Links in footers may not count for much.


Marie Haynes

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I think that most of us kind of suspected this, but it was interesting to hear John Mueller and Zineb Ait talk about it:

https://www.seroundtable.com/google-footer-sitewide-links-weight-21540.html

Zineb says,

je laisserai faire l'algo. Les liens sitewide en footer ou en header n'ont pas un tres grand poids en general.

Translation:

I let do the algo. The sitewide header and footer links are not a very great weight in general.
I wonder if any web design companies or marketing companies will change their strategy. Perhaps instead of putting a "designed by ....." in the footer, they'll find a way to work a paragraph into the company's about page.

Thoughts?
 

Linda Buquet

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Thanks for sharing that Marie. It does kind of make sense since it's overdone so often, especially like you said, by designers.

However if designers were doing it for the right reasons, to advertise their hard work for others visiting the site that might need a designer, then it's still a good thing to do I would think. Just don't count on those backlinks to give you much boost.
 

Marie Haynes

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Good point. I think all designers and SEOs go through some kind of agony when deciding on what to put in the footer. If the main idea is to advertise, then a nofollowed link in the footer is a good idea.

BUT....

If you're an SEO company with 100 clients and you can get 100 clients to all link to you with followed links, then it's pretty tempting to get some followed links in there.

I wrote a post a while back on everything that Google has said about footer links and SEO. In some cases brand anchored followed links are probably perfectly acceptable in Google's eyes. (Now, if your brand happens to be called "Seattle Web Design Company" then that's a different story.)

But John Mueller did say that the best link is one where the site owner is aware that the link is there and wants to have the link there. It's pretty obvious that "designed by" footer links are not really editorially placed. So, if there is a way to get clients to mention their design company in the body of a post somewhere, this really would be an editorially gained link and a good one.
 

mborgelt

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We build tons of websites and we usually forego the footer links for this reason. We have also wondered what other "par for the course" tactics Google throws out the window since there are a lot of tactics like this that are prolific around the web. Thanks for the share. Your blog post was very insightful as well.
 

heckler

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3-5 years ago buying links that were located in headers/footers on 'niche' sites was pervasive. It makes sense that Google's algo would adjust the weight of those links.

Most vulnerable WP installs at some point will be hacked and a header/footer link will be added for nefarious purposes (likely for some sort of male enhancement drug).

But I think web developers putting links in footers still holds weight for getting people who go 'Man this is a nice website, who made it?!', but it isn't the most effective way to build links for search purposes.

If the company site has a blog, maybe an initial post talking about the design/re-design and company who did it would be best.

.02
 

Tim Colling

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...But I think web developers putting links in footers still holds weight for getting people who go 'Man this is a nice website, who made it?!', but it isn't the most effective way to build links for search purposes. ...
That's my opinion as well. I place footer links on most of my clients' websites, with their knowledge and consent. No small business client has so far prohibited me from doing so.
 

djbaxter

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That's my opinion as well. I place footer links on most of my clients' websites, with their knowledge and consent. No small business client has so far prohibited me from doing so.
Exactly. I do the same.

This really isn't a new thing. Google made it very clear quite some time ago that sitewide links of any kind are of limited value. If you're looking to advertise on another site, a text link in the footer is probably a waste of your money.

But that doesn't mean the designer's link has no value. It does help in advertising and it may provide a slight link boost too.
 
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While I figured those links held about as much weight as any other sitewide link, I've seen in a few cases I worked on that removing those gave a client's website a slight boost.

Even if we set aside the "SEO reasons" for that link, I wouldn't put my link in the footer of a client website. The reward doesn't seem greater than the risk; and i'm not just talking about any sort of impact from Google. Realistically how much qualified traffic has anyone received from those links? How many leads? How many new clients came from another client's footer link? I would believe it if a client told someone else about you, since word of mouth is still very powerful (personal reviews are still a great lead gen method). However, how many have actually tracked their referral traffic effectively from a client site to prove that as a genuine lead gen source? I haven't seen anything great from those links. Someone is more likely to ask your client who made the website and get an opinion before calling.

What I have seen is that those links are a dangerous footprint for your competitors to harvest your client list. By putting that link the footer, you just publicized your list of web dev or SEO clients. How much easier could you make it for someone to collect that list and reach out to everyone your working with? Sure, they may not be 100% successful at poaching your clients but I really doubt that anyone has a perfect relationship with all their clients. All it takes is a little doubt in the client's mind, and they could drop you in favor of your competitor.

So does the reward of a potential client (if we're not counting SEO value of that link) outweigh the risk of someone stealing clients? My opinion is no since I've helped agencies find this footprint and try to exploit it.
 

Tim Colling

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That's a good point Eric. I have also used that tactic to win over clients from my own competitors.

Do most of your new clients come from referrals?

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I stopped doing agency work, and went in-house (corporate isn't as bad as some think :p) but when I was in agency we got a pretty good mix of referral, organic, and paid search leads. We were also in a unique place where we were an outsource partner for SEO/PPC/Web Design for other agencies, so I had a very unique chance to see the marketing strategies for a ton of agencies around the country.

One case that sticks out in my mind is helping an agency with a ranking problem for "seo + city" and "search engine optimization + city" kind of keywords. I found they were slapping a link in the footer of every client site they worked on. We dropped the link (turned to text), and saw positive movement. We also had a very good lead tracking system in place that would track both web form completions and phone calls, so I knew where they were (or weren't) getting leads when it came to their online marketing efforts. Across hundreds of agencies that we were able to work with I never saw a lead come through with a referral from an end-client website. Could I have missed some? Sure, but the sample size was large enough and the volume of leads from that source wasn't noticeable for us to catch.

If you're doing something out of the box to get leads through customers, then I'd say keep it up. Personally I'm against putting links in client footers because of the reasons i've listed. For local agencies, word of mouth is still very important to getting new business. If your client's aren't talking about how great you are, then you should be asking what more you can do.
 

djbaxter

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Some good points against footer links. I think I'll no follow or remove them.


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heckler

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I think it's overblown to be concerned about people poaching your clients from a footer link. If that's a problem for you, you're not delivering on something. ( ͡? ͜ʖ ͡?)
 

djbaxter

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I'm not concerned about that myself, heckler.

For me, it's twofold:

1. There is a chance those links could hurt my rankings, and close to zero chance they will help my rankings.

2. There may be some risk to my client's rankings.

That basically tells me they're not worth the small possible advertising gain.


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If you can afford the risk then I suppose you can put it off your radar. I know many consultants/agencies would be hurting if they lost one or two clients, so why give the competition a road map? It's a lot easier to poke holes in a marketing strategy if I understand who the client is working with :) Bad tactic to some, but others would say you're just using what the competition provides. It's really useful when you combine this tactic + ahrefs to see what other agencies are using for link building tactics. It's always a gem to find a competitor doing some link building that falls into the gray area, which I can then prove through connecting all their clients to the same method. Immediate discredit and now the client is listening to alternatives (eg, the agency I was working with).

But hey, if you can honestly say you're growing every client's traffic/revenue at a substantial rate and everyone is 100% happy with everything then you have nothing to worry about. Everyone I've worked with had at least one bad month where something got behind and the client got annoyed at something we thought was a minor detail. Tiny cracks and turn into canyons... at least from what i've seen in the past. No one is perfect, so when things are going great the client loves you. When things get tough it's natural for the client to look for alternative solutions. Why give the competition a chance to fuel doubt?
 

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