SEO internal links in footer: How many should I be using?

17 August 2017

SEO internal links in footer: How many should I be using?

In the early days of Google, SEO strategy was largely based around a combination of keywords and backlinks. Its simple nature was easily exploited by practitioners of black-hat SEO, forcing Google to counter-attack by updating its algorithms.

Currently, keywords and backlinks are rather more minor components of an effective SEO strategy, but it’s still rather too early to write them off completely and they both potentially do have some uses.

Fat footers make a comeback

A quick look at Google’s SEO guidelines might appear to suggest that there is very little to be gained by adding fat footers, which are essentially a list of keywords and (usually internal) links to various parts of the site, but if you spend a little time thinking about what Google values in websites, you may well discover that fat footers can actually make a decent contribution to your SEO effort.

The reason for this is that Google places a high emphasis on the usability of a site, basically how easy users find it to navigate their way around it and these days, fat footers can go a long way in making large and complex sites easier for a user to navigate.

Fat footers are generally best used as curated site maps

Menu systems are basically a web-designer’s best guess at how a user will progress through a website. This best guess will probably be based on hard data, such as user testing and analytics, but the reality of creating websites to be used by multiple people is that you’re always going to have some people who zig where others zag (and vice versa).

These people can, of course, visit the full site map, but full site maps are exactly that; they cover a whole site and given that modern websites can easily run to hundreds and even thousands of pages, that’s a lot of content to navigate.

Fat footers basically split the difference. They act as signposts to the key parts of your website, allowing users to bypass both the main menu system and the site map. In fact, they could probably be thought of in the same light as hashtags and FAQs.

Fat footers need to be used efficiently to benefit an SEO strategy

This may sound like stating the obvious so let’s look at what it means in real terms. If you use too few keywords and links in your fat footers, you’re going to limit their usefulness to users and therefore their usefulness to you. Leaving all SEO considerations aside for a moment, if users are unable to find their way around your website, your chances of turning them into paying customers are vastly reduced.

On the other hand, if you include too many keywords and links in your fat footers, then you get into the realms of “too much information” and again, limit the usefulness of the fat footer to the user. Tonnes of context-less links could also be penalised by Google, which prioritises user-friendly content as an important focus on any website, while endless lists of keyword-rich internal links hidden at the bottom of a webpage are reminiscent of SEO gone by, not modern-day standards.

However, based on Google’s own Google Flights page where they use fat footers themselves, and given the usefulness of these tools as a navigation tool as well as offering some SEO benefit, we’d suggest that the number of links on each fat footer be capped at a maximum of 20.