Using Footer Links to Diversify Your Backlink Profile

footstepsWe’re all pretty tired of reading about the Google Penguin algorithm update and how devastating it has been to so many websites. By now we know that an excessive amount of backlinks with the same anchor text can tank your rankings.

This hasn’t been good news for all the webmasters who have been including a link to their website in the footer of each and every website they’ve built with the same anchor text, for example “Web design by…” As SEO professionals and webmasters, we must ensure that our link building efforts create a natural and diverse backlink profile, but how?

The age old link in the footer of a website appears to Google as if webmasters are trying to manipulate the search engine rankings for a specific key phrase – and having too many links that point to their site from non-relevant websites may severely hurt you on Google. The irrelevancy is misunderstood.

Webmasters should be able to take credit for the amazing design and development of the websites they produce. It’s relevant, because they really are the one’s who designed the site.

The Problems

In order to overcome the problems that come from webmaster footer links, we need to make a simple change to these four issues:

  1. Zero relevancy.
  2. All links pointing to the homepage.
  3. Too many links with the same anchor text.
  4. Too many dofollow links from the same domain.

Fix: Zero Relevancy

The trick is to establish a relationship between the website you’re linking from to your website. You can bridge the relevancy gap by creating a website design portfolio page and optimizing your page utilizing your client’s key phrases and your key phrases. Here is a formula that might help make the connection.

Client’s Industry + Your Service

For example. Here’s one of our portfolio entries for a travel site my company designed:

Travel and Tourism Website Design Portfolio

We’ve optimized our page title, H1, H2, body text, and images for both of our industries, bridging the relevancy gap. For extra relevancy, ensure you utilize keyword rich search engine friendly URLs.

Fix: All Links Pointing to the Homepage

The next part of the puzzle is to adjust the way you program your footer links on your client’s website.

Now that you have a portfolio entry on your website that is relevant to your client’s website, your footer link can point to your portfolio page instead of your homepage.

Fix: Too Many Links With the Same Anchor Text

The common anchor text for a webmaster’s footer link would look something like “web design by…” You can diversify your the anchor text in your backlink profile by using anchor text using the formula “client’s industry + your service“. For example “Travel and Tourism Website Design by….”

Website design Footer Link Example

Fix: Too Many Dofollow Links From the Same Domain

A dofollow link from a root domain is fantastic. However, by placing a link to your website in the footer of your client’s website, you’re going to end up with too many links from same domain since your link will show up on every page on your client’s site. This appears unnatural to Google and other search engines.

You can fix this programmatically by writing an if statement to include a “rel=nofollow” to your footer link on any page that doesn’t equal the homepage. You can write that statement in a few ways depending on your server type and programming language.

I’m a big fan of WordPress. Here is an example of an if statement that can be used on a WordPress PHP website:

Example of Footer Link Code

What About the SERPs?

Here is the best part. By diversifying your footer link’s anchor text and hyperlinking to a relevant page on your website, you have now built an authority for Industry + Your Service.

Going back to the travel site example from earlier, as of this writing, that website had been live for 4 weeks. My website is ranking on the first page of Google for the search term “Travel and Tourist Website Design”. It’s more of a long-tail search term, but hey, I’ll take it.

Google Search Results Travel and Tourism Website Design

Here are a few more search terms that I’ve landed on the first page of Google using this method:

  • auto transport web design
  • auto part website design
  • metal building website design
  • health club website design
  • restoration web design
  • recycling web design
  • bed and breakfast website design

Final Thoughts

I’d be interested in learning about other ways webmasters have overcome the footer link Penguin algorithm issue. Please share any methods that you’ve read about or tried yourself in the comments below.

Related reading

Why an SEO should lead your website migration
Search engine results: The ten year evolution
Six HTTP status codes most critical to your SEO success
Seven time-tested tactics to generate more Google reviews