Google Says it’s Forbidden and it’s Bad for Clients
(So Why are Agencies Still Doing It?)
While working on our own WordPress SEO, we’ve learned that site-wide footer links have always been dicey at best (you know, “Designed by Denver SEO Company” in the footer of a website). They were easy to detect both visually and algorithmically, and like any site-wide link, they generate potentially thousands of inbound links from one IP/Website. In-content links (one or two from a website’s content rather than hundreds in the footer or sidebar) were always more desirable. TastyPlacement.com has many examples of in-content links throughout the site.
Examples of Obvious Footer Links Are Easy to Find
Here’s an example from an Inc. 5000 company that touts its work for the NFL and Canon, with a footer link on a client website bearing the simple-minded anchor text “Website Design”:
The previous example is from an NYC design agency that ranks number 1 for “New York Web Design”.
Does Google Hate Footer Links?
Well, maybe. Google certainly has warned against it. In an October 2012 revision to its webmaster guidelines, Google warned about “[w]idely distributed links in the footers of various sites.” A valuable discussion on Webmaster World regarding footer links followed. Certainly, the use of footer links, especially when used with aggressive anchor text, should be undertaken with caution. Just as certain though is that footer links can still generate strong rankings.
Footer Links and Client Responsibility
There’s another facet though to this question, and that is the question of taking footer links on your clients’ websites. If you are a website designer or an SEO, when you take a footer link on a client website, you doing a few things:
- You are using your superior knowledge of the search algorithms to get a link from someone who trusts you; they might not give the link so willingly if they knew all the facts and consequences.
- You are exposing your own web property to an inbound link that violates Google’s written webmaster guidelines.
- You are exposing your client’s website to a potential Google violation.
- You are taking Page Rank from a client and giving it to yourself.
- You have a more effective and safer alternative, an “About This Site” page or its equivalent–still sorta’ sleazy, but maybe not so obvious.
If you want the possible referral business that a prestige web build might generate, you can always achieve that with a simple text citation, with no link.