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Links in Footer? Google Recommends No-Follow

John Mueller Hangout

     
2:26 pm on Feb 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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The SEMPost reports on John Mueller's recommendation [thesempost.com] on designed by credits.


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.


Kind of an oldie/moldy way to acquire links, what do you think?
2:52 pm on Feb 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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It might be an oldie but it's a goodie! I have lost count of the number of sites I've looked at where the developers still insist on including ridiculous anchor text.

I'm always glad to see it as it means if the site is badly built I have a ready made prospect list to go after.
7:26 pm on Mar 3, 2015 (gmt 0)

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'nofollow' is supposed to mean 'paid for' or 'not vouched for'

My client links are neither. Nor are they site-wide. I ask for one on the index page, but I don't insist on it. My dev projects are bespoke, and I choose them these days. If the client agrees, I want credit.

I get work from these links. Not every client gives them. They're on my brand name. Why should I pretend they're not genuine? Why should I flag them as paid? The client has made an editorial decision to credit my company as the outfit responsible for the work done.

They are a recommendation, and they are freely given (if asked for).
8:36 pm on Mar 3, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Idle query: If you're not prepared to vouch for the work of the person who designed your website, why did you let them design the site in the first place?
8:05 am on Mar 4, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Actually this is really nothing to do with links and everything to do with Google.

Developers can and will continue to put links in site footers; some just on the home page some sitewide. If the website owner is happy with this then it shouldn't be a problem. The issue only arises with the way Google wants to treat links.

I understand that Google's reaction to these and lots of other links is stick rather than carrot as it tries to mould behaviour towards what it wants, but frankly that will never happen. You are more likely to knit fog.

I've advocated for a long time that if Google really truly wants to change people's behaviour it should remember that human beings respond better to praise rather than criticism. The minute therefore they start to reward good link building practices instead of penalising bad is the moment the world starts to change.
6:41 am on Mar 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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'nofollow' is supposed to mean 'paid for' or 'not vouched for'

My client links are neither. Nor are they site-wide. I ask for one on the index page, but I don't insist on it. My dev projects are bespoke, and I choose them these days. If the client agrees, I want credit.

I get work from these links. Not every client gives them. They're on my brand name. Why should I pretend they're not genuine? Why should I flag them as paid? The client has made an editorial decision to credit my company as the outfit responsible for the work done.

They are a recommendation, and they are freely given (if asked for).


Everything you stated suggests a nofollow. The credit is for "paid for" work so to claim these are just Goodwill Projects is a stretch of the truth.

A dofollow implies link juice for ordered ranks and your clients cannot vouch for your domain you didn't hire them to review it they can only vouch for the paid for work on their project.

You said it yourself - its an advert exclusive for you.

Its advertising not editorializing. There is nothing wrong with advertising just ensure it is designated that way with a rel="nofollow" link.
6:58 am on Mar 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Idle query: If you're not prepared to vouch for the work of the person who designed your website, why did you let them design the site in the first place?


Those are what testimonials are for and when you add those to your web design website and link to the project there's the proper credit.

I can't fault anyone for using a loophole but dofollow credits such as this is a loophole just the same. No matter how you slice and dice it it stills comes up as advertising which should not enhance your rankability and there is no editorial value here only advertising value.
10:03 am on Mar 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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The credit is for "paid for" work

Except they pay me, not the other way round.

its an advert exclusive for you

No it's not. If I had a whole page on their site with a testimonial and a puff for my services and only one link out then that would be exclusive; as it is I have a small credit, on a page with loads of other links, as the outfit responsible for the work. By your definition every single link on the internet is an 'exclusive advert' - it only points to one place right?

Its advertising not editorializing

No it's not. Read what I wrote above. I ask for them sometimes, but I don't insist on them; it's not in the contract.

Here's Google's official guidance: [support.google.com...]
Nowhere in there does it state that what I do is in some way 'naughty' or even borderline.

If others want to label a professional recommendation as 'untrusted' or 'paid for' let them; I won't. I'm not punting out template WordPress websites with a link embedded.
10:33 am on Mar 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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The credit is for "paid for" work


No it's not.They pay me, not the other way round.

Semantics!

The link's purpose is to drive link juice to your domain. Surely you understand that.

its an advert exclusive for you


No it's not. If I had a whole page on their site with a testimonial and a puff for my services and only one link out then that would be exclusive; as it is I have a small credit, on a page with loads of other links, as the outfit responsible for the work. By your definition every single link on the internet is an 'exclusive advert' - it only points to one place right?


Advertisements come in all sizes. Banners 60x468, 90X768, sky scrappers and also include text links.

