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|Is Linking Between Client Sites A Bad Thing?|
This has come up in discussion before: avoiding link exchanges between client sites, unless perhaps, they happen to be totally related. Design firms that specialize in industry-specific SEO tend to link all of their client sites together because they are related, but can anyone explain what the actual danger of linking unrelated (or related) client sites to each other would be?
I have a link back to my design site at the footer of every site I develop, I'm actually more worried that SEs will penalize me or clients for three way linking (if they link to each other and then both link back to me, since some are on my portfolio page). Why should I not interlink client sites?
|I have a link back to my design site at the footer of every site I develop |
That shouldn't be a problem, eh? Normal procedure, and they're all outbound.
|Why should I not interlink client sites? |
Not that I'm an expert on this, but I would say because it's been used to create link-farms in the past, and can throw up a a flag. Even if they're industry specific, it can look dodgy.
[edited by: Stefan at 1:15 am (utc) on July 26, 2006]
Let's say you link your client sites together, to your site or even to thier sites from yours. Let's say one of those sites gets flagged for a manual review. If they can establish a "relationship" between the banned site and any of the other sites through any "questionable" SEO practices or relationships I'm sure they will poke around . So why expose yourself and other clients to risk when you don't need to?
Now I'd never reccomend that anyone set up a fake SEO website with a few months or years history to offer up as a sacrafice in a reinclusion request when a client does get banned ... nope never reccomend that at all ...
The bottom line is, don't link unless there is a real reason to do so. Most times, the link farms of the past were an obvious attempt to inflate popularity.
If there is a logical and real reason to link one client site with anotehr - a very related product or service that would benefit customers - I would not let any Search engine dictate that and would link either way.
Because you may be removed from Google's or MSN's index. I have a site that was removed from msn's index for being "part of a link exchange" which they consider to be spam and it is also penalized by Google (gone supplemental and out of the rankings) most likely for the same reason.
I posted a related thread yesterday and was discouraged as well but the sites that I am proposing be linked, while seemingly unrelated businesses, are all a part of a business leads group called LeTip. We are the West Orange County chapter of it and we only have about 50 members, not all of whom even have websites.
Is it possible to get a definitive answer from Google on this? I would hate and avoid at all costs to harm anyone in my groups ranking.
|Is it possible to get a definitive answer from Google on this? |
there will never be a definitive 'answer' to this question or any other like it from google or any search engine ...
if you ponder on it briefly you will realise that it would give spammers a green flag on that particular question.
A lot of good feedback in here. Yes, the SE's will never disclose what's ground for penalties, they'd rather every webmaster try to avoid doing anything remotely questionable as that would promote the most natural results.
I'll probably pass on the client interlinking then, but I more than likely will link two highly related websites. My goal is to stay white hat as much as humanly possible, but since I have at least 110 client sites floating around on the web (different IPs for each) between PR3-PR6 and covering so many industries, I can't help but think about how to make that work for all of them.
Another thing, adding your links to bottom of Web sites you've designed is unprofessional and unethical. Designers who do this are flagged as amateurs in my book.
|adding your links to bottom of Web sites you've designed |
That's one person's opinion. It's certainly not a widely adopted industry attitude. ;)
A link from a charity site you built for "free" would makes sense on a lot of levels. In terms of link development (which this forum is about), it makes zero sense to walk away from a client link.
If you did SEO for someone, imo it's a bad idea for the client to publicize they had SEO done because it's just begging for SE scrutiny. SEO should discrete.
I agree with martinibuster.
Sean, if you are worried about linking to those business, why not add Google/SEO-friendly 'nofollow' to the links as such: <a href="..." rel="nofollow"> then google won't follow the link and there shouldn't be any problem because you aren't vouching for those sites.
|Another thing, adding your links to bottom of Web sites you've designed is unprofessional and unethical. Designers who do this are flagged as amateurs in my book. |
Yep me too a sitewide link at the bottom isn't too clever ... I think the really clever designers put a link at the bottom of every page that links to a whole page on the same domain where they can place much more natural looking links ... but I digress ...
