I have a very large site which we have categorized the thousands of items we offer into about 35 categories. We have placed text links to these category pages at the foot of every page in the site which has resulted in good internal linkages to these pages. The 35 category pages have enjoyed great rankings for a long time, which we think is due, in part, to the fact that they are linked internally very well.
Our dilemma is that these 35 links placed on the foot of every page create clutter and just don't make the page look attractive. We are thinking of removing these categories from the page footers but are afraid it will ruin our link equity and drop our rankings.
My question is, would removing these links from every page in the site do a lot of damage? If so, has anyone had this dilemma and how was it resolved successfully. Also, will Google Site Maps solve this problem? Thanks.