Its advertising not editorializing


No it's not. Read what I wrote above. I ask for them sometimes, but I don't insist on them; it's not in the contract.

Here's Google's official guidance: [support.google.com...]
Nowhere in there does it state that what I do is in some way 'naughty' or even borderline.


Excerpting your quoted reference:

Paid links: A site's ranking in Google search results is partly based on analysis of those sites that link to it. In order to prevent paid links from influencing search results and negatively impacting users, we urge webmasters use nofollow on such links. Search engine guidelines require machine-readable disclosure of paid links in the same way that consumers online and offline appreciate disclosure of paid relationships (for example, a full-page newspaper ad may be headed by the word "Advertisement"). More information on Google's stance on paid links.


A farther reference noted there are about link schemes. [support.google.com...]

At the end of the day it does not matter what we say John Mueller pointed out the correct way and that is Google's advice to you.

Ignore it if you are so inclined. I'm not attempting to convert you - you're stuck on the fact "this is owed to me" ... opposed to what patrons of the client website desires and also by default what searchers desire.
11:14 am on Mar 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I don't want a link to my service site from a web designer site, so i don't understand why a web designer would want a link from my service site?

i have recommendations to other service providers relating to my service but i don't give them links. business name, phone number and email address are enough information for a prospect to establish contact.

wanting a 'followed link' just shows the desire for shared link juice.
2:46 pm on Mar 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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...wanting a 'followed link' just shows the desire for shared link juice.


Exactly. And it's of no value anyway, a waste of time for several reasons.

1. It's depreciated because it's in the footer. Anything at the bottom of the page is depreciated because it's interpreted to be of little importance.

2. It's depreciated because it's wildly off topic and irrelevant. This has been happening since how long, 2004? Eleven years and web designers are still optimizing like it's 2002?

3. Google examines the words surrounding links. I have no doubt that one of the stop words for limiting amount of link credit are words similar to "designed by" or "powered by."


So really, there's no SEO point to it. Put a no-follow on the link and do it for the traffic and referrals. Painters and landscapers put up signs and badges on recent work they've done. There's an offline analogue to it. If you do a good job someone else may see it and visit your site. Good.
4:26 pm on Mar 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Martinibuster while I fully agree with you your point #2 in sort of in error. Almost all naturally links are completely irrelevant to the website topics as anchors like click here, www, website, read more, etc. are equally worthless making the point of building any links about building PageRank vice TopicRank (while we can no longer see PageRank Google is still using it).
6:45 pm on Mar 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Almost all naturally links are completely irrelevant to the website topics as anchors like click here, www, website, read more, etc.


Actually there is provision for that. It has been understood for over a decade that not all hyperlinks are comprised of meaningful anchor text so systems have been devised to ignore navigational type anchor text (click here) and move on to other signals of relevance. They are not worthless. In fact, they have not been worthless, in my experience, since at least 2003, 2004. I could be wrong though, they may have had ranking worth prior to that.

Words in the title of the page count for relevance. Words surrounding the text count for relevance. There is even provision for a web page with multiple topics, so that instead of using a web graph that is made of units comprising a web page, there is such a thing as a web graph that is comprised of sections of page, with each section representing a point of relevance independent to the rest of the page. This was done because it is recognized that many web pages are comprised of multiple topics. This is called Topic Specific Link Analysis, where the individual nodes of the web graph are sections of a page, not just the page itself. There are multiple ways of accomplishing this, by breaking a page up into blocks (top, bottom, sides), by topic.

Topic Sensitive PageRank [www2002.org] dates to 2002. In a thumbnail, that research paper explored dividing the distribution of PageRank along topical vectors, giving different weights according to the topical relevance of the pages. Since then the search engines, with Microsoft arguably leading the way, have come a long, long way towards overcoming anchor text as noise in the signal. That's really not a consideration.

[edited by: martinibuster at 6:47 pm (utc) on Mar 27, 2015]

6:47 pm on Mar 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Concede the point.
11:57 am on Mar 29, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Footer links are outdated and I don't doubt they're less effective now than previously for ranking purposes. However we can all see some examples where they're still helping some sites rank, e.g "web design (location)" searches. There's different levels of spamminess/un-natural - keyword anchor text, site-wides, etc. I've noticed many web agencies have changed this up and now have just the single link on the homepage with brand or naked URL text. I prefer site credits where you have a separate page (prob part of the about us section) with some information on who helped develop/design/brand/market the website. At the very least you get a nice citation on that page, but if they want to include a link that's a bonus. But I won't ask them to nofollow it. No Siree!
12:36 pm on Mar 29, 2015 (gmt 0)

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That's a great way to do it (although of course, I wouldn't count on any link pop). But someone who likes the site design and wants a similar one for themselves might not think to look for it in the about page. So if you want to build up clientele, a no-followed footer credit (where most people expect it) makes sense. Here's a bonus way to do it: a designed by credit in the code is a good idea, too. Just comment it out.
3:06 pm on Mar 29, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Just to clarify Roger, I'd be looking for a link to the site credit page, from the homepage. Good for user discovery, good for link pop.

