I'm finishing an API project that will allow website owners to display related videos on all of their pages with a simple javascript code. The related videos are completely related to the page's content. And the videos display on the same page as they were clicked on so that the visitor doesn't leave the page. This will hopefully increase the website owner's metrics of time on site, session duration and reduce their bounce rate while adding rich content to their page.

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The purpose of this API project was to generate backlinks to my site to increase my web presence. But now I'm reading that widget links can get hit with manual actions from Google along with penalties. And I really just don't understand any of this.

If a widget is so good that a website is willing to embed it or run the javascript with the followed backlink inside of the widget, wouldn't Google see this as a signal that the followed link must have really good content on their website? Why would they hit content developers with penalties like this?

I can offer the javascript widget with a rel="nofollow" backlink inside of the widget, but because of server costs and constraints the only way it will be worth it is if I can get a followed backlink somewhere on the user's website. Which is fine, I can request that they editorially place a followed link somewhere on their site. But the problem is that because of the https protocol that many sites use, I don't see of a way to track which websites are embedding my javascript code and using my data. As a result, if an https website is using my javascript widget a lot without linking to my site I'm unable to restrict access to their domain. I simply won't know which domains are doing that.

I could check my apache logs to determine which IP addresses are calling my javascript code, but I imagine that this would be very difficult to figure out which IP address relates to which web domain. And since https doesn't pass http_referer in PHP I'm unable to track which websites are using my data.

Is there a solution to this issue and a way for me to be able to offer this really useful widget with highly related video content to websites while being able to ensure that I receive some sort of followed link in exchange for the dramatic server usage that my widget will require on my servers?

The code utilizes .load('http://example.com/page') where example.com is my domain. It would be really preferable if I don't have to offer API secret keys because I'm targeting wordpress users and the learning curve for signing up and implementing API access keys could deter widget adoption.

Can I determine which https websites are using my script with some sort of code? Or is there any other advice about how I can implement backlinks without risking penalty?

Here is an article about widget backlinks from Rand at Moz. It has great info, but I don't think it answers definitively if branded logo backlinks in widgets are still safe. https://moz.com/blog/backlinks-maximize-benefits-avoid-problems-whiteboard-friday


  • When in doubt...test it. Only the wise can wear grey hats. Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 5:25

3 Answers 3


Google no longer views widgets as harmless. They have been used too many times to manipulate search results. Your plan to use widgets to build backlinks is a risky plan today.

Google's official Webmaster guidelines have this to say about widgets as a prohibited link scheme:

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

Google has also posted other warnings about widgets

Today we would like to reiterate our policy on the creation of keyword-rich, hidden or low-quality links embedded in widgets that are distributed across various sites.

Widgets can help website owners enrich the experience of their site and engage users. However, some widgets add links to a site that a webmaster did not editorially place and contain anchor text that the webmaster does not control. Because these links are not naturally placed, they're considered a violation of Google Webmaster Guidelines.

Google's Matt Cutts has long recommended putting nofollow on any link in widgets.

Google is most concerned about:

  • Keyword rich anchor text
  • Links that can't be removed by the webmaster when using the widget

Their guidelines don't prohibit links with widgets altogether. You can use links that pass Pagerank in widgets as long as:

  • You don't force the webmaster to link
  • You don't use keyword rich anchor text
  • The links are "high quality" (which is admittedly very subjective)

I have long used widgets with links for SEO and I still do today. At most I use a single link to the home page of my site with the brand name as anchor text. I never use JavaScript or terms of service to prevent other sites from removing or changing those links.

In November 2016 I received a manual action against my site that had examples of widget links from three very spammy looking sites. I replied to that manual action explaining that those were widget links. I cited the webmaster guidelines and said that I believed that my widget program didn't violate it. I showed where on my site the widgets could be obtained. The manual action was withdrawn in about 6 weeks without me having to make any changes.

Google still does allow widgets with links, but:

  • Google prohibits keyword rich anchor text and spam
  • Google may take manual action against your site anyway
  • Google may change its mind at any point and disallow the use of links in widgets altogether.
  • Thank you Stephen. Do you think it will be ok to include a branded logo link to my home page? What about a "view more videos" link directing the user to a url with the keywords in the url (but no keyword anchor text)? Do these links have to be nofollow or can I allow these to be followed links?
    – Michael d
    Commented Feb 25, 2018 at 8:11
  • "videos" is a keyword, so I wouldn't use that in a link. A logo should be fine. Commented Feb 25, 2018 at 10:50

You already have a good answer about links in the widgets. That's how I'll deal with this situation:

  1. Logo-link to my home in the player (same as youtube, dailymotion, etc ). Brand traffic, no SEO.
  2. Ask for social post/link before getting the widget code
  3. Ask for content/link to unblock some advanced configuration on the widget (kind of gamification).

Links from footer, banners, widgets are against Google webmaster policies. But Further, it depends on how we use it like as Guest posting...

Google Officially said that they are targeting spamming sites whose are spamming by creating and sharing themes, plugins and other methods; from footer, widgets, sidebar.

recent studies found that Google takes serious only editorial links rather than any others because these are difficult to get.

But as saw that Yoast, and other plugins and themes that are big names getting backlinks for their sites from their plugins. but no penalty from Google. because they have good backlink profiles and getting links to very relevant pages from plugins (i don't check that DO-follow or no-follow).

I personally found some sites where Neil Patel getting links from footer. it is not only for link building it is about sales...

so it's upon you how you use it and what is the condition of your site...

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