At the recent Pubcon event in Austin, Gary Illyes stated that content order does impact your rankings and that if you ever decide to move your content to the footer then it’s likely that it won’t rank very well.
Some SEOs were wondering why Gary had mentioned this again at Pubcon – content placement being important for rankings isn’t a new idea, and we know that Google generally deems content above the fold as the most important on the page.
However, it seems that Gary made this statement at Pubcon in relation to the imminent mobile-first index, as you may start to see changes in rankings if your mobile pages have content in different places than the desktop version, once the MFI kicks in.
So, with the Mobile-First Index in mind, how should you structure your content to help rank better in Google?
The pages on your desktop and mobile sites should be similar to one another, hopefully identical, in terms of content placement, internal links and markup. If you notice that your rankings start to dip once the MFI rolls out then it could be related to content parity.
Completing a content parity audit is a worthwhile exercise; this crawls each version to find differences between them. We’d also recommend going through content manually to ensure they are no major discrepancies.
Internal Linking & Navigation
Another reason some pages may not be ranking as well as you’d hope for are because they’re only being linked to in the footer. If it’s one of the major pages on the website then consider placing this link in the header navigation.
Why are Links Devalued in Footers?
If there is a link in your footer that’s not in your main navigation, the link may not carry as much weight internally, and sometimes the link may not carry any weight at all.
One reason that links in the footer may not carry much weight could be due to their visibility; if the links are in a small font and a non-contrasting colour compared to the background then they’re not going to stand out to users as much as other links in the primary navigation.
Almost a decade ago we saw a patent granted to Google citing ‘creating a ranking function based on user behavior and/or feature data’ where ‘feature data’ is considered ‘font size of the anchor text’, ‘in a footer, in a sidebar, etc’. This is commonly known as the ‘Reasonable Surfer patent’.
A contradictory view
A contradictory view was recently made by John Mueller of Google saying, “So position on a page for internal links is pretty much irrelevant from our point of view” concluding for links, “if it is in the header or the footer or within the primary content, it’s totally more up to you than anything SEO wise that I would worry about.” Most SEO’s would say feature data does indeed matter though.
Easy Access – MFI
It’s also important to consider how easy it is to access the footer of your website on mobile. On desktop websites (unless you have an infinite scroll) the footer is generally quicker to reach than on mobile. This means that you shouldn’t really put any valuable content or links that you want the user to come across in the footer, as some users may not want to scroll that far down on the page.
What Makes a Good Footer?
Footers are great for both large and small websites as a ‘resource’ centre. If you want to put links in the footer for resource purposes then make sure to structure them in a clear, organised fashion.
Make sure the links in your footer actually serve a function and are relevant to both the user and search engine bots crawling the website.
Some suggestions for structuring your footer:
- Don’t stuff the footer with content or excessive links – it looks too busy and very disorganised.
- Make sure the links you have in your footer are relevant
- Keep links organised and use headers to group them e.g. ‘popular locations’ or ‘popular topics’
As more websites are moved to the Mobile First Index, keeping content parity in mind – i.e. making sure your desktop and mobile versions are similar, if not identical, is going to be increasingly important. Also make sure that any valuable content is located towards the top of the page and not placed in the footer for better rankings and user experience.