On a sidenote, do you think there's any negative impact in changing anchor text in the way described? I seem to remember reading a discussion about this somewhere else and it reminded of a similar discussion about the potential danger in changing your title tags. Too many changes, or too often - red flags ?
3:41 pm on Mar 29, 2015 (gmt 0)

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On a sidenote, do you think there's any negative impact in changing anchor text in the way described?


That is a loaded question.

Today is not the same as next week, next month, next year, etc.

When PENGUIN 4.0 launches Google may have a problem then but it could be PENGUIN 7.0 coded to detect non-keyword brand or url oriented advertising links that do not use rel="nofollow" as John Meuller clearly states in his Googler comment.

Maybe that is simply too granular for Google to detect.

I'm not sure there is a difference between a dofollow credit and an advertising link. Two members in this thread use these links and both claim the benefit to them is more work so that implies by default as advertising.

A citation credit for G+ Local Search does not require a link which is a valid way to acquire return that will likely stay inside Google's TOS.

Flipping the question around, would you be happy with a devaluation because you purposely ignored Google's advice?
11:52 am on Mar 30, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Why is a link needed? If the designer is any good then their brand name should show up in any search. When i have gone designer hunting, i always do a brand search and ignore the link. If the designer can't get their site to show up for their brand then why would i turn them loose on my site.
12:07 pm on Mar 30, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Anyone except the banned will rank for their brand name. If someone in need relies on search to find a designer Google and Bing will show you a list of ten designers that have decent SEO but are not necessarily the best graphic designers. Some designers are simply taking off the shelf designs and adding your business initials or name to them. I've been shown mockups and run them through TineEye.com and found the original templates. But that's what you get when you contract with so-called designers. But those are the ones who are better at promoting themselves than they are at actual graphic design and if one relies on Google, Bing, or Fiverr then that's what you'll get.

I know two very good designers in California who have a long history of producing quality work for the likes of Wells Fargo and Berkeley University. Neither of them rank for phrases. I know them through word of mouth. They were recommended to me. I have recommended them to others. Referrals are a major source of clients to them. A link in the footer, even no-followed, is a traditional form of referral that has antecedents and analogues in the offline world that preceded the Internet. "Designed by" credits preceded the Internet. They were carried over into web design. Designed by credits have a place in the Internet outside of link popularity. They serve as a system for generating referrals.
1:16 pm on Mar 30, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Anyone except the banned will rank for their brand name.


then there is no need for the link, as any potential business will be able to find the developer with a couple of clicks.

in the offline world, painters and landscapers put signs up advertising their work but those signs are temporary, the signs don't stay up forever unless a deal has been made.

Another similarity between the online and offline world is that in most locations there are laws governing what signs can be put up, how long the can stay up and their size and now the online world is starting to put restrictions on the online equivalent.
1:37 pm on Mar 30, 2015 (gmt 0)

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...then there is no need for the link, as any potential business will be able to find the developer with a couple of clicks.


A person who needs a developer will not "find the developer with a couple of clicks" if that person has not heard of that developer. My post from which you quoted explains why a designer/developer may need a (no-followed) link:

I know two very good designers in California who have a long history of producing quality work for the likes of Wells Fargo and Berkeley University. Neither of them rank for phrases. I know them through word of mouth. They were recommended to me. I have recommended them to others. Referrals are a major source of clients to them. A link in the footer, even no-followed, is a traditional form of referral that has antecedents and analogues in the offline world that preceded the Internet. "Designed by" credits preceded the Internet. They were carried over into web design. Designed by credits have a place in the Internet outside of link popularity. They serve as a system for generating referrals.
2:15 pm on Mar 30, 2015 (gmt 0)

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If the developer puts a small ad on the home page footer then there is no need for a link. Copy, paste, click click.

11 years ago i had my main site overhauled and the company i wanted to do the work insisted on 2 footer links on every page. It was a deal buster for me.

Why should i advertise a company, indefinitely, for work done that i have already paid for?

In my situation i got lucky because that company was using the link juice for something that got all their sites hit.
2:22 pm on Mar 30, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Why should i advertise a company, indefinitely...


I agree with you 100%. There is no reason for a client to allow advertising for a contractor other than for copyright or contractual reasons.
 

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