It is quite common for web designers to include “Designed by XYZ” with a link back to their web design website for any website they design. But while some designers have ceased the practice of including footer links in websites, it seems like sometimes there’s a blind eye turned to any web designers that are including legitimate links back to the web design company from the footer of all the webpages the design.
Websites with spammy footer links became really bad a couple of years ago when many web designers started putting up free web design templates, but then would obfuscate code in the footer of the webpages that would include links to things like poker or online pharmaceuticals, and many novice webmasters were tricked into using them. But because of the prevalence of spam some web designers stopped including the footer links on the site they designed, and instead would sometimes include it as a comment in the code. But many non-spam footer links seem to be working just fine without any SEO repercussions.
The question came up in the Google webmaster hangout today and John Mueller recommends that any webmaster deciding to include a “designed by” link in the footer uses no follow if they want to include their link.
I get that this looks at things in regards to unnatural links for example and from our point of view these kinds of links by default are things where the webmaster doesn’t really place the links explicitly on those sites. So I’d recommend if you want to put your footer link there, make sure has a no follow on it, so that this is something that people can click on if they’re interested, but it’s seen as something that is not an editorial link by the webmaster, it’s not something you that have to worry about later on thinking “oh my God I put all these links on these websites and now Google will think of building an unnatural link or something crazy.”
So this is something where putting a no follow there is definitely good practice, you don’t need to not put these links benefit things he makes sense, but it’s something you decide on together with the people who are running this website in the end, then that’s something certainly you might want to do. But I would definitely put a no follow on those links.
Bottom line, if you thought you were safe to include footer links to your web design company on all the sites you design, you probably want to start adding a no follow into those links.
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Frank Watson says
another great informative post – now lets see who takes the advise
Oddly enough, I’ve seen this method work for MANY people with increased rankings for primary keywords. I wonder when Google will finally crack down?
Sorry, I totally disagree with your statement!
The client pays for a website to be designed by the development agency. Why do they even think it’s ok to include a link in the footer to their own site? And why would you encourage them to put a no-follow on the link as a best practice, instead of calling these agencies out to stop the practice in the first place?
I’ve asked so many SMB’s so many times if the link in the footer was part of a contractual obligation, and they would get a discount for the overall contract if the link would have stayed. I’ve yet to find any company why would get anything in return for it.
Still these web developer companies get the value of massive links to their website. Even if it’s a no follow, the brandling, plus potential leads from traffic from the link is not properly disclosed to the client.
Imagine you ask a general contractor to build a new house for you, and when it’s finished, they hand over the key. You notice there is a giant billboard on top of the roof saying: “Built by….” Would you let it stay on your roof, or would you ask to take it down?
So why not call on all designer agencies to stop include a link in the footer whatsoever, instead of asking to add a no-follow?
Jennifer Slegg says
Oh, personally I agree – I have all my clients remove it unless there was some contractual reason to leave it (and in my experience, there never has been). It was simply John Mueller who advised the no follow instead, and to be fair many SEOs (especially those who still think footer links are a great idea LOL) take what John Mueller says as gospel and ignores what those in the trenches say 🙂
Daniel Daines-Hutt says
True but it is almost like an artist signing their work
I don’t design sites commercially if I can help it, but I can understand you may want to show off your work.
The sad fact is, this method of ranking “Should” have died off years ago, and yet you still see huge companies ranking with almost 90% exact anchor backlinks from site footers……
A few manual inspections and a LOT of companies would drop traffic to nothing overnight
I ran an analysis of a competitor yesterday-a web designer who offers seo, and they had ZERO links that were not footer from sites the created-not even a blog comment!
Dennis, well said. I agree completely. Even with nofollow, you’re still draining a bit of link juice from the client. Why a design company would do something that literally hurts the performance of their client’s website is insane. Greedy, greedy, I guess.
Giant billboard on top of the roof would be equal to giant banner in header, not link at the end of the web page. It’s more like movie credits at the end of the movie, where you would normally mention all the staff who worked on it and no one sees any problem with it, even though staff are already paid in $$.
Why people always take “building a house” example to compare it with web design, instead of, well, everything else. Because it’s the only example that’s in favor of their argument?
How many products can you get today without branding on them (even though you are paying for it)? Car, phone, software, clothes, almost everything you eat… Do you ask same question “why do they even think it’s ok when I am paying for the product”?
So, why wouldn’t web designers include link in the footer? You are buying their product (code, images) and they have all the rights to put whatever they want in it. If you don’t like it, you can hire in-house web developers like big companies do and then you can tell them how to do their job. Or just remove the link.
To stick with websites, isn’t it common practice to credit writers who provide you content? Sometimes just with name, often with links to their social profiles. You would normally credit photographs too if you use their images. How is that different than link to web design company (except that writer’s links are far more visible)?
I think the only reason this particular case bothers you that much is because Google scared you to use links the way you would normally do.
To be clear, I am not a web designer. I personally always leave link to web design company, because they deserve it. I believe it’s a good practice. It’s good for web, I don’t care if it messes google’s algorithm.
It’s total bull.. I see tons of webdesigners put a sidewide footerlink on all websites they deliver and they don’t use nofollow…and guess what… dispite their own non mobilefriendly, slow and thin websites and crap design and content…they rank #1 on many heavy keywords. …. for years now.
it’s just a gossip Google want’s you to believe. Same as website speed…. it doesn’t matter, same as mobile friendlyness…isn’t going to help you…. same as backlinks from related content….no diffrence from links from non-related content! The one and only thing Google loves is links… a lot of them.