The Influence of Sitewide Links on Google Rankings

4 min read

Should you be worried when your website receives sitewide links? Discover whether these links have the potential to impact your site’s organic search ranking.

Inbound links, typically viewed as beneficial for SEO, can pose issues if an excessive number originate from the same domain.

However, there’s a belief in the realm of SEO that sitewide links leading to other domains may harm rankings.

So, should you be concerned if your website is the recipient of sitewide links?

In this exploration, we will delve into the theories surrounding these potentially troublesome links and their potential implications for SEO.


The Assertion: Sitewide Links and Their Impact on Rankings


A sitewide link is a consistent outbound link that is prominently featured on every page of a website.

These links are typically found in a website’s header, footer, or navigation menu.

Depending on the size of a website, a single sitewide link can generate numerous outbound links to another site, numbering in the hundreds or even thousands.

Google is said to interpret excessive inbound links from the same domain as a signal of unnatural link building.

Furthermore, because sitewide links lack contextual relevance, claims have arisen that they carry minimal to no value.

As a result of these considerations, SEO experts contend that sitewide links convey negative ranking signals to the domains they are directed toward.

The notion of sitewide links serving as a detrimental ranking signal gained prominence around the time of Google Penguin’s seventh update, referred to as Penguin 4.0.

This update transformed Penguin into a permanent element of Google’s search algorithm, operating continuously in real-time.

Before Penguin 4.0, instances of link spam were addressed and penalized on a per-update basis. This meant websites could employ spammy  link building tactics until the next manual update was introduced.

In light of these assertions, you may be concerned about uncovering sitewide links that point to your domain from other websites.

Nonetheless, another assertion proposes that sitewide links might be considered positive.

The underlying theory behind this notion is straightforward: a more significant number of links can transmit more link equity.

It’s also arguable that a sitewide link from a reputable website generates a more robust signal than just one or two isolated links. It’s akin to that website offering its highest endorsement to the other domain.

However, the question remains: is there any validity to this perspective?


The Supporting Evidence for Sitewide Links as a Negative Ranking Factor


When they naturally occur, Google affirms that sitewide links do not serve as a negative ranking indicator.

John Mueller from Google clarifies that sitewide links are not automatically viewed as an unnatural linking pattern or an attempt at spamming. There is no basis to assume that they work against a website’s ranking, as he explains:

“Generally, if these are regular links – organic links – that are occurring and are pointing to your content, then I would just let them be. That’s how the internet functions. People link to your content.

If your students, for instance, have blogs and believe, ‘Oh, this is a knowledgeable teacher,’ that’s a valuable link. You don’t need to disavow it because it might be a sitewide link or in the blogroll.”

However, when site owners intentionally add a sitewide link, Google recommends using the nofollow attribute to prevent any signs of unnatural linking completely.

Mueller advises:

“If you intend to place a link in your website’s footer, ensure it includes a nofollow attribute. This way, it remains clickable for those interested, but it’s not perceived as an editorial link by the webmaster.

You won’t have to fret about it down the line, worrying that you’ve unintentionally created an unnatural link structure or something similar.”

In a recent video, Google reassured website owners with concerns regarding sitewide footer links.

According to Lizzi Sassman from Google, boilerplate links such as “made by Squarespace” accompanying website themes do not pose an SEO concern.

However, it is advisable to employ the nofollow attribute and generic anchor text when it comes to customized footer links. For instance, avoid overly keyword-rich links like “made by the best Florida SEO.”


The Verdict on Sitewide Links as a Ranking Factor:


Sitewide links are a potential ranking factor because a link holds inherent value, and Google utilizes links as a ranking signal.

However, sitewide links do not inherently harm search rankings.

There is typically no need to disavow sitewide links or request their removal except in one specific circumstance.

If you are dealing with a website with a sitewide link pointing to it and experience difficulties with its search rankings, the issue may be something other than the link itself but the anchor text.

Excessively optimized anchor text is far more likely to create SEO issues than a sitewide link.

For instance, if the anchor text reads something like “best SEO services in Toronto,” the links could be flagged as spam.

When establishing links to another company, the best practice recommendation is to employ the company’s name as the anchor text. This approach lends an appearance of genuine endorsement rather than an effort to manipulate search rankings.

Google acknowledges that there are situations where sitewide links occur naturally. Sitewide links are not automatically perceived as an endeavor to manipulate search outcomes.

Regarding the placement of sitewide links, Google suggests using the nofollow attribute to prevent their classification as editorial links.

If you’re finding it challenging or perplexing, don’t hesitate to explore our monthly SEO packages, where industry experts can assist you.

Shilpi Mathur
[email protected]