One of the most ignored pieces of content on a domain today is the footer. If it is even bothered to be used, most domains are using strategies that date back to 2006 and are trying to manage their internal linking and user experience concepts through the footer. In 2006 and earlier, this held value. Today there is no value in this whatsoever.
Footer links are often devalued automatically. Search engines just don’t care about them. Have two dozen links in the footer at best becomes a distraction for the user then and at worst, it causes confusion. With no value, it is more likely that the footer links are hurting your SEO strategy instead of helping it.
That’s why these best practices can help you today. These tips are easy to implement and you may just enhance the value of your user experience at the same time.
1. Don’t Duplicate the Link
Many times the footer links are duplicated links from the top of the site. If you have menu options to take visitors to deeper pages and you’ve then included the same internal links within the footer, then you’ve duplicated your links. Don’t do this. Have different links in your footer that will take people to other places. If you have all of your product page links up near the header, then consider putting your About Us content and mission statements in the footer for variety.
2. Minimize the Amount of Links That Present
Footer links are rarely clicked. Some domains regularly see CTR rates that are below 1%. With so little traffic on the links, search engines are going to register the links as invaluable more often than not. Because of this, it is worthwhile to minimize the total amount of links that are present. 5 or less is a best practice, but even better results can be seen by having three or fewer footer links.
3. Too Many Footer Links Can Diminish Site Impact
Most pages already have too many links as it is. The average domain today has around 90 links per page on it. When you embed a footer onto a domain that has an additional 50 links on it, the entire value of each link instantly becomes reduced. Now multiply that diminishing impact on every page where the footer has been embedded and it becomes easy to see how quickly a site can lose all of its SEO gains in a short amount of time.
4. Keep the Footer Completely Organized
For a large site that requires an extensive footer, the best practice is to keep them organized in a precise way. Keep popular topics separate from internal links to specific secondary pages. Include a section that will let people find more information about you if they desire. If you’re organized and you limit the links that are above the footer [without duplication], then a couple dozen footer links can be valuable to the user and the search engine crawlers.
5. Focus on Relevance Instead of Anchor Text
The footer is not a place to be promoting specific agendas or trying a last ditch marketing effort. It’s a navigation resource. Instead of having precise anchor text for the link structure, keep the links relevant and meaningful. Your first thought should be to the user. If the links don’t look relevant, then no one is going to want to click on them and you’ve just wasted your time.
6. Don’t Hide Your Links
Sometimes a domain will try to hide their links in a footer so that it only looks like basic text unless you put the cursor on top of the content. Then users discover that it is actually anchor text. The focus is clearly on user value. If there’s no value to what you’re doing and you’re hiding things on your site, then the message is clear: you have something to hide.
7. Be Smart About Your Incorporation of Nofollows
When you’re putting in a link to your terms and conditions or other legal pages, what you’re doing is taking a portion of your link equity to give to these links. Do they really need to have that equity? Or is there another way for you to include access to these pages that makes sense for users who feel the need to read all of your legal terms.
Footer links and SEO may not be as important as they once were, but a bad design can lead to reductions in search rankings. Follow these best practices and you’ll be able to maximize the benefit of your footer today, even if it is just from a usability standpoint.