What Are Footer Links? (+ Do They Help SEO?)
One of the most important elements of a website that makes for a positive user experience is the ease with which it can be navigated. Footer links are a type of internal link that has both navigational and informational benefits for users.
Just as importantly, the quality of your footer links can help (or hurt) your SEO efforts. Our deep-dive into footer links will help help you make the most of this important website real estate.
What Are Footer Links?
Just as their name implies, footer links are the links you find at the bottom of a website in the footer section. Since the footer is a universal section, meaning it is fixed at the bottom of the website no matter what page is visited, the links in this section are also referred to as sitewide links or boilerplate links.
For users, they serve to help with navigation and to provide information. While the footer isn’t typically the first place someone will go to find what they’re looking for, it is generally understood by most people to be a reliable place to check if they can’t find something in the website’s main menus.
For example, if a prospective customer wants to check a website’s return policy before making a purchase, placing this link in the footer is a good way to ensure they’ll be able to find the page, even if it isn’t one of your most important pages worthy of a spot in your header.
Here’s an example from kitchenware brand Le Creuset:
What does this footer do well?
- Organized footer links – The links are placed in categories for shopping, learning, getting support, and managing your account.
- Quality over quantity – Many important links are included without getting too cluttered or overwhelming. While you can definitely get away with placing more links in your footer than anywhere else on your site, they shouldn’t be there just for the sake of it. They should provide value
- Informational links included – One way to use footer links well is to give website visitors information they may have not even realized they needed. In this case, a link about Le Creusets materials invites visitors to learn more and helps to elevate the brand (and justify their prices!)
- Contact link is included – if customers want to get in touch, one of the first places they will look is the footer. It’s essential to include a “contact us” link in your footer.
Footer links and SEO
Footer links are a hot topic in the SEO world because their importance has changed over time. However, like all changes to Google’s SEO algorithms, pros debate about the magnitude of the changes and how important this section still is from an SEO perspective.
Here’s what we do know: the footer is an essential navigation tool for your website visitors, and approaches that provide a better user experience also tend to translate into positive SEO points. Site navigation is important, so Google will place at least some value on a well-organized footer that makes it easier to get around a site.
We also know that internal linking is a key component of SEO. That’s because when Google’s bots land on a web page, they “follow” other links on that page in order to crawl the rest of the site.
That way, they can understand what the contents of a website are as a whole, and how the content is organized. Internal links, including the link text, help Google’s bots determine the value and relevance of a page. Footer links are a form of internal link, so they serve an important function in terms of helping Google’s bots crawl your website.
It is likely the case that footers were more important for Google’s crawlers in the past since you can now submit an XML sitemap to google directly through the Google Search Console, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the importance of those footer links.
Benefits of Using Footer Links
Just because the perfect footer won’t automatically skyrocket your website to the top of the SERPs doesn’t mean there aren’t some serious benefits to getting your footer links in order. Here are some of the biggest benefits:
- Provide a better user experience – If users can’t find what they’re looking for, you can lose them. It’s a shame to lose conversions because users can’t easily find a piece of information they’re looking for. Better UX ultimately means more revenue.
- Help Google’s bots understand your site – If a page isn’t indexed by Google because there was no link for its bots to follow, it doesn’t have a chance at ranking even if the content is great. Internal links, including footer links, help Google get a full picture of your website.
- Unclutter your website – Sure, you don’t want to throw a hundred links into your footer just because. But you can get away with having more links in your footer than anywhere else on your site. Making use of footer links lets you keep your header menu tidy, with just the most important and frequently clicked-on links.
- Transparency – Customers appreciate transparency. Make it easy for them to get the information they need by including footer links to things like FAQs or behind-the-scenes content.
5 Footer Links Best Practices
Going about your footer links the wrong way can, unfortunately, hurt your SEO performance. There are certain practices that Google isn’t very fond of, and avoiding them can ensure you don’t get dinged.
Here are some of the most important best practices to keep in mind as you create your footer and decide which links to include and how to organize them.
1. Assume Google is onto you
Not to encourage paranoia, but it can be helpful to remember that anything that feels like a sneaky shortcut to boosting your SEO probably isn’t worth it. SEO is a marathon, not a sprint.
In the past, some websites would put as many as a hundred or more links in the footer thinking that this would boost the PageRank (a Google ranking score) of every linked page.
For example, if a business operates in many cities, its footer might link to the landing page for every city. If Google’s bots register that your footer links are there for SEO purposes rather than for user navigation purposes, it can hurt your overall ranking. A good general rule is to always make sure your links and other SEO-boosting activities are also supporting a good user experience.
2. Organize your links
Even if you aren’t stuffing your footer with links to every location or every blog post you’ve ever written, you still may find there are a lot of links to include. Organizing them will make them much more useful to visitors.
The example from Le Creuset does a good job of this. Consider placing your links under a few headings so visits can quickly scan and identify what they’re looking for.
3. Stick to internal links (most of the time)
Your footer should be home to internal links, and most of the time, it is. Another shady link-building practice that some marketers try, although less frequently these days, is to buy links in the footers of various websites. High-quality backlinks on websites in your niche are great for SEO, but this isn’t a good way to about it. Google caught on, and now external links do not pass link juice to the target websites.
In fact, any external links in your footer should have a “no follow” tag indicating to Google that they aren’t there for promotional purposes. It’s best to leave external links out of the footer, but there is one common exception: social media links. Having these in your footer is totally normal, and won’t hurt your SEO prospects.
If you’re worried you may have some of these low-quality, damaging external backlinks out there pointing to your domain, a link audit can help you fix that problem and get your SEO back on track.
4. Provide contact links
Whether you include a footer link to a “contact us page”, a contact form that visitors can complete directly from the footer, or a link that opens up an email app, your footer should definitely provide visitors with a way to get in touch.
There’s nothing more frustrating than having a question for a business and not knowing how to get in touch.
5. Submit an XML sitemap
This isn’t exactly a best practice for your footer content or layout, but it’s footer-related so worth a mention. Footers used to contain sitemap links, which are essentially blueprints of your websites for bots to crawl.
While some people still do this, submitting an XML sitemap through Google Search Console is now considered best practice.
Footer links are like an index for your website. By now, many website visitors intuitively know that if they can’t find something important, it’s probably in the footer.
Your footer links provide easy navigation for a better user experience, and can even provide users with information they didn’t realize they needed.
As internal links, they also play a role in helping Google understand exactly what your website contains, so it’s more likely to show your site as a result for relevant search queries.
Want to leave the success of your website to the pros? Loganix’s SEO packages can get your site into top shape, build plenty of high-quality links, and help you rank in local as well as traditional SEO.