The other day I had a client at Maryland SEO Services ask me what footprinting was. While I’ve never heard of it referred to as footprinting, I knew what he was referring to and think that that speaks to the confusion regarding footprints in relation with SEO. Let’s clarify what are footprints in SEO.
What Are Footprints in SEO
In my mind, footprints in SEO come down to two major groupings, so let’s discuss them now and break them into two admittedly crude categories: good footprints and bad footprints.
Bad Footprints – Let’s start with the bad footprints as they relate to your stake in SEO, you can also think of these as leaving “traces”. Google can use a “footprint” to tie a couple of web pages or sites together in their mind even when it’s not explicitly obvious. Obviously link building is the basis of SEO for SEOers, but Google likes all links to be natural or in other words not built but earned.
Therefore, people who build links and who are in the know work to disguise and camouflage those links which they build to make them appear natural in a number of different ways. When building links from one site you own to another you own for the purposes of ranking, for example, you certainly want to make sure that Google can’t pick up on the fact that you own both of those sites of that link you create will be worth significantly less.
If both sites are hosted from the same IP, that’s an obvious giveaway that the same webmaster owns both sites and likely is linking for the purposes of influencing the SERPs. The IP in this case is the footprint. There are lots of footprints which search engines can use to detect link building patterns so the general rule of thumb is to always make your link building efforts look as natural as possible.
Good Footprints – Let’s call these “good” footprints, or typically strings of text which you can recognize and pull from a web page to find similar web pages. SEOers can use a footprint to find web pages they wouldn’t normally be able to find through typical searches.
So if you wanted to find WordPress blogs related to cars, you would take a line of text which is found on most WordPress blogs such as “powered by WordPress”. When multiple web pages share a trait like that it’s called a footprint. You can then throw a modifying term like “cars” on the end of that footprint to find sites related to your keyword and which match your footprint.
Footprints are handy for finding similar sites in general. For link building it’s helpful for when if you find a type of site which you can get an easy link from like a new blog platform you’re unfamiliar with, you might want to look for a distinguishable footprint you can pull from it to find lots of other sites/linking opportunities to build off of.