“Design by” footer links…

When you’ve had someone build a website for you, it turns out to be common practice for that “someone”, usually a web developer or a web designer, to add a “design by” or “website developed by” footer link to your site. Let me make my point clearly: if they haven’t given you a discount to add that link, you should remove the link entirely.

Before we dive in, if you want to learn more about link building strategies and other essential SEO skills, you should check out our All-around SEO training! It doesn’t just tell you about SEO: it makes sure you know how to put these skills into actual practice!!

Let’s draw an analogy: when you have someone build a house for you, what would you say if they’d say: “oh and btw, we’ll leave a banner up on your roof”, or to make the analogy better when they said nothing at all and just did it? You’d either be mad and tell them to come take it off, or you’d throw it off yourself, right?

So why do they do it?

The question is of course: why do web designers and web developers do this? The reasons are simple: they’d like everyone to know that they designed that certain website and they use these footer links (if they’re smart), to increase their search engine rankings. Luckily search engines, most notably Google, have been aware of this practice and are pretty good at making links in footers of pages not work as well, but that doesn’t change the basic fact that the link should not be there.

The reason why this annoys me is that it’s abusing the fact that most people who have a website built either for themselves or their company don’t know the value of these links. It’s basically the web developer taking advantage of the ignorance of their customer. A customer who, in most cases, wouldn’t even know how to take a link like that out. Now, what does that make them?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying web developers and web designers can’t have these links, they should just be very open about it and not make it a default. So if you’re a customer with footer links on your site, and it hasn’t been discussed with you, nor is it not in the contract with your web developer or designer, feel free to take it off or, better yet, ask for that discount.

What if my theme has a footer link?

If you’re using a WordPress theme or free template that has one of these footer links, and you’ve got it for free, I’d leave it there, because that’s how you “pay” the designer/developer. But if it has multiple links like that or really spammy ones like sometimes happens on non-legit theme sites, I’d personally take them out immediately, or not use the theme at all.

Read more: 6 steps to a successful link building strategy »

Coming up next!

182 Responses to “Design by” footer links…

  1. Louis
    Louis  • 14 years ago

    Any one wanna make out. I’m feelin’ randy!

  2. Ahmed
    Ahmed  • 14 years ago

    well its the designer right to put a link the footer but if a client asked him if he is going to put a link in the footer and he said no that is the wrong thing, that is what i think in a short comment

  3. John
    John  • 14 years ago

    I always ask if I can add credit which is a common practice like it says above. Yes, it doesn’t have the SEO perks but referrals do come from it. This is very common for photographers to get credit for all of their images both purchased and licensed. So why not designers?

    I don’t mind that Chevrolet littered my SUV with 8 of their logos, even though I purchased their product.

  4. Bradly Spicer
    Bradly Spicer  • 14 years ago

    I completely agree!
    I dont thing Footer links are bad in a sense but if you paid for a service its 100% understandale that they shouldn’t be there!

    Thanks for this amazing post :)

  5. Kevin Mahoney
    Kevin Mahoney  • 14 years ago

    Listen to everyone jumping on the “footer-links are bad” bandwagon. It’s COMMON PRACTICE to do this. And I’m sorry a website with Page Rank of 1 and Alexa score of 20,000,000+ is not going to do anything. Yes, I tell my clients, “hey if its ok with you I’d like to put my name on the website and yes, I’ll put your site on my portfolio page.” One had washes the other, but let’s calm down on the “ethics” and the “scamming customers” crap. And let’s get realistic…we’re running a business and want to get the word out a) about who we are and b) that we’re proud of this work. If you know your SEO, you know the footer links hardly count worth anything — not to the degree that a bunch of silly comments about ripping people off are being posted. Get real.

    • Jeffrey Friend
      Jeffrey Friend  • 14 years ago

      Agreed… it is COMMON PRATICE to do this. In fact, we’ve been doing this for years. Now, there have been some GREAT points raised in this discussion, and as a result, I think I’m going to add the “footer link” information into our client agreement, in the spirit of “complete disclosure.” I don’t want to hold anyones website “hostage.” Our clients are usually happy to show that they worked with us!

  6. Maggie Tattersall
    Maggie Tattersall  • 14 years ago

    What would be sneaky is to make the link invisible – the only site I haven’t left a link on is one where I felt it would conflict with the overall design of the site. If someone asked me to remove it then of course I would – however, I’m always going to be driving more traffic to them than they ever send to me through my portfolio pages.

    For PR purposes Google disregards them anyway.

    But – to return to your original analogy – it is well known and accepted (in the west of England, anyway) that thatchers finish off their work with a signature motif on the ridge of the roof;-)

  7. jocelyn
    jocelyn  • 14 years ago

    This is a great conversation. Most of my clients don’t even mind about it. What they care about is how I can help them become visible on the first page of Google. Small business owners doesn’t really care about the footer link. But anyway, I think it’s a great idea to ask their permission. Your client will trust you more because you value their thoughts about it and they will see you as a very honest person to deal with.

  8. Charles Burke
    Charles Burke  • 14 years ago

    The last new car I bought (many years ago when I still lived in the US), I noticed that the dealer always mounted a cast metal plate with his logo and name on the trunk lid near the maker’s plate. Mounting this actually involved drilling two or three holes in the body of the car.

    During negotiations I mentioned that if I did any advertising for them I’d bill them $500 per year for as long as I owned the car. The salesman laughed – he thought I was kidding. So I pointed out their name plate and told him that it was 24/7 advertising on a vehicle that was my property.

    The car I drove away from the lot had no name plate, no gratis holes in the body, and no opportunity for me to earn an extra $500 per year.

    I told that story to all my friends, but as far as I know, none of them tried the same tactic. Guess it was a bit too “confrontational” for them.

    And these days, if I choose to use a free template or theme, yes, I’ll leave the link – but I reserve the right to edit it down if it’s too obtrusive. On the other hand, if I pay for the theme, that link is out.

    Cheers from warm and smiling Thailand,

  9. Mark Framness
    Mark Framness  • 14 years ago

    I don’t think its a real big deal one way or the other.

