Widget links

A widget is a piece of a code which, once added to your website, inserts a piece of content or functionality to your site from a third party. Examples of widget content include a visitor counter, a mortgage calculator, or a sports league table.

Widgets, in various forms, have been around on the consumer web since the mid-90s and are one of the oldest forms of mass spam link building. Whilst your website or company may not be currently promoting a widget it is possible that at some point in the past it has.

Widget link generation

What many users of widgets do not realise, is that when they embed a widget on their website they are also adding additional external links to their site which sit outside of the functionality of the widget itself.

These links, in the past, often use commercial anchor text targeted at commercial landing pages. These links sometimes are not even visible by visitors to the website and are ‘Hidden links’.

Widget link identification

In the majority of cases widgets are placed within sidebars and footers of websites, occasionally appearing within the main body of a page in the case of larger widget content.

Widgets which generate links which fall foul of Google guidelines often have a very clear foot print, utilising the same anchor text(s) over and over, continually linking to the same landing pages.

Technically, widgets can be implemented in a number of different ways. In its simplest form, widgets make use of <iframes> to pull content through to a website. Alternatively, they may make use of the <embed> or <object> HTML elements, or a piece of JavaScript. Often, the offending link will simply accompany the widget code in good old plain HTML.

Google widget link advice

Google’s latest advice on links generated by widgets reads as follows,

Here are a few common examples of unnatural links that may violate our guidelines:
Keyword-rich, hidden or low-quality links embedded in widgets that are distributed across various sites, for example:

Visitors to this page: 1,472
car insurance

This advice can be interpreted as saying that visible brand based follow links (naturally pointing to a homepage rather than a commercial landing page) are acceptable.

Widget link clean-up

Depending on how your widget works technically, you may be able to remove or update the nefarious links immediately from your widgets ‘control panel’.

Any and all offending links should be removed.