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These days I'm seeing a lot more "web design style" footers on SEO client sites as well as footprints from other promotional "ventures", so is it now safe to drop an old paranoia, or is a Cultural Revolution still possibly around the corner?
In most cases they are non-related links, and their purpose is either referrals from impressed visitors, or 'link power'.
If the former, then nofollow might be the best way to go; self-promoting SEOs probably have enough problems without sticking paper targets over their hearts. ;)
Also, I think it may cost the client some credibility with searchers who find them, at least with those searchers who associate top position with the best companies. You don't want to undermine that.
"Have to" suggests some coercion, but that's hardly necessary is it?
With most clients now aware of the benefits of links the offer of some "mutually beneficial" linkage might well be welcomed.
But unless clients are made aware of the risks involved in linking to an SEO, it could be argued that accepting them is for an SEO an ethically questionable practice.
SEO is a different story. I've had links back for SEO - voluntarily and gladly given, as a matter of fact, more than once - and it didn't hurt one iota. I wouldn't do it again in a competitive market because I think it's a magnet for competitors of the client to start swiping off the site. Maybe in an obscure visible place (meaning not hidden) I would as a credit (with the client's agreement) but not right out there where it's very plain for competitors of the client to see right off.
I see nothing wrong with "consulting services" in the anchor text back. That's what it is, really, but isn't as in-yer-face obvious what it's for.
If I link to an SEO I can be vulnerable if they "go bad", are bad or are simply incompetent, equally if down the road I happen to accidentally pass some guideline tipping point those SEO links may help decide it was no accident.
I suspect not many clients fully au fait with the situation would link to their SEO/SEM....
[edited by: JudgeJeffries at 10:09 am (utc) on May 8, 2007]
The client can easily employ NOFOLLOW or have the SEO links completely removed. It's not like many construction workers who often leave a "Johnny was here" remark scribbled in a hidden place underneath sheetrock.
The SEO link is visible, the link is live and it is meant to drive attention to the SEO or his/her business.
And therefore cheapens their brand (and the SEO's IMO) and exposes their hand to competitors. Plus making folks dig to find out whodunit is good marketing. I've never seen an a-list site (CNN) with even the text "web design by...".
I did fantasize about doing it to a .gov once...
If someone is "really" interested in the design (or anything else) of the site they are looking at, they will most likely contact the owner of the site for a referral. This of course is the best way to obtain new business, by word of mouth. ;)
I've never been real fond of advertising my services on client sites, that's just not me. Its their site, not mine. I may manage it for them but I remain anonymous to those outside the organization.
I've seen some really creative uses of footer links for SEOs and the like. Some have managed to get 2, 3, and sometimes 4 links in there with various anchor text. Tacky, very tacky!
Client links to SEO - Yay or Nay?
Now, that is not to say there are not "more creative" ways of gaining exposure from client sites. Partner pages are way more powerful than sitewide footer links. ;)
But it's the smelly bit that bothers me. Most (not all, but most) SEOs that really do well on the big keywords in the sector are doing exactly this. Now - that's OK in love and war - but where it smells to me is when an SEO company goes to a potential client and says "we are at the top of the listings, so you can be sure we know how to do this for you as well". This is where it smells. They can't replicate the same strategy for their clients.
Going in to see a client with this pitch is quite a strong one, I might add, in that this often gets you into the last three at least, but the client doesn't know the strategy behind the claim is... smelly.
Following my argument to it's logical conclusion, on an SEO related site I've decided to stop requesting and to in fact actively discourage links from "civilians".
Can't see it becoming a trend though....
How about sites that you design and run that belong to you, yourself? Do you not link to those and then, possibly, in turn, not link back? What are your thoughts on that?
Regardless of ownership... this is just doubling the number of unnecessary bullseyes.
With the same ownership, this increases vulnerability even more, I feel, because this universal cross-linking can quickly start looking like a mini spam network. Depends to some extent on the number of other inbounds.
If you are going to crosslink your own sites, I'd keep that linking to a minimum... and I'd let helpfulness to the user be my guide. In some cases, that's only subtly different from self-promotion, but it is different.
Do you not link to those and then, possibly, in turn, not link back?
Whoops... didn't see that important word. Well, disregard the twice as many bullseyes part... but still think of them as bullseyes.
My own inclination is not to link. I ask designers or developers I work with not to link in either direction. I wouldn't object to, say, one portfolio link to a site they've designed for me, but when it gets to be more than one site, I consider that a potential problem that I'd rather not have to think about.
If these are simply feeder links to get sites started, I'd do it another way.
There is a difference between a linked "SEO by" and an unlinked one. Just naming the SEO or designer on some back page should suffice and has its analogy with naming the architects in a corner of a plaque of a large building. Just a name is different from adding their address and driving instructions, which is like a web link.
If the SEO or web design company is small and needs the exposure, the ad will be linked. This is wonderful for competing SEOs who can find all the clients of that SEO and pitch to them if the site isn't doing well.