    A site I am working on, its current production incarnation (a static site) when you type in the keyword to guarantee a high Google hit comes back with the name of the business and the Google description is the text from their website builder’s business. That I consider bad, pretty soon I’ll replace the site and that will change. I will be including my tag in the footer.


  10. Chief Alchemist
    Chief Alchemist  • 14 years ago

    With all dues respect to everyone who commented above, this is a non-issue, or an extremely minor one at best. Certainly there’s got to be more high impact, high benefit things we can talk about? Maybe it was a slow news days in Yoastland :)

    It should be noted that if the link is not listed somewhere then the client has to field the request on behalf of the designer/developer. Is that fair?

  11. Gypsy Creative
    Gypsy Creative  • 14 years ago

    Joost, I think the problem here is that your article doesn’t come across like what you’ve been reiterating in the comment section. In discussion, you have repeated without ambiguity that this is about “transparency.” But that doesn’t ring true in your post, which is what most people here are reacting to.
    The gist of what you wrote about is why these links “annoy” you, why they should equate to discounts, and how they are sneaky SEO tactics. True, you do ask that it be discussed openly, but in the same sentence said it shouldn’t be done by default—two very different points. Of course, I don’t need to repeat the need for a more appropriate analogy than the rooftop banner.
    If your post really is about transparency in contracts, how have you come to believe that this practice is devious by nature, and that this deception is common?
    The matter of footer credits itself is one between designer and client. I don’t think it hurts anyone to have a footer credit, I also think the client should ultimately decide what they want and don’t want on their site. I know designers who do this and designers who don’t. I know of few designers who would walk away from a gig simply because the client didn’t want the footer credit on their site. I know of zero designers who work for clients that wouldn’t notice something like this on their site.
    Also gotta disagree about functionality negating art. A Porsche is functional, it is also art, and it says “Porsche” on the trunk. Not that every website could be considered a work of art, but designers are trained professionals, commissioned for their expertise and their aesthetic, to represent the interests of their client. This is not at all unlike some 15th Century portrait artist.
    And in my humble opinion, Richard, if you really feel that all art should be left solely to the paintbrush (“not Photoshop” LOL!) then I bet you are a darn good developer.

  12. Victoria Blount
    Victoria Blount  • 14 years ago

    I would disagree with this article, by having links added by the web developer to their website, it also enhances the SEO potential of the customer, by being associated with an established website.

    If the customer is happy with the website, they are usually a happy to promote the company who designed it for them.

    I understand the “banner up on your roof” analogy, but if you buy a brand of clothing even though its your item it still has the brand label inside, and the same with buying a car.

    If you buy a product as a consumer you help to promote the brand and further the company, why should this be any different for website design?

  13. chris cannon
    chris cannon  • 14 years ago

    All of the work I do for my clients ends up at a discounted rate, 90% of the time. There’s never enough time in the deadline, never enough content, content handwritten when asked for digitally supplied, never enough pictures, scope creep got up and ran out of the window, alterations on top of alterations on top of alterations. I could settle for a knighthood, I could settle for payment of what the job is really worth, instead I’ll settle for a link back to my site thanks.

    ..unless of course someone is willing to tell me whether it will have a detrimental effect on the clients website’s positioning within the search engines, because I don’t want that to happen, as I do care and that’s why I’m here.

    P.S. I don’t think it dilutes their branding.

    Nice thread.

  14. Mike Hickerson
    Mike Hickerson  • 14 years ago

    Joost has been very clear that this post is about discussing the link with your clients. I don’t buy the argument that “my clients never complained,” because in my (limited) experience with small business clients, very few of them have a good idea for the details of their site. They may not have even looked at the footer, assuming that it’s some kind of legalese “fine print” or standard web design thing. Is that their fault for not looking more closely? Well, sure it is…but are we lawyers arguing this case in front of a judge, or service providers trying to do right by our clients?

    Further, adding your logo or name to their site dilutes their branding – maybe not by much, but it does. Some brands are OK with logos all over the place – e.g. NASCAR. Other brands don’t even put their own logo on their products. I don’t see why it’s such a big deal to ask the client what they want on their own website. They’re the ones paying for it.

  15. Shekkon
    Shekkon  • 14 years ago

    To > Joost de Valk

    Ok I get your point – No I am not pissed – I read your SEO articles on WordPress and
    those are great – you certainly are knowledgeable.

    However, always spare something for the little guys :)

  16. dan
    dan  • 14 years ago

    posting again here, not checking updates this time, hopefully this will unsubscribe?

    • Joost de Valk

      it won’t, you’ll have to click the link in the email.

  17. Andy H
    Andy H  • 14 years ago

    This is a real topic of concern to me. As a new start up company, we want to be found so adding a link to the footer of all websites we build is a very tempting option. Of course, we know that Google (at least) devalue these links as far as PR is concerned.

    So what we do, is firstly, ask permission from the client. It’s not contracted, but we always ask permission. The link is in their own “about us” page to a seperate page where we have alittle about us and 1 single link to a page on our website dedicated to that particular client.

    This helps them in a way as that client page is always full of deeplinks to pages of interest.

    We don’t ever offer a discount for this, and never will

  18. Shekkon
    Shekkon  • 14 years ago

    Very funny but I noticed this on your right side email newsletter :

    Signup for Awesome WordPress Tips
    Powered by MailChimp

    So it is OK for MailChimp (a large, funded firm) to display their power on YOUR website,
    but when a small web designer making ends meet puts it to get some free advertising,
    all of a sudden you make it a SEO issue worthy of a blog post ?

    Thats one reason I will NOT subscribe to your newsletter – or RSS feed

    There are better blogs to spend my time on


    • Joost de Valk

      You’re very welcome to spend your time elsewhere, but I’d like you to do that on good grounds :) It IS ok for them to do that, you know why? Because I placed it there. Heck, I’ve got a credit link in the footer of the theme, because it was discussed and I happily gave it to Frederick because of the outstanding work he has done. One more time: this is not about not having those links, it’s about talking about them.

      What I’m curious about though, why does this get you so pissed off?

      • LoneWolf
        LoneWolf  • 14 years ago

        I’m curious too. How does someone having links on their own web site (that they put there themselves) compare to a designer sneaking a link into a client’s site that wasn’t discussed with the client?

