An SEO professional asked John Mueller, during a recent hangout, about internal footer links.
They explained their situation:
The professional acquired a site that came with plenty of internal links in the footer section of each page. And some of these links are not as relevant.
So they wanted to ask if it is likely to be seen as problematic by Google because the links are not necessarily contextual.
They are just jumbled together in the footer.
And they are just selected by a plugin. They are scared that removing them from hundreds of pages might mess up the site structure. And they just wanted John’s opinion on this.
John said that he doesn’t think it would cause any problems. He would see this more as – “these are links on these particular pages. They are normal internal links and he would look at it from the perspective of: does this help to provide additional context to the rest of the pages of the site?”
And, if you have a larger website, and every page is linked with every other page, there’s no real context there. So it’s hard for them to understand what the overall structure is, and which of these pages are more important.
If you’re linking to everything, then it’s like – everything is not important. So that’s the element that he would watch out for.
Whether they are in the footer, from Google’s perspective, is irrelevant. If they’re generated by a plugin or added manually, then John doesn’t believe that matters, either.
He would just watch out from a structural perspective: “does it actually make sense to have these links?”
He also went on to explain that some amount of cross-linking definitely does make sense. Especially if you have a setup where you have related pages that are cross-linked, that, from his point of view, always makes sense.
However, extreme cross-linking, where you’re really cross-linking every page with every other page, from John’s perspective, does not really make all that much sense.
This happens at approximately the 9:11 mark in the video.
John Mueller Hangout Transcript
SEO Professional 4 9:11
Hi, John, we acquired a site that came with plenty of internal links in the footer section of each page. And some of these links are not as relevant. So I wanted to ask if it is likely to be seen as problematic by Google, because the links are not necessarily contextual. But they’re just jumbled together in the footer. And they’re just selected by a plugin. We’re scared that removing them from hundreds of pages might mess up the strai–the site structure so you know, just wanted your opinion on this.
So, I suspect for the most part that wouldn’t cause any problems. I would see this more as these are links on these pages, their normal internal links and kind of look at it from the point of view, “Does this help to give context to the rest of the pages on the website?” And, for example, if you have a larger website, and essentially every page is linked with every other page, there’s no real context there.
So it’s hard for us to understand what the overall structure is, which of these pages is more important. Because if you’re linking to everything, then it’s like, everything is not important. So that’s, that’s kind of the element that I would watch out for whether or not they’re in the footer, that from my point of view is irrelevant. If they’re generated by a plugin or added manually, I don’t think that matters, either.
I would just kind of watch out, from from a structural point of view, does it actually make sense to have these links. And some amount of cross-linking definitely makes sense, I’d say, especially if you have kind of the setup where you have related pages that are cross-linked, that, from my point of view, always make sense. Extreme cross-linking, where you’re really cross-linking every page with every other page, from my point of view, doesn’t really make sense.
SEO Professional 4 11:08
Great. I think we’ve, we’ve, you know, reached at the same conclusion, but we’re at a point where we’re scared to remove all of them, because they’ve not been placed placed by a human. It was a plugin that was automatically placing internal links to supposedly relevant articles on the website.
Now, we realize that a better approach would be something that you’re also suggesting, where we selectively choose those links, and then link to relevant pages.
So my question would be that, if we just disabled the plugin, and all these links suddenly evaporate, or they miss out from the page, would it affect the website in any way? Or should we just try to slowly remove links from one page at a time or something like that?
Yeah. My guess is it would affect how it’s shown in search, but it’s impossible to kind of say is, will it be a positive effect or a negative effect? I think that’s the tricky part there.
What I would do to try to understand what the current situation is, and what the next step would be, is to run a crawler over your website, and a lot of the website crawlers that are out there, they will generate this kind of a graph of how your pages are linked together.
And then you could disable the plugin maybe on a staging version of your website, maybe even on the live one for a short period of time, crawl again, and then compare those graphs and see, are these crawlers still able to find all of the content?
And does it look like there’s insufficient cross-linking there? And if so, then that gives you a little bit more kind of trust that just disabling the plugin will be okay.
From our point of view, it doesn’t matter if these links are automatically placed or placed by a plugin or placed by machine learning or whatever. That’s for, essentially, they’re just links that we find on your website.