SEO is different than webdesign, I think Rand captured it best saying SEO is like plastic surgery, not everyone wants it publicized it's something they are doing ...
|clever designers put a link at the bottom of every page that links to a whole page on the same domain... |
|Adding your links to bottom of Web sites you've designed is unprofessional and unethical. Designers who do this are flagged as amateurs in my book. |
I would think that many, if not most, web designers would disagree with you on this one. I personally don't see how an unobtrusive text link can be considered either unprofessional or unethical, and as of yet I haven't had a client request that I remove a site credit link. I also try to limit the number of same-industry websites I develop for clients in the same area to three or less, so they don't have to worry about every competitor in town contracting me to design and optimize their site.
1. Site credit links provide me with thousands of backlinks
2. I can use a variety of anchor text to further improve SE position
3. Clickthroughs bring me new clients, particularly out of state ones
I have been able to secure top positions for my target keywords that I normally wouldn't have gotten, all because of site credit links. Plus, countless clients that clicked through those links. I don't see the harm in them, and credit links are responsible for most of my business. I don't consider it remotely amateurish to practice something that brings me more business, especially if it doesn't adversely affect my clients.
From a SEO perspective, sure links at the bottom of your clients' sites is cool and a bonus. But from the customer's perspective, it is wrong and abusive.
A Web site is not a piece of art. You rarely see blue chip fortune 500 companies listing with links to the designers who did their sites. You don't because the agencies who produced their sites are professionals. Professionals don't leave their marks like grafittis all over the place.
No one knows which agency did IBM's Web site, unless you are related to the project. This is the way it should be.
Only think small Web designers leave their traces all over the place. The most pressing problem from the customer's perspective is that when people log onto a site, there's a 10 seconds window before they leave. A link from the designer is a distraction that gets in the way of the 10 seconds window.
The real question is do you make sites to help and improve the fortune of your customers or do you make site to inflate your ego?
About whether Web designers agree with me or not, we've had this debate on WebmasterWorld several times in other threads. Professionals understand that their clients' site is not their play ground.
Amateurs thinks it's a good kick off to get free links and cheap referrals.
If you have to resort to adding links on your clients' site in order to get good referrals, for business and SEO, you're already in a bad position and need to rethink you entire strategy.
But of course, people won't notice the falacy on getting free publicity from their clients' site, until Google actually starts penalizing these free links. Don't think they won't. It's probably on their agendas.
Besides, putting your links on a client's site is so 1990s...
[edited by: Harry at 3:02 pm (utc) on July 31, 2006]
Well I think it depends on how much they are paying too -- IBM likely paid in the millions for their site and if anyone wants to pay me that much then I will make sure they get 'professional' service and I won't ask for a link on their homepage.
Most of my clients aren't in that range, so I put up a link and if they object, I will remove it.
|But from the customer's perspective, it is wrong and abusive. |
That's just your opinion, though, I'm interested in how you came to that conclusion. Speaking from personal experience, not one client in five years has brought it up to me. In fact, more than a few clients have even asked that I make my link more noticeable because they're so happy with the finished product or increase in business and want to show their appreciation by directing more people my way.
|You rarely see blue chip fortune 500 companies listing with links to the designers who did their sites. No one knows which agency did IBM's Web site |
As the previous poster mentioned, there may be extinuating circumstances that we aren't aware of. With the money that IBM (or any other Fortune 500 company) generates, what makes you think that they don't have an in-house design team to create and maintain their site? Unless you work for all 500 companies, you can't really determine if they were done in house or by a firm.
|The real question is do you make sites to help and improve the fortune of your customers or do you make site to inflate your ego? If you have to resort to adding links on your clients' site in order to get good referrals, for business and SEO, you're already in a bad position and need to rethink you entire strategy. |
Ego has nothing to do with it. My clients generate a profit or the exposure they seek with their sites, my link doesn't impede that process. If you consider a steady stream of clients that put food on the table a "bad position", I'll be content to remain in a bad position. And unless you're buddies with Matt Cutts, I'm not sure how familiar you are with what G is going to do about those types of links. If they do happen to devalue them, I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.
I'll repeat it here since you seemed to have missed it.
The number one reason why designers and developers should not put their links all over their customers' sites is because people stay on sites less than 10 seconds. Therefore, one need to make visitors focus on a limited amount of information.