        What Joost is talking about here is disclosure to the client about the link and the value that it has for the designer.

  19. Aaron
    Aaron  • 14 years ago

    Great article and interesting discussion. =) I always bring it up during the design phase and it’s in our contract. I’ve yet to come across anyone that objects to them but I’m still a nooooob. =D

  20. chris cannon
    chris cannon  • 14 years ago

    Hi I’m a website designer and do include a discreet credit link on some websites when I can remember to do so, which isn’t often! I’m usually going hell for leather trying to get the clients website completed by their deadline that I just don’t get round to do it. Anyway this thread is very long and I haven’t read every single post so sorry if you already covered it, but one thing I wanted to ask is apart from the obvious argument about whether it is ethical to add your credit link or not, what detrimental effect will it have on your client’s search engine positioning to have a link from it to what would be seen as a non relevant website (the designers site)? You say: search engines are getting wise to these links so it might not benefit the web designer to put them on their clients site but will it have a negative effect on the clients site?

    Thanks, interesting and well defended arguments here.

  21. Adrian Grossett
    Adrian Grossett  • 14 years ago

    I liked the analogy you give – but I think personally unless you built the website – then why should you have a issue with the Designer or Web Developer having a link to them or there company. I mean often when cars are purchase from a garage forecourt they will have a sticker with the garages name & phone number on it. Again its not a issue driving a around with say Bills Auto’s in your windscreen as Bill sold you the car. People should look at it as branding – then they would have no issue – a chance for the creator / designer to display there name on their work – bit like Nike do with trainers.

  22. Christina Warren
    Christina Warren  • 14 years ago

    I totally get your point and I agree that the policy should be transparent. I will just make one argument for argument sake, at least in the U.S., it’s not uncommon for builders to put their name on the neighborhood they are responsible for building. My father is a residential developer/builder (well, it’s been rough theist few years) and his neighborhoods have the neighborhood name and then his company logo on the brick/marble facade at the entry and exit. It’s actually very common and often treated as a status symbol. You know, like I live in “X Mills, a Jon Doe Community” or whatever.

    Same with some cachet design agencies. Not all brands or sites will want to have their agency listed but for many it’s a status symbol.

    But that doesn’t make your point about being transparent about such links being necessary. I jus think that we should recognize the cases where conversation or no conversation, the client wants the logo or link because it is a status symbol. Another analogy: Designer clothing.

    • Joost de Valk

      Hey Christina, great to see you drop by :) I think you got my point, it’s about transparency, nothing else. As said, I have these links myself and I fully want them to be there, but it was spoken about. That’s all I’m trying to get at, even though a lot of the people in this discussion seem to think I’ve said other things :)

  23. Harvey
    Harvey  • 14 years ago

    Let’s say you presented a design concept to a client, and placed a small pornographic image in the footer. I’d expect they would ask you to remove it. Likewise, if you present them with a design concept that includes a footer link back to you – if they aren’t happy about it they will ask you to remove it.

    There’s nothing underhand or sneaky about this – the website owner sees it there, they don’t mind it being there, so the topic never comes up. When you say “let me know if there’s anything you want changed in this concept”, that’s asking for permission.

    I’d agree that it’s a bit off if the link wasn’t present in the concept and then magically appeared one day in the live site.

    From the tone of some of these discussions you’d think this was up there on the sneakiness scale with RyanAir’s “optional” credit card charges…

  24. mark.
    mark.  • 14 years ago

    It seems to be that a lot of people here are jumping on the defensive rather quickly. I read the article and the impression I got was reinforced a few times by Joost; if you want to add a link in the footer or anywhere else on a web site you designed/developed, just be responsible about it and make sure the client is well aware that it is going to be there.

    If you are hired to create a custom work, be it for WordPress, a static HTML site, whatever, such a link is an advertisement, just like the logo on your jeans that some have mentioned. You know when you buy those jeans that logo is going to be there, because in that scenario you have seen the product prior to purchase. Being hired to create something from nothing, if you don’t inform the beneficiary that such a link may exist, then you are deceptively choosing to advertise yourself without first clarifying that this will be okay.

    You can argue it all you want, but clients — especially first time web site owners — are not expecting this. It is not an unspoken rule. They ask you for the color blue, you give it to them, you don’t use green. They did not ask for a footer link, so by giving it to them you are inserting yourself where you were not asked to be.

    Just put it in the contract, and tell them it’s there. Otherwise you’re on par with unsolicited email.

  25. E
    E  • 14 years ago

    Of the hundreds of client’s websites I have worked on, all with our company’s name/link in the footer – not one has ever asked to have it removed. On a couple of early freelance jobs (before I added the footer link), some people went out of their way to ask me to ADD it. It saved people contacting them to get my details. When you are working with smaller local businesses, this link really helps connect you with new clients. It’s not scheming or tricking them – they wouldn’t ever “sell” that space as it would cheapen their website/brand. It is genuine networking.

    Our links are always displayed on the initial proof – the link is not a surprise. We link back from the portfolio along with their name and description of what they do, great for their SEO.

    Also, maybe it’s just me, but when I see a good looking website I’m always keen to know who created it and to go and see more.

  26. Dave
    Dave  • 14 years ago

    I think putting links like that in a footer is fine. You’re making it sound like just about every way of making yourself known should be disallowed:

    A plaque on a building saying the designer put down the first stone on this and that time & date.
    A little logo on all your clothes.
    A little logo on all of your electrical appliances.

    If anything, the name is something that makes a website worth more. Rather than worth less. If a website would say “This website is designed by apple”, it would gain that much more visitors than another one.

    The name on the bottom of a website is the EXACT same as any brand name. We’re putting our name on the product that we have created. Or is your opinion that coca cola isn’t allowed to put coca cola on their bottle?

  27. mc
    mc  • 14 years ago

    what about this MOBS thing?

