How Website Design Agencies Cheat at Link Building

Ok so I have tell you honestly about this cheap link building tactic, I’m sure that many people in the industry will agree for my reasons in taking this viewpoint. These views are my own, agree or disagree, I wanted to make people aware that this is happening.

Post Update: To highlight the fact that it’s not just web design agencies who use this sneaky cheating link building tactic but also big reputable brands. I recommend strongly reading Joost De Valk’s revelations on GoDaddy’s spammy link building techniques.

Throughout this post, I’m strictly referring to website design agencies and digital agencies NOT freelance designers, developers or independent design studios. Also, it is worth noting that not every agency uses this technique, but unfortunately there are lots that do!

I have always taken the view that most links should be built organically by hard work, networking, social media, interacting with authority blogs and websites, article writing, guest posting and establishing a true brand reputation online.

SEO takes time, it’s a long term investment, not a quick fix. Your content should really speak for itself.

It is logical that you should work at establishing yourself as an authority on a particular area or topic, I can’t think of anything better as a blogger or company to raise your profile and reputation.

Here are some reason why I’m particularly against this technique that some web design and digital agencies employ to quickly and cheaply improve their own SEO authority and rankings in Google.

Offers No End Value to the Client

sophocles quote

I’m venting my concerns with this technique as it has long been the practice of some website design and digital agencies to place a small link or in some case the logo of their company at the footer of the page to let visitors know who designed that particular website.

I have no problem with a logo e.g. designed by example or website by example.

What isn’t right, is putting a small text link, usually contains the anchor text of a particular keyword e.g website design agency e.g. Web Design Leeds or Digital Marketing Agency on there.

Also, because it is placed in the footer of the website, it is usually replicated site wide meaning it is counted more than once and on multiple pages

You might be surprised to find out that some website design and digital agencies cheat to win at building their authority quickly in Google. I’ve summarised arguments for and against this, I’m personally taking the latter view.

Piggy backing on Search Engine Authority

The client has spent their own money, time and effort over the years building up their authority in the search engines. Perhaps, an SEO agency did a fantastic job on their content, optimisation and link building recently and have helped propel the website’s authority higher and higher.

Why then, should a web design company or digital agency (who also might be selling SEO as a competitor) be allowed to place a link on the client’s authoritative website and piggy back off the hard work of the client’s or the SEO agency’s investment.

Reasons why you COULD argue doing this:

  • They built the website, they should be credited for their hard work and for the long term maintenance of the website.
  • A link is possibly worth more to them, than any referrals through word of mouth.
  • People who like the website design will see the link and might click through to enquire

Really, that is the only three possible justifications that I could think off. Now, lets hear the reasons why not.

Reasons why you SHOULD NOT be doing this:

  • The link offers no end value to the clients website or its visitors
  • It’s not just one link on the homepage, it’s a link on the footer of every single page across the entire website.
  • The client rightfully paid for the work, that should be thanks enough
  • If your work is good enough, your client would spread referrals through word of mouth anyway.
  • If you are so proud of your work, showcase it in your portfolio instead
  • It is a completely free link for them. No effort required.
  • They are using the clients own authority in Google to build their own reputation and authority

Here’s food for thought…

Google should be de-value Footer links worldwide on the basis that they offer no value to anyone but the people who exploit them unfairly.

Eric Ward, made some really good couple of points on Joost’s earlier blog post that I’ve included here:

  • These links should not impact search rank.
  • These links would be fine if they did not impact search rank.
  • These links are positively impacting search rank for some, but not all, sites that try them.
  • This encourages others to try it.
  • Search Engine’s need to ignore all footer links for rankings purposes. Not some, not most. All.
  • Nobody puts high importance content links at the very end of a web page, and then does it over and over on other pages. If all footer links were removed from rankings calculations, the results would be better and the collateral damage would be minimal.

If you are giving a website design or digital agency free reign to put a link on your website consider how much authority and page rank your website has in Google and think again before you give them the right to stick a link containing their keywords on your authoritative website that you have worked so hard to build.

If you agree or disagree I would love to hear you views in the comments below.