you add that to page-specific links, any given page probably has more than 100 links on it. I think that might be getting into dangerous territory. A widely quoted figure for maximum links per page is 100. If possible, I would try and reduce the number of (sitewide) internal links in your footer.

    One way to do this would be to turn the headings into links and just link to a category page (e.g ‘Top Locations in Delhi’). That category page would contain the links to the sub-category pages:

    Party Venues in Connaught Place
    Party Venues in Hauz Khas Village
    Party Venues in Green Park
    Party Venues in Rajouri Garden
    Party Venues in Saket
    Party Venues in Punjabi Bagh
    Party Venues in Vasant Kunj

    In my opinion, that would be a safer option.

    Hope this helps,
    Rob.

  12. Great article, thanks.

    Just to clarify, do you believe a dofolow footer link is OK for a ‘designed by linkhere’ type link? IE. Putting a link to my company website design site on a client’s site (I designed their site), on their footer.

    Also, I was thinking of putting it just on the homepage footer, thinking that might be safer than every page. Can you please tell me your thoughts on that?

  13. Great, thanks Rob. So maybe safer than sorry, I’ll make it nofollow.
    It’s a pity, as I would have like some of that link juice (all be it probably devalued due to footer) but I really don’t want any penalty.

    I think I know the answer to this but just in case….if the links are nofollow, do I have to worry about anchor text penalty (AKA Penguin with too many anchor text being the same)? I don’t think I have to worry but thought I’d better check!

    Thanks again 🙂

  14. You’re welcome!

    I would still be careful with the anchor text, even if the link is ‘nofollow’. The algorithm might just be looking for text enclosed in ahref tags, regardless of whether its ‘dofollow’ or ‘nofollow’. I agree that logically, you would think the anchor text doesn’t matter if the link is ‘nofollow’. But you just never know how the algorithm is set up.

    I would play it safe and observe the normal precautions about anchor text.

    Hope this help 🙂
    Rob.

  15. Good point Rob, I’ll keep the anchor text as my naked URL and/or company name. 🙂

  16. Thanks for the great article. I could see many website mentioning their service provider or website design comapany name on footer section. Example: Designed by abc,com. Is it gonna pass any link juice for ranking?

  17. That would depend on whether the links are ‘dofollow’ or ‘nofollow’. If the links are ‘dofollow’ then in theory, link juice would be passed to the target website. However, a footer link is a sitewide link and the search engines give much less weight to sitewide links than to contextual links. In fact, Google prefers that external links in the footer be marked ‘nofollow’ so as to make it clear that the link is not part of a ‘link scheme’. See Google’s John Mueller comment on external footer links.

    Hope this answers your question,
    Rob.

  18. Hey!

    What about ultra-SEO friendly Pages with keyword rich (non-spammy) internal links in the footer? So for example, say a plumber who has several links in the footer with titles such as “cheap plumber london” and “Brighton plumber services” and “fast plumber camden” etc etc?

    Are they cosider to have no value? And in which case, is the adivce now to remove those sort of SEO links from the footer and instead link to the ultra-SEO friendly pages via other means, such as your own blog posts as well as in the sitemap?

  19. Hey Joe,

    Thanks for your question!

    There are quite a few issues involved in this:

    (a) internal links placed within footers
    (b) dofollow or nofollow
    (c) anchor text

    From comments made by John Mueller in 2014, it seems that Google regards internal links in footers as unnatural (i.e something to be avoided). At that time JM said if you must have internal links in your footer, then make them ‘nofollow’. However, there could be a problem with that because when you nofollow a link, you are basically signaling to Google that you can’t vouch for that link. The question is: is that a message you want to send to Google about your own pages.

    Another issue is that internal links in footers become sitewide links and that means that whatever anchor text you have in those footer links is going to run the risk of being ‘over optimized’ (i.e. if your anchor text is ‘Brighton plumber services’ and that link appears on 100+ pages of your website, you have over-optimized ‘Brighton plumber services’) and that could land you in dangerous territory.

    From what I’ve read, Google devalues links in footers. If that’s the case, then links in footers should be used purely for navigational purposes and not with the idea that they can pass link juice to specific pages on your website.

    Links in footers seems to be a grey area and potentially risky. For that reason, I would keep links in footers to a minimum and just use them for the standard footer links such as ‘contact’, ‘terms of use’, ‘copyright’ etc.

    Hope this help,

    Rob

  20. Thanks Rob. That does help me with my decision to remove internal links from my footers. But the one question left, is what is the alternative?

    I think its fair to say that several landing pages is beneficial and worth having – so where do I link to them now? One main page can of course be linked in the header menu like: “Plumber services”… but where to put the more niche pages like “London Plumber services” that purely exist for SEO purposes?

    Is having it in the sitemap enough?

    If not, then i presume linking to them from blog posts is a good alternative?

  21. Hi Joe,

    Thanks for your follow-up question.

