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Footer links are tacky and mildly unethical IMO because it gives their competitor an edge by knowing who you are. People shouldn't pay for web development and/or SEO just to give the next guy a simpler path to the same if not better solution.
Almost all? Can't say that I am seeing this.
In most cases the SEO has nothing to do with the website per se
Websites with a link to the designer are part of the deal in most cases and not at all tacky.
Ever get your house painted and have the painters leave a big sign on the side of your house "Painted by Bob's House Painters"?
This is common practice for painters, scaffolders, builders, roofers, pavers, gardeners, estate and letting agents.
Or how about tags for cars with the dealer's name on them?
Just because it's open to abuse doesn't mean it's a bad thing per se.
Tacky to the Nth degree.
many ethical designers do this
None were in the top ten.
In business it is extremely common for people who have created something to claim credit for it where appropriate and I can't think of anywhere more appropriate than a website footer.
they're kind of second tier actions and they brand both parties as second tier
I could continue on naming thousands of professional sites where not a single attribution exists in the footer of the site.
It's also a big red flag about that merchant's site.
I think twice about buying from someone that can't even afford work for hire that doesn't require attribution. Having a web developer or SEOs name all over the site makes me wonder how much access those people have, if my credit card is safe, whether I'll even get my order filled, or whether or not anyone will be there to answer email or the phone. It's a sign of a low quality site, one I avoid.
what is wrong with being second tier anyway
but how well is the client site ranking for the most important searches in their sector
Surely you cannot seriously be claiming that a link to the designer on a website is an indication of a lack of security?
Oh and what exactly what is wrong with being second tier anyway? We cannot all be Google, Apple and Amazon?