In just a few days, Google has made one principle evidently clear through the launch of the new Google Penguin algorithm update. At The Net Impact, we think it’s a control thing.

And Then Google Said “Let There Be Penguin”

It seems that Google created the Penguin update to address several practices in search engine optimization. From doorway pages, to unnatural linking patterns, to a whole slew of other “gray hat” SEO tactics, Google has made it clear that this is about control. It is about forcing companies to give up control of off-site practices while holding hostage their search rankings. So, fellow SEO control freaks – follow Google’s quality guidelines, stop trying to work the system and don’t implement a one-sided marketing strategy that fully relies upon search optimization or even digital marketing. Perhaps that last point is the most important.

I’m going to break this down to one aspect of control, consistency, and then I’ll provide a Penguin hypothesis using the example of footer links. I’m not presenting anything here as fact – just observation.

Let’s Talk About Anchor Text

At The Net Impact, we continuously research footer format because we design websites and we take advantage of footers for marketing and branding. Below is the two-part hypothesis that I will try to support through our findings.

Hypothesis A: Google Penguin encourages consistency for outbound links from your website to other websites.

For example, Google doesn’t seem to mind footer links in your website’s footer that lead to your location page, interior page or outside pages.However, as a web design company we also include a lot of links from our client websites to our website.

Hypothesis B: Google wants to see variation for inbound links from other websites to your website.

To clarify, if Google notices that every single back link to a website follows a rigid structure and a consistent format with unnatural anchor text, they will assume that the owner of that website has some kind of unnatural control over their linking environment.

The Net Impact’s web marketing team looked at nearly 100 websites that rank highly for web service related keywords and here is what we discovered. There is no clear right or wrong way to alter your footer links for Google Penguin, but some ways seem better than others. So we created a continuum to illustrate our very unscientific findings. Keep in mind, this is an effort to balance branding efforts with linking compliance.

Google Penguin Footer Links

Some different footer link and tagging options from best options to worst options. Based on a review of over 100 websites and their ranking.

Another option is to implement a rel=”nofollow” tag for links pointing to your website or simply remove links while keeping images and copy. Unfortunately this algorithm change puts web design and development companies in a unique position.  Many companies do not control their inbound links…unless that company is a web development company that inserts a standard footer with their client’s permission.

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3 Responses

  1. […] Google released Penguin, the latest algorithm update targeting black hat linking actions, there has been a lot of talk […]

  2. lauren on 11 May 2012

    If your site has been penalized in the latest Penguin update, either through a drop in traffic or a message from Google, we do think it is important to take action and change some of the links you have control of. This includes links on your own site as well as external sites, such as client sites with footer links.
    At this time, nobody knows exactly what the best remedy will be, but these hypotheses are just some ideas that can be tested to try and improve your site if you are faced with a similar situation.
    But more importantly, like you said, will be to add variation in the future and make your website and link profile look as natural as possible.

  3. brett on 11 May 2012

    So what is your recommendation?

    a rel=”nofollow” is not really an option.

    I don’t think that google will expect us to go back and make changes to all links at the bottom of websites that were designed already. That’s impractical and a waste of time. However, they may expect us to add some variation in the future. I say go with the pages that get most of the traffic. Which is typically less than 5 pages out of a 30 page site(& at the same time you will be backlinking from the higher ranked pages of the domain. + many of the pages that don’t have anchor links at the bottom will be internally backlinked to these top ranked pages anyways.)

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