  28. Nox
    Nox  • 14 years ago

    You have left out a large part cases where this is a common thing – you don’t break off the creating company’s logos on your car, scratch out logo on your monitor, cell phone… – and imho the analogy is not flawed

    Anyway it’s just thing between the client and dev… almost everyone was ok with it

  29. Alacadoo Art Gallery
    Alacadoo Art Gallery  • 14 years ago

    I certainly don’t object to our web design company having a link as they reciporcate 10 fold and help us so much with link-building. E.g. they promote us in their Portfolio, sister sites and a few directories they own + they get ALL their clients to link swap – everyone’s a winner I think !!

    • Bob
      Bob  • 14 years ago

      ” they promote us in their Portfolio, sister sites and a few directories they own + they get ALL their clients to link swap – everyone’s a winner I think !!”

      Dude, you just made my point and exposed the whole network.

  30. Matthew - Marketing Web
    Matthew - Marketing Web  • 14 years ago

    Hi Joost,
    One little thing i’d like to mention about taking the links out of wordpress themes in footers, is it’s sometimes not as easy as it looks. In some cases so called “free premium wordpress themes” will contain a bunch of really spammy links – an indication the designer is putting the theme out there for no other reason than to get these links spread. Unfortunately sometimes removing these links actually causes the theme to stop working – via something clever somewhere in the code that checks for their existance and stops the theme working without them. If any readers come across this type of thing, best to just pick a new theme and move on rather than sticking with the theme and these dodgey links

  31. No Footer Links
    No Footer Links  • 14 years ago

    In addition to the points Joost makes, another reason for the client to not want them there is they can easily ID a network of the site developer/designer who also does SEO.

    If you are adding a link to your sites and taking credit for the SEO, your client didnt hire one of the smarter SEOs on the block as you made it easier for a SE spam cop to check out your network.

  32. Mark
    Mark  • 14 years ago

    By the way…

    All of our comments add to the amount of content on your site that gets indexed by search engines. Someone’s search might turn up this page because of our comments.

    Are you going to pay everyone that has commented a monthly fee for improving your search engine exposure? Richard above agrees with you, and he set a price at 250 euros. That sounds fair to me.

    I’ll send you a bill. My guess is it won’t ever get paid.

    • Joost de Valk

      Dude, did you actually read anything? :) I said I was fine with people having those links and even with them not paying for it. I want transparency about this, nothing more, nothing less. I want you to work your butt of to earn that link. And yes that is different than this comment of yours, which you gave freely (you pressed “post your comment” yourself). It’s the opposite of what happens with these links, they’re often added without even asking, that’s what I find annoying, and what should be “fixed”.

  33. Glenn A
    Glenn A  • 14 years ago

    When I see a design or template I like, I usually check the footer to see where it came from.

    To some extent it’s a reader service, but the link out part doesn’t have to be in the mix.

    I find most clients are happy to help with links that benefit my business and some even
    encourage them. All in moderation, though.

  34. Spark
    Spark  • 14 years ago

    Am I allowed to put examples in here?

    This is probably the worst example I have ever seen. Although, I don’t know if that company was asked, and gave permission.


  35. Tom Peet
    Tom Peet  • 14 years ago

    I simpily have this in my t&c’s

    3.Thomas Peet Web Design retains the right to display graphics and other Web content elements as examples of their work in their portfolio and as content features in other projects. Thomas Peet Web Design also retains the right to place a text link on the bottom of every page.

    If the customer objects then i will simpily remove this from the contract.

    • richard
      richard  • 14 years ago

      I believe this covers it already. We also have a similar statement in our t&c’s concerning using images of the items we created for our customers.

  36. Jacques
    Jacques  • 14 years ago

    The rooftop analogy is rather…. over the top (pun intended). But I agree, you do have a point. Although, it is not limited to websites: car-dealers do it for ages (stickers, and licence-plate frames) – also, magazine ads now often have ‘small-print’ as well. And, WordPress itself puts its ‘powered by’ link in there…
    I think Leon’s suggestion is best – give the client the option: accepting your link will give him some discount.
    But you touched on another issue (in your comments): colophon. We all use free stuff all over the place: jQuery, plugins etc. Usually under GPL, so we’re safe, but still, some credit to the makers would be nice? Why not add a credits page, giving credit where it is due? Or would we give away too much clues about how we tackled some issue – our competition now benefitting from it?

  37. Lourens
    Lourens  • 14 years ago

    Actually I do add footerlinks sometimes, just not for paying clients. I’ve done a lot of designing for friends and their starting businesses, so as long as they haven’t paid me they’re supporting my work on another way. I think adding a ‘designed by’ link in a website the client has paid for is rude, so I agree :)

  38. BrianL
    BrianL  • 14 years ago

    I think that the point a lot of designers are missing is that this isn’t art class and websites are not works of art. They are used for business by your client. Someone briefly mentioned business cards earlier. You don’t put your design firms name on business cards, letterhead, brochures, etc. and you sure as heck shouldn’t be putting it on a website. Discount or no discount, if a customer paid for a site design, it is low class and sneaky to be throwing a link to your own site on a client’s site. You shouldn’t even be asking to put it there. It doesn’t belong there. If you want to show off your work, do it on your own site. There are ways of proving you did the work other than scamming visible attribution out of a client. On the other hand, if your client is dumb enough to let you link to your own site without knowing why or how bad it looks, then they probably deserve it.

  39. Jacob
    Jacob  • 14 years ago

    Painters sign a portrait, architects sign a board on the lobby of buildings. If the studio o designer are good, then you must pay for have their sign on your website. Well, the yoast.com desing is a crap, maybe you are right in your case.

    • Joost de Valk

      Thanks for that Jacob, of course, making it personal really helps in this discussion :)

      • Peter
        Peter  • 14 years ago

        I’m with Joost on this. Don’t agree with the argument above, as I have said. But Jacob, what a baby! If Yoast is so forgettable, why are we all reading and writing to it?

        Rather Freudian slip for a “designer” to be unable to spell “design”. I suspect Jacob lacks the confidence to call himself a designer, I wonder why?

