What Is Sitewide Link Building & Are Such Backlinks Damaging SEO: Good or Bad?
If we look at the world from an SEO perspective, the timeline is divided into the pre and post-Penguin world.
Penguin is Google’s algorithm update that was rolled out in 2012.
And it shifted the focus from the number of backlinks to the quality of backlinks.
This spelled trouble for a lot of websites.
Those who were using sitewide links were also thrown out of their top spots in SERPs.
Some were even penalized.
I keep getting a lot of questions about sitewide links.
Are they any good?
Will they get my site penalized?
How much emphasis does Google give them for SEO?
And today I decided to answer all those questions in detail on my blog. So read on to find out the reality of sitewide links.
What Are Sitewide Links?
Much like the name suggests, sitewide links are links that appear on all or most pages of a website.
Why would someone link to my website on all their pages?
Picture the following situations.
- You run a website where you publish guideposts for cat owners. A particular cat owner loves your content. They have a website journaling their adventures with their cat. They add a link to your site in the Blogroll on their site. That blogroll appears all across the site. You get as many links as there are pages on that website.
- You are a freelance website designer. You build websites for clients from multiple niches. And every time you have a website ready for publication, you request the site owner to give you credits. Something like “Site developed and managed by your brand name with a link to your website” in the footer. You get a sitewide link.
These are just a few examples of sitewide links in practical use. Now, these blogrolls, footer, sidebar, or navigation menu links are great for quantity. As for their quality and SEO effectiveness, let’s start with a quick lesson in pre-Penguin history.
Sitewide Links in A Pre-Penguin World
When quantity was all that mattered, sitewide links were the stars of the show. Getting sitewide links helped shoot up ranking for websites in no time.
They were easy, effective, and quick.
And that’s why the sitewide linking strategy got abused.
- Webmasters started paying for sitewide links, even on unrelated websites. Think of a graphic designer getting sitewide links from insurance websites. Absurd and unnatural, right?
- People started rolling out free plugins and templates. This was to get more and more sitewide links from the users of the plugin and template. Now, imagine a dentist rolling out a free WordPress theme. And getting sitewide backlinks from a plumbing website that used the template. Now that’s not natural, is it?
Most webmasters were basking in the glory of high ranking with sitewide links.
But their winning streak was short-lived…
Sitewide Links in A Post-Penguin World
Cut to the post-Penguin world, Google started penalizing sitewide links. Some sites got de-ranked by the algorithms and others got penalized in manual reviews.
The news that Google considered sitewide links unnatural spread like wildfire.
And today, most SEOs wouldn’t even see what sitewide link you’ve got and they’d ask you to nofollow or disavow it.
I don’t believe in that.
Before you accuse me of being a black hat SEO, hear me out.
To be honest, Google is after just two types of backlinks.
- One, spammy links.
- Two, unnatural links.
Your sitewide links aren’t from any of these two categories?
You won’t be penalized by the algorithms or in a manual review.
Ask yourself the following questions to find out if you are in the clear:
- Do I have a history of buying backlinks from shady sources?
- Do I have a history of buying Blogroll and footer links?
- Do I have sitewide links from unrelated and spammy sites?
- Am I paying for the links?
If you answer no to all the questions, you are safe.
So my conclusion is: Relevant and organic sitewide links would do you no harm. Even in the post-Penguin world.
However, the real question is, are sitewide links any good for SEO?
Do sitewide links damage your SEO campaigns?
As we have already established, unnatural and spammy links damage your SEO campaigns. Not all sitewide links.
But, sitewide links don’t do any good for your SEO campaign either.
We’ve all heard it from the horse’s mouth. Footer, navigation menu and sidebar links are devalued by Google’s algorithms. They aren’t going to up your SERP rankings.
Also, getting one link from one domain/site is always better.
Quality links in content would do that.
So in my opinion, you should focus your attention on getting those links.
Spending time and energy in getting sitewide links isn’t worth the possible risk of penalty.
Got sitewide links without asking for?
You can probably keep them if you are 100% sure they are natural and not spammy.
Also, instead of an exact match keyword, sitewide links with the brand name as the anchor text are much safer.
When in any kind of doubt, nofollow or disavow are good steps to take.
Safe Alternatives To Sitewide links
Backlinks are among the top search engine ranking factors. And you absolutely cannot go without them.
So, don’t spend a disproportionately long time getting sitewide links. Instead, you can spend that time getting backlinks that actually aid SEO.
Legit content marketing techniques would save you from Google’s penalties. But that’s not all. And they will also get you better and faster results.
I have listed out some safe and more effective alternatives right here:
1. Contextual Links From Guest Posts
Guest posts are the most valued backlinks a website can get. It is especially when these guest post backlinks come from high authority sites.
However, guest posts should include quality content and be on relevant websites.
2. PBN Backlinks From Multiple Privately Owned Blogs
Whether you build your own PBN or get help from PBN site owners, it is going to be a great boost for your site’s SEO.
Now I know private blog networks are considered a grey area in SEO.
Get Started Today
Sitewide links do little for your SEO campaign.
And that too is after you take every possible measure to ensure that they don’t get your site penalized.
I don’t see a purpose in taking all that effort for nothing.
Instead, focus on other content marketing techniques like PBNs and guest posting.
Get started today and rank higher. Also, if you have more questions about sitewide links, ask away in the comments section below.