Putting your Web designers' link in there detracts from that goal and pollutes the screen with unfocused information/click option. Your customers' first goal is to have people who come to their site convert - not to compete for attention with their Web design firm.
When I explain this to the average person who needs a Web site, they get it. Very often, like your customers, they don't see what the fuss is all about at first and don't mind the links. But as soon as they get it, they ask all unnecessary links to be removed.
It really is a amateur vs professional thing. Companies who understand the value of their online real estate, and that of their customers, do
not permit unrelated links on their sites or those of their customers.
Those after SEO kickbacks and who are amateurs, don't get it and continue to spam their clients' sites with their links.
Nothing turns me off more on a site and spells, small business without a smart Web strategy than the link of a design firm on a site.
Now, you can continue to argue that you're right, but WebmasterWorld is the big leagues of professional Webmasters. If you want to learn and get ahead, listen to my arguments, as much as they annoy you. There's a lot of truth in what I say.
Once all customers get smart about their sites, amateurs who put their grafitis on their client's sites, as if it were their personal playground will lose out to real pros. They have already started to.
A non linked text designerdomain.com at the bottom could solve this argument.
|Putting your Web designers' link in there detracts from that goal and pollutes the screen with unfocused information/click option. |
You make some great points. Thanks for sharing them. But there's one thing about the premise that is sticking (at least for me). :)
Most "designed by" credits are at the bottom of the page, generally below the copyright and privacy notices. I think it's valid to question the value of a surfer who is rummaging way down there. It's almost like someone walking into a department store and heading for the broom closet. Please correct me if I'm assuming too much.
Would it be fair to say that anyone clicking at the bottom of a website is not interested in what's on offer? And if that's the case, is it fair to say it is not a loss to the client if a disinterested surfer clicks away?
Stepping aside from whether it's good or bad for the client, there's another question: is a "designed by" link good for the webmaster? Is there any link love value in there?
What do you think?
If I were to design websites heck yea I would but my link on them with a good anchor text. There is nothing wrong with this especially if they are on different IP addresses registered to different users ect. Big benifit for you in every way and a common pratice.
I have said before it looks like sitewide links aren't hurting as they once did as I can supply 4 website same server owner using the same db coming up in all search engines Google yahoo and msn...Really no other links to speak of were banned in Goggle for hidden css but got reincluded around the bigdaddy event and since then have been doing very very well in searches Lots of them so who can say site wides are a negative effect. from what I see just the opposite
There seems to be general concensus (though not universal agreement) that sitewide links are treated differently than the same number of links from different sites. I.e., a hundred footer links from one site isn't nearly as valuable as one link each from a hundred sites.
Furthermore, I'd assume that link location may pay a role in its value, with a footer link being somewhat less. And, considering the prevalence of small web firms that still do sitewide links on client sites, it's not outside the realm of possibility that there could be an industry-specific multiplier at work.
So, I'd guess that a bunch of sitewide footer links from random clients wouldn't result in a penalty of any kind, but these links might be severely underweighted vs., say, a mid-article link from an industry news organization.
Cross-linking clients is another story. Clients of web developers may already have elements in common - hosting IP range, WHOIS info, AdWords management, etc. If the sites are heavily crosslinked, that could indeed raise some flags, IMO, particularly if the links don't seem on-topic.
The local business group cross-linking to each other sounds risky, too. An auto supply store linking to a dog groomer looks odd, but probably in itself isn't a problem. But if there's a whole cluster of this kind of linkage, with common linkage patterns across many sites, it could result in a link farm-type penalty. I'd link to those sites that made business sense, and/or to the group's website which could then link out to all of the members.
Well I certainly put a link at the bottom of every site i build, it's spelled out in the contract that I will do so and if I am not hosting the site, the contract spells out how long the link must remain.
It is no different than a builder, painter or roofer putting a sign in someones yard when they are working on that persons house. Banks put financed by: in front of new businesses, etc. etc. etc.
IBM, and giant companies like them are very bad examples in this case, they most likely have an in house DEV team that builds their site, I know for a fact that AOL/Time Warner does it in house.
Why do I put the links? SEO, referals, PR, whatever, if the customer doesn't want them, they can negotiate that and pay more or they can go elsewhere but as of today, I have never lost a client in this way.