  40. Margarida Fernandes
    Margarida Fernandes  • 14 years ago

    Just wanted to say that I agree 100% with your observations. This is a very good point you are making and clients are not to be treated as stupid. The better you treat them the more work and respect they will give you.
    All my proposals have a clause about this, asking the client if I can place my trademark in the footer, saying “design and develoment by…” and that it is worth 5% discount,
    But since I am a freelancer and my work is mostly for agencies, most of them, for obvious reasons does not want this. But the other clients, who are not agencies but my direct clients never oppose and do not mind at all. It is a very small call to my site that does not intrude in no way with the site and the client gets a discount so they are very pleased with the idea.
    Thanks for clearing this up. People tend to treat clients as stupid and they really shouldn’t.

  41. Doug Smith
    Doug Smith  • 14 years ago

    I always strive to do such exceptional work and customer service that my clients would want to provide a link. I then explain it to the client and let them make the choice.

  42. Phil
    Phil  • 14 years ago

    I’ll admit to skipping about the second half of the comments, since it seems to get a little circular, so I hope I’m not reiterating an already stated point, but I noticed several references to “you wouldn’t let your builder put a banner on your house” and “you wouldn’t let someone paint your house then sign it”. Disregarding disproportionality of the analogies which has already been mentioned, I have to ask – where do you live? Do home builders not put up signs on their worksite in your nearest new neighborhood and leave it there until someone takes it down? Do your house painters not leave a sign up in a similar way? Have you never seen a business sign with a little ‘by SignsExtreme’ or whatever in the corner? Have you not had a fence built and have the builders leave a sign on it? Have you not seen a painted window sign with a credit for the painter on it? Doesn’t your car have a Ford or Toyota or whatever logo on it, and most of the products in your house? If you have custom furniture made would you not expect to see a maker’s mark somewhere? Do you think most customers get financial gain for all of this brand promotion? Of course not!

    Should you mention a credit link in your contract? Sure – and that would have been a good angle for the article to focus on, but instead you’re stirring up emotional controversy by claiming it’s so “annoying” because it’s not discussed with customers. You don’t like it, don’t do it, but I can hardly see why you personally should feel annoyed.

    Should it be discussed actively with the customer? I don’t see why, any more than I have been consulted by my fence-builder to put their notice on the fence or Subaru to brand my car, but you’ll notice that several people posting comments already say they do this, and I include myself in that group, as I habitually make a passing comment when discussing mockups. I really don’t care much if other designers do or not – that’s between them and their clients. Maybe it’s already much more common than you think to discuss this with the customer, and you’re really just injecting your prejudice to blow this up as a problem of any significance at all?

    Regardless of whether it’s mentioned to the customer or not, is this practice a sly abuse of your ignorant customer? No. Most designers, even if they fail to go that extra step, have the credit link present for at least final approval if not several stages beforehand (which is more than I can say for my fence-builder) not to mention on all of their portfolio sites. For new and lesser known designers (usually with limited marketing budgets) this is an important part of their business model.

    So in short: it costs the client little to nothing, it’s usually removed on request, it’s an extremely widespread practice that could be assumed to be industry standard and may be discussed more often than not, rarely seems to be a problem from the customer’s perspective, and as far as I’m concerned it should be assumed as built into the price already quoted.

    This whole discussion is a storm in a teacup, and could be boiled down to ‘it’s probably a good idea to put it in your contract and mention it in passing when you discuss the contract terms.’

  43. Roy
    Roy  • 14 years ago

    Hmm, let me kick the dirt a bit more. Most of the people that disagree are certainly not ‘rembrandt’s’ as far as their web DESIGN skills go. Good work will travel through word of mouth. Work harder.

  44. Ricky Rath
    Ricky Rath  • 14 years ago

    This is a good topic, especially based on the amount of feedback you’re receiving. Full disclosure: I represent a website design company, so I speak from that perspective.

    I believe you’re doing a disservice by painting footer links as malicious or spiteful behavior. I’d say you’re also incorrect in your assessment of the SEO value of those links. I don’t want to speak for all designers and developers, but the real intent of those links is to provide a way to reach potential clients who have viewed and like the client website.

    These potential clients are more likely to click a link than they are to contact the website owner to ask them who designed / built their website.

    Clients, unless your contract prohibits you from removing the link or if you don’t actually own the site files, you have the right to remove the link for whatever reason. If you have a good relationship with your website designer or developer and appreciate their support for your business online, consider leaving this passive form of online word-of-mouth intact.

    Or if you don’t like them, or don’t really care about your relationship with them, give them a hard time about it and nickel-and-dime them.

    • Joost de Valk

      Hey Ricky, I’m not against these links at all, as said, I’ve got them myself. I just want transparency, and openness between clients and designers / developers. That’s all. That’s the point.

      • Ricky Rath
        Ricky Rath  • 14 years ago

        Wow. Fast response!
        You do make a valid point I think everyone will agree with it. I also think that the information you use to build your case is inflammatory.
        Once again, a very good, overlooked topic.

        • Joost de Valk

          It’s not inflammatory if people would actually read :) Straight from the article:

          Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying web developers and web designers can’t have these links, they should just be very open about it and not make it a default.

  45. Jeff
    Jeff  • 14 years ago

    I guess when you stop having a wordpress blog and start ya know, actually coding and designing you cant start putting others down others :).

  46. ric
    ric  • 14 years ago

    Well being a designer, I absolutely disagree with this. I do this on just about every site I build—in fact it is stated in my contract as a “reserve the right to” clause. I have been doing this long before search engine rankings became the big deal they are today, as a means of briefly stating—”if you like this site click here”—in the hopes of new business.

    As far as taking advantage of my customers—quite the contrary—I bend over backwards for them and provide so much “value added” during our brief time together that they do not mind at all. I am an artist and a craftsmen and so I do, and always will, sign my work.

    There are those occasions where I do not provide the link, typically when the build-out has been a real hassle and the customer a real pain. I do not provide less quality in this instance, but I prefer to forget that particular relationship.

    I do not buy clothing with big designer logos because I have always felt that these (typically large) companies don’t need me advertising for them. I suppose you will call me hypocritical for this, but I haven’t included a web address in this post either.

    Thanks for the article.

  47. Peter
    Peter  • 14 years ago

    Mmmmm…taking advantage of the ignorance of our customer…isn’t that why they hire us?

