Avoiding sitewide links

I have previously been an advocate for sitewide footer links on the websites you develop - a great chance for users to see who made the site they are looking at. Oh, and not a bad link to have either.

Being the sneaky tactician that I am, I have always used these links to get maximum link benefit, because, well, you owe it to yourself to get good value out of your links.

The strategy

The trick has been to mix up the link text you get from your sitewides. If we are talking about a 100 page site, I'd rather have 10 different variations of anchor text from the site, than 100 pages with the same link on them. I also mix up where the links point to, so they don't all point to the homepage. For example, if my link says "web development by Harvey Kane", then the anchor text would be "Web development" and it would point to my "Web development" page, not my homepage.

I figure a deep link is more useful than a homepage link, for some reason it seems to be harder to get people to link to an internal page than your homepage.

This strategy has served me very well. I have had a tidy boost in rankings on the phrases I chose for the anchor text on my client's sites.

The problem

The problem is that Google hates links placed by SEOs. Google's algo looks for ways to put SEOs out of business, and therefore it's a good idea to avoid any linking strategy that an algo can detect easily.

A sitewide link is pretty easy for an algo to detect. On top of this, I read somewhere that Uncle Matt made mention of sitewides being bad recently, so this is enough for me to warrant a change in strategy.

The new recommendation

I'm going to be using rel=nofollow on my sitewides now, on all pages except the homepage. This way
  • I still get the benefit of clickthrough traffic (and I believe the footer credit link is valuable to all parties).
  • I still get link juice from the homepage, the most powerful page on the site.
  • Google can't accuse me of cheating the system with cheesy sitewides.

The downside is that I lose all that lovely anchor text variation. I might have to make up for that in some comment spam or hidden links on hacked forums(*).

Speaking of which, I just found a forgotten gaming forum on a hosting account of mine - the site owner had clearly forgotten about the forum, and the spammers have been having a party while nobody was looking. I'm glad there was no real damage done this time, I've been burned hard in the past from out-of-date forum installs on my shared hosting accounts.

(*) not really.
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