    I would link to the ‘London Plumber Services’ page from the side menu. It’s still a sitewide internal link but it doesn’t have the risk associated with footer links. And my other approach would be, as you suggest, linking to the ‘London Plumber Services’ page from other pages that deal with a particular aspect of London Plumber Services (e.g. ‘Pimlico Plumber Services’, ‘Hammersmith Plumber Services’, Commercial Plumber Services in London’, ‘Domestic Plumber Services in London’, ‘Emergency Plumbing Services in London’, ‘Heating Installation Services in London’, ‘Gas and Oil Services in London’ etc). Those satellite pages would together create a topic cluster that would give topical authority to the hub page (‘London Plumber Services’). In time, the hub page would have a good chance of ranking on Page #1.

    Hope this answers your question.
    – Rob

  22. hi, can i internal link my keyword to home page itself on footer section. for eg– the keyword interior desiger is indexed on home page and in the footer section i give a href on the word interior designer to the home page itself.. is it good or bad?

  23. Hi Powel,
    I am the CEO of Expro Lab, website design company Kolkata. Normally I keep a footer credit link for my each client’s site like : Website designed by Expro Lab with hyperlink. What should I know? should I use nofollow for each link or no hyperlink?

  24. Hello Habibur, good question. I would definitely put a no-follow attribute in your sitewide designer links. That way, you’re saying to Google “this is simply a link to let people know who designed the website and to get some referral traffic – it’s not a link designed to boost my domain authority”. Google will only penalize your site when it thinks you’re using the backlink to get ‘link juice’. All the best, Rob.

  25. Hi Powel,
    I am the owner of Creative Soft Technology.
    My question is that is Footer Link must for every pages.? I Generally use footer credit link(Website Design by Creative Soft Technology) to my client web site and also my website for internal linking like (Home, Services, about us, contact us etc)..Is it good or bad. Is creates any impact in SEO. Please suggest me?

  26. Great article. A new site I recently mentioned in one of my latest posts has linked to me in their footer under the heading “In the Blogs”. Would this be considered a testimonial and therefore a safe footer link or something that is likely to get me penalised?

    The link is followed and has resulted in thousands of links to my post from the same site…. My gut feeling is that I should ask for it to be removed but the testimonial point above has made me unsure….

    Thanks in advance
    Simon

  27. Hi Simon,

    Thanks for this question.

    I would say your gut feeling is correct: best to have it removed (it’s not worth the risk).

    This is what Cyrus Shepard (Whiteboard Friday on Moz) said:

    “A couple of other rules that I see people violate all the time that Google has made painfully clear in the past few months: Don’t link externally in the footer. Just don’t. I’m not going to go into the reasons. Just don’t do that”.

    And this is what Google’s John Mueller said when asked if it triggers penalties when you have a link pointing to your site from a client’s footer:

    “Essentially, if you’re dropping links in other people’s websites and you’re using those to forward PageRank to your website then that’s kind of an unnatural link…If you’re doing this for your clients then at the very least they need to be aware of this and they need to see this as something that they’re willingly placing there. So, instead of hiding it in a footer or obscuring it in some way on the sites that’s something I’d made as clear as possible and if you’re using this as a way to advertise your web design or your SEO company, then using a nofollowed link is just fine because it lets people click on that link, go to your website, see your services and make a qualified decision about your website….It should be something that is very clearly visible there and visible to the client that they understand that this link is there and if you’re only placing it there for advertising purposes then putting a nofollow on that link makes it just as valuable in the sense that users are still able to find your website and to see your services there.”

    (Marie Haynes has a good article on footer links and penalties)

    So my advice: ask the webmaster to remove that link from their footer and place it somewhere else.

    Hope this answers your question,

    – Rob

  28. Hi Kaushik,

    Thanks for your question.

    The website designer’s footer backlink is an issue that comes up a lot. There’s a school of thought that says “designed by” footer links are the exception and Google doesn’t object to them. But there’s another school of thought that says: if its purely for referral purposes (i.e. advertising purposes) then you wouldn’t need the ‘do-follow’ attribute.

    So I would play it safe: have the sitewide footer link that says the website was designed by you – that’s quite legitimate. But use the ‘no-follow’ tag to make it clear to Google that all you’re doing is advertising your services (not trying to pass link juice).

    Here’s what Monitor Backlinks says on this topic:

    If you think that it’s really necessary to use a sitewide backlink, like a footer backlink, the best idea is to tag it with a nofollow attribute. Just to play it safe.It tells Google not to pay attention to your hyperlink, turning your action into a white hat effort. However, if you simply must have a home page dofollow link with the intention of passing the link juice, you need to be very careful. Generally, a dofollow link to your business or domain name (e.g., “Joe Smith Web Design”) shouldn’t be a problem. The problem arises when the anchor text is complicated and rich with keywords (e.g.,”best web design freelance business hire”) which makes it look very unnatural in the end.

    Hope this answers your question,

    – Rob.

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