    Remember that the majority of young people today will only buy clothes where the maker/designer’s name is obvious. It’s a bit simplistic to only include examples from industry that don’t conflict with your claims.

    The primary advantage in business is competitiveness, and to ignore competitive advantage for no competitive gain is foolish, unless it hurts your business, which hurts your competitive advantage. Most businesses that take moral stands do so to improve their standing (much like attributions…).

  48. Ej
    Ej  • 14 years ago

    While I think the main idea of transparency is lost in the blog but found later in the comments, the idea that most strongly strikes me is the elitism that exists in the field today. A simple link in the footer (not the nasty hidden keywords and whatnot in the code) is a simple signature of the creator, and this is and has been practice for more years than can be counted. So this should not be a surprise to the client that the designer signed his work, and should be expected. Do I think the client has no rights in the situation, of course not, they paid for the work and they ultimate control whether the link should be there or not. But I feel that only the client should have a say in such decisions, not other designers. Maybe you (not you personally but a general you) don’t need the exposure from a link, but other designers do and criticizing them for signing their work is just elitist at best.

    • Joost de Valk

      It’s not about you not having a right or not to that link Ej. It is and was about transparency from the moment I started writing the post.

  49. Kenneth C Young
    Kenneth C Young  • 14 years ago

    I was wondering when you remove these footer links would a piece of the website page also be removed and then look very ugly?.


  50. JHouse
    JHouse  • 14 years ago

    I disagree. Some of us designers/developers go well beyond what the client asks in terms of work rendered, often not charging for so many additions, changes, etc. That said, I think it’s fair we get to place our link in the footer as a trade-off.

    On a related note, we don’t balk when Toyota or other auto manufactures leave their logo on our cars, right? We don’t get annoyed when Dove puts their emblem on our soap, or Jack Lalanne puts his logo on our juicers, right?

    Right, I’m off to place my signature in someone’s footer. Tootles…

  51. LoneWolf
    LoneWolf  • 14 years ago

    This is obviously a hot button topic! I’ve done a few sites and I usually have a small link in the footer — kind of a signature. I’m not a full blown SEO expert and I’m really just learning about it, so I never saw the value of these links to me beyond that.

    I guess that there are examples of this kind of stuff in the real world that people don’t bat an eye at, like logos on clothes (in fact some pay extra for stuff with a specific logo), cars, electronics, art… Branding is just a part of our culture.

    Does it belong on a web design? Hard to say. I understand both sides of that argument. Should the value of having a link be disclosed to the customer? I’m not sure that it’s completely necessary. It’s part of the landscape. Should it be spammy? Definitely not.

    This isn’t a “one-answer-fits-all” topic.

  52. Jeff Lambert
    Jeff Lambert  • 14 years ago

    I disagree on many levels with your point. I think it is industry standard to see a “designed by” link in the footer of a website unless the website was built in house by employees. Look at your footer.

    I do think, however, that somewhere in the agreement it should state that you place a designer acknowledgment in the footer and, as a positive customer service gesture, remove it or ask them if you may hide it if they raise an issue with it.

    Personally, I don’t think designers do this for SEO purposes. That seems a little ridiculous actually. I think it is done for the reason many have pointed out. When you come across a website, good or bad, many people like to see who was behind the design.

    To say this practice should stop or that you should discount a design because you do this is just off. Just place your footer tastefully.

    Outside of the obvious kicking up the dust and riling people, I’d say this article is really pretty shallow. I prefer your information sharing posts. I’d almost think you wrote this article to get more people to comment and re-post, building your inbound links and SEO scores. ?

    • Joost de Valk

      Jeff, I hardly need to increase my inbound links, and if I did, I’d make sure the article and anchor text would be better.

      I wanted to raise a point and get people thinking about it. That it’s “standard” is what inspired me to this post in the first place. A lot of people get these links not knowing the true value, that’s what bothered me.

  53. Jesus Nofollow
    Jesus Nofollow  • 14 years ago

    I really like the idea of a colofon. I’ve felt icky placing the attribution link on larger PR5+ websites. I don’t feel icky placing an attribution link on the smaller websites. The promotion link back from the website builder company is more than a fair trade.

    I also heard of some SEO problems where webdesign companies had massive uneven backlink profiles. If you get an attribution footer link on a large directory, you get thousands of footer links.

    If these footerlinks are spammy I think Google frowns on this or at least devalues lots of links.

    Even though: When this topic has come up before in the Google Webmaster Forum, there is always reassurance from the bigwigs and a notion of: If you remove all these footer attribution links or start to penalize people for it, the entire web would collapse. Attribution footerlinks are as old as the internet, older than Backrub.

    The benefit of a colofon is that the link turns from a low quality footerlink, into a quality editorial link inside the content area of a site. The text surrounding your link can be more descriptive, you can talk about the CMS used, W3C validation, Javascript support, Press contacts, building a page that gets linked from every footer, with enough content on it to rank and make it editorial.

    Google should value these single links higher and more “votey” than massive footerlinks, but if Google gives more benefit to these legit editorial links is a second…

  54. Andy Griffiths
    Andy Griffiths  • 14 years ago

    This is a very interesting debate indeed. My opinion is somewhat split actually.

    On the one hand, I believe the footer links can be very useful for both the designer/developer (adds a link to their respective site) and the user (allows them to easily see who created the site). I my self use these footer links on my sites and often search the footer of sites i like to see if I can find the designer.

    On the other hand though, I am not sure that the owner of the site really benefits from the link? Maybe though it is more relevant to decide whether they degrade their site in any way by showing these links?

    It is such common practice to add these links to the footer of a web design that I believe it is probably OK to do so as long as you are more than happy to remove it if asked by the client.

    You have really started something here :)

  55. Daniel Bates
    Daniel Bates  • 14 years ago

    I’m a real estate agent and blog coach by trade, but I’ve learned enough PHP to tweak themes for small business owners and family when they need a site. I’ve never charged what my time is even worth, but most of my “clients” wouldn’t know what a fair price was anyway. I also rarely charge for hosting and sometimes even register the domain from them, so whatever money I get paid I figure I have to subtract that from my profits. I do these all more as favors in hopes that they will be more successful, but I absolutely leave the original designers link on the theme and add one of my own and that is really figured into the deal that this link is helping me a small bit. So I think the ignorance can go both ways, the client doesn’t understand the value of the link, but in my case they don’t truly understand the value of the work either. Still very good point and I hate to see the system abused.