Saying it is unprofessional, in bad taste or whatever is just an opinion but in the real world means nothing, even WW has a link to best BBS at the bottom of the site.......
A client would have to pay extra or negociate to have the web design firm remove their link from the site?
I could understand that free hosting would be included otherwise that is wrong. I would stay away from any company with that attitude.
To be honest I was wanting to be diplomatic but after thinking about it I can't be bothered - I have no time at all for the attitude that a web designer can not have their link at the bottom of the page, all that "not professional" etc rubbish is idiotic - you don't live on this planet.
In the real world (unlike IBM's web designers - great example we all have their resources don't we) most sites are built by freelancers, hobbyists, or small design companies - a "designed by" link at the bottom of the page is a signature, simple as that. I do believe artists sign their work as well - shameless self promotion, crikey lets get that outlawed as well.
Credits are credits - and that is they way the world works, why not check the bottom of webmasterworld and see "oh my god" sitewide links to bestbbs, a product of webmasterworld. Well, that cluttered up my web browsing experience of this site no end - very unprofessional, I bet IBM wouldn't do that.
Sorry just no time at all for absolute nonsense. Whether or not search engines frown on that is a different matter - and I expect it is fine in moderation, just like everything else. In terms of getting downgraded in ranking etc, absolutely everything else is causing that - just look at the threads on the Google forum, this is one of those things where the benefits outweigh the negatives as these links could get you business.
However, linking between clients causes a problem in my opinion because it causes a link map that may look similar to a link farm - many sites link to one site on all pages, these sites link between themselves. That is a common trick that I am sure Google will penalise without caring if it is legitimate or not - unless these sites themselves have enough links outside that neighbourhood.
|Stepping aside from whether it's good or bad for the client, there's another question: is a "designed by" link good for the webmaster? Is there any link love value in there? |
And that is a very good question indeed.
Designed by links almost always have the design firm's name as the anchor text. Good for ranking on the term "Elbonian Design Group" I suppose.
On the lighter side...
Last year I was contacted by my ex-wife. She came across me via a designed by link on a site I did 5 or 6 years ago. We hadn't communicated in over 30 years (nasty divorce).
I should add, she wasn't looking to have a website done ;)
next time you buy a car, tell the dealer you want all those silly factory emblems and dealer stickers removed, I am sure he'll do it...
FOR A PRICE
When I quote a client a price, I include in that price a break for any value I might get from the site myself. If I am going to be hosting the site, it is cheaper; if I am going to be doing weekly updates or tweaks for SEO it is more.
As to the original question of linking between clients: I do it, in moderation, and can rank a site with a non competetive local or niche KW in very short order on the SE's as a result. (by rank I mean top 10) It works, I am gonna do it, if it stops working I'll look at other ways...
willybfriendly, That is a good point, I don't think there is a value in the link in SEO terms - just referrals.
ex-wife eh.....................just removing links off client sites, I have changed my mind............ bad idea....................
Wow? A little hostilitly on this subject.
First I believe that it is wrong to internlink client sites for sure.
Second, I treat a website as a business not a car or getting a new roof on my house.
If a client does not want our service listed on their business domain than we don't list, no questions asked.
moishe, thats a good point about linking between client sites - if it works do it.
I do feel the black sheep when I post on these forums in that I do believe that following a submissive policy towards search engine rule books does not in actual fact generate a successful outcome.
You can be removed out of sight without changing anything, at the lower end of tree (non CNN/Amazon) your rankings are going to fluctuate radically in this new Google type crawling and indexing regime. I have literally dealt with several hundreds of horror stories - and that is just my experience.
If you worry about doing anything - and then do nothing, you have nothing. If you worry about getting a penalty, if your traffic is not substantial then what have you to lose - you may be taken out in a "data refresh" anyway, but you don't have any traffic anyway so who cares.
If you are considering something that causes you to ask a question like "is linking between client sites a bad thing" then you really want to hear of cases where it hasn't been - because you know it might be. In reality in some cases it will, in some it won't.
If you don't get much traffic anyway then who cares - you have nothing to lose. If you have loads of traffic from google, then why risk it? But it is clear that in the current climate ANYTHING regarding links is a risk.
I like the risk - do you play poker?!
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