  56. Arjen
    Arjen  • 14 years ago

    I understand that more external links (by using the footer of other websites) can help your page rank. @Joost: What is a good footer link? You suggest Google knows… so, what the next thing to know beside the social interaction with the client.

    • Marcus
      Marcus  • 14 years ago

      Actually, I’d also be interested to hear on your insights regarding footer links, particularly do you think Google lowers weight of internal links in the footer too?

  57. mike i
    mike i  • 14 years ago

    That’s such crap. As a web designer I always put my link in the footer of clients websites. To drive traffic and ya to point out that I made the site and am proud of it. Since I have great relationships with my clients they are always happy to promote my services to their friends.

  58. Diana
    Diana  • 14 years ago

    I was very glad to read your article today. Yesterday a marketer gave me his free WP template and a
    plugin. The template was nice and clean and so I installed the plugin, too. It changed some things on
    my site so they no longer worked. I deactivated the plugin and they still didn’t work.

    I finally deleted the plugin. Being new at this I decided to look at the edit portion of the plugin before
    I deleted and there was his link right at the top of the information. He also had it in the footer of the
    WP template. I don’t mind giving links, I’d just like to control them for my site and to know about it first.

  59. Nick
    Nick  • 14 years ago

    I do this on my sites, never had a client complain about it and actually some have suggested I make sure to add on before the site launches.

    Around here some home builder put there names to the side of the front door usually craved into the brick, they don’t tell you about it. Car dealerships put license plate holder and usually a plaque on the truck with their name on it.

    Did you get a discount on the last T-Shirt you bought that had a logo on it? Maybe we should all call Nike and ask them to remove it or pay me.

    I look at it this way if the client asks me to remove it I would do it in a heartbeat, even if it was a year after the site launched, otherwise why not add it, it helps get your name out there.

  60. Wayne
    Wayne  • 14 years ago

    Apparently some designer rubbed you the wrong way. WE discuss it with all our clients, and it is provided on the comp before development. This is without a doubt the #1 referral source for visits to our site.

    As Simon said we rarely pay for advertising and we rely on word of mouth, or in this case, “footer link by association”. LOL

    • Joost de Valk

      hehe nobody rubbed me the wrong way, it’s just that I noticed people not recognizing the value of these links, and design agencies abusing that fact. I’m all about promoting openness about stuff like this, nothing else :)

      • Marcus
        Marcus  • 14 years ago

        There is also the argument that it’s not sneakily hidden or anything. I had a client that spotted it once and asked to remove it. I think people who would be bothered by a link would be the type that checks and lets us know :) No harm, no foul though, took it down and they’ve been a happy client for years.

  61. Simon
    Simon  • 14 years ago

    We put a ‘built by’ link in the footer, but only on the homepage.

    We are extremely open about this with all our customers, we mention it right from the beginning and always give customers the chance to say no. We have never had one take this up!

    As a company, we have never paid for advertising, we rely on word of mouth recommendations and people liking our sites. If we paid for advertising, our prices would be much higher so then our clients really would be unhappy!

    In return, we promote our customers’ sites on our site, in our newsletter, and on facebook.

  62. Abhijit V. Chaore
    Abhijit V. Chaore  • 14 years ago

    I see that lot of discussion has happened on this issue. I, myself am a web designer as well as a client of few other designers (when I get some of my work done from them). I agree that before putting a link at footer we should ask our client – even if he is unaware of its importance. It should be our moral duty too to make them aware of its SEO aspect.

  63. Regina Jackson
    Regina Jackson  • 14 years ago

    I think the house analogy is a little overboard. I admit to doing this with some websites that I
    develop and it is a great referral resource. I have even had clients ask me to be sure to include it.
    As long as everyone is in agreement, then I don’t see the issue. For someone to get mad, when they see it doesn’t make sense. You don’t know if the client agreed to it or not.

  64. spyderman4g63
    spyderman4g63  • 14 years ago

    I would say it’s more like buying a car that has the smaller decal for the dealer on the back. I don’t see an issue of having a link in the footer and I have not had a client who said anything about it. Most people aren’t going to look at the footer text anyway. As far as roofing goes, I see signs in peoples yards advertising the roofing company all the time when they are getting a new roof put on.

  65. Vik
    Vik  • 14 years ago

    As long as its agreed to, I don’t think its a big deal. If you drive a Toyota, your car has ‘Toyota’ on it
    (though I did see a Toyota Tacoma once that had letters removed to become ‘Toy Taco’).

  66. Greg Magnus
    Greg Magnus  • 14 years ago

    No doubt the client should be made aware of the link in advance. And, it should be removed immediately upon request. However, in most cases it would be unwise to remove it.

    For one, web developers usually have good page ranks and, in most cases, work for reputable clients that they gladly refer. Second, web developers commonly include the client’s logo and link to that site on their sites. Using your logic, I guess the developer should charge for that link as well?

    In today’s world, referrals are valued more than ever – and it is a two-way street. The most successful blogs almost always include a reference to the developers and partners. Being open and proud of your vendors often shows your confident in your business choices. The idea that it is an attempt by the developer to get a “free link,” IMHO is short sighted. There are far better ways for developers to add links of higher value.

  67. Joi
    Joi  • 14 years ago

    Personally, I think the analogy of a banner on the roof is a pretty appropriate one. I work online, from home, for a living (web publisher and writer), so I see a lot of blogs each and every day. I always look at footers!

    Guess it’s a fetish.

    A lot of themes also have categories, pages, and other projects listed in the footer now – so a footer has become prime real estate.

    The premium themes I’ve worked with, thankfully, have made it pretty easy to remove the attribution – unless you just want to leave it and juice it up for an affiliate link, of course.

  68. Graham Stoney
    Graham Stoney  • 14 years ago

    I don’t entirely agree; when I come across a site I really like, I sometimes look for a “Site Design By” link to see who built it. I had one case where an e-commerce site shopping cart broke on me on a Sunday and I used the link to contact the developer directly because I knew they’d fix it faster than the site owner. Within a couple of hours the problem was fixed and I could register for the workshop I wanted to attend the next day. So the link can be handy to visitors.

  69. cielo
    cielo  • 14 years ago

    I don’t at all condone sneaking anything by your clients, but I think the analogies in this article blow the issue way out of proportion…

    As was brought up by previous posters, if you walk into any department store, are you going to find a product without a tag indicating who produced and or designed it? Do you get to invoice Nike because you are advertising for them? Consumers are easily capable of removing the branding off the back of their jeans, but do they? If you produce quality goods, not only does the branding not detract from the perceived value of the product, but it can actually add value.

    I would be more than willing to accomodate a client’s wishes to NOT have such a link in the footer. But you know what? 999 times out of a thousand, the client is more than happy to have the link there, because I built them a beautiful website, gave them a fantastic deal, and developed a great working relationship with them from the very beginning.

    If a client was apt to suddenly feel violated if they knew “how valuable” that link is in the footer, maybe this is a reflection of the quality of one’s work or lack of relationship building?

  70. Marcus
    Marcus  • 14 years ago

    Joost, your points are valid, but I think there are a few points on the contrary to consider.

    Firstly, my stance:
    Often (not always), I ask clients if it’s ok to put a link there. If they ask to have it removed, I’ll do it immediately without a problem. I don’t think it’s such a big deal either, as you say too, it doesn’t hold that much link value if you say designed by {link}company name{/link}”, but it provides a nice reference to your site for visitors that like the work.

    Frankly I don’t care if it’s nofollowed either, I don’t do it for the juice, there are better ways to go about it. Now, if they do something like at the bottom of your site using keyword links without permission, then yes that’s somewhat cheeky.

    Some points to think about:
    Small businesses usually go for smaller companies or individual freelancers due to budget constraints, and often get a good deal for making their site, so a link is not much to ask for.

    Also, very often it does work vice versa too, designers usually like to link to their work on their site too.

    With regards to your house analogy, there is a little loophole there…. the company that built the house usually does have a sign on there saying who built it, and they aren’t usually the ones to take it down (at least without permission). I have a real life example on my building :)

  71. Mikael Rieck
    Mikael Rieck  • 14 years ago

    Personally I’ll keep the link for about a month after the site is completed. Just in case I’ll need them to make some adjustments :)

  72. gudipudi
    gudipudi  • 14 years ago

    i agree that we need to acknowledge the designer if we get the theme for free.

  73. Dom
    Dom  • 14 years ago

    reference to bottom right of this page….. ‘Theme by W3 EDGE…’

    • d.lav
      d.lav  • 14 years ago

      I think he said the issue was “not openly discussing the link”. I’m pretty sure he said it was fine as long as it was discussed…..which he said he did already. pay attention.

  74. francesca
    francesca  • 14 years ago

    Joost, in your footer i see “Theme by W3 EDGE, WordPress Experts” where the name W3 edge is not linked, but “WordPress Experts” is…. strange. i would expect the name of the theme developer to be linked, and not some keywords winking at SE?! oh well :)

    i think someone before me (Pablo Augusto) has a good point about such a practice. thoughts?

  75. koko
    koko  • 14 years ago

    its not the post that (for me) is much of interest, but the discussion in here.
    some really good things are pointed out here – thats what a blog is supposted to be for, i like that.

    keep up the good work creating nice posts that have place for something to discuss please ;-)
    btw i dont like any tagging at all, neither at websites, nor at “real things”

  76. Stuart Holmes
    Stuart Holmes  • 14 years ago

    You could avoid the whole paid link thing by just adding a designed/developed by logo graphic/watermark/name to the footer. This would be similar to an aristst signature on a painting or the brand marque featured on products such as a car.

    There will be no paid links to think about or ‘free seo’; if someone wants to find you, there is always google!

    • Richard
      Richard  • 14 years ago

      it’s a friggin’ website, not a painting. You’re just building a ‘showroom’ for your customers, which should bring them BUSINESS. If you really think you’re an artist, buy a shitload of canvas and some brushes (no, not photoshop brushes).

      • Yana
        Yana  • 14 years ago

        It’s not a painting – it’s a lot more. A website isn’t only supposed to be aesthetically pleasing, it should also be effective and functional. A web designer is not only an artist, they also understand design theory and human psychology inside and out. It isn’t as simple as slapping on a “Buy now” button and assuming people will buy, as you seem to assume. Ideally, every element on the website is there for a reason. A website is not an empty vessel or a showroom for displaying your products, it is a huge part of the sell.

  77. [Keyword deleted]
    [Keyword deleted]  • 14 years ago

    What a ridiculous argument this is from start to finish.

    • Joost de Valk

      Why is it ridiculous? If there’s something to laugh about I’d love to share it.

  78. Danny van Kooten
    Danny van Kooten  • 14 years ago

    As long as your cliënt knows about it AND agrees with it, I don’t see the problem. But well, that was your point right?

  79. Celwin Frenzen
    Celwin Frenzen  • 14 years ago

    I’m a webdesigner and place those links on all sites I do. It’s in my ‘terms & conditions’ (which my clients approve with) that it’s always at the bottom of a site I deliver, it’s their choice if they want to take it away but it’s greatly appreciated if they didn’t. So it’s up to them actually if they let it stay or not. So far, nobody removed it!

  80. Steven Bradley
    Steven Bradley  • 14 years ago

    I’m a designer and I do place those designed by links on some clients sites, always with their permission. It’s pretty simple. I ask the client if it’s ok. If they say yes I add the link. If they say no, I don’t add the link. Some clients have insisted I place it there before I even ask.

    I don’t understand why this is such a big issue. Just ask your clients if it’s ok and then respect their wishes. Aren’t you building relationships with your clients? Aren’t you treating them as real people? If you are they’ll be glad to let you place a link on their site and for the one or two that prefer you don’t add it, don’t add it.

    Now I wouldn’t ever discount my work for one of those links. I treat my clients very well and have usually already discounted my work as much as I can. If client’s ask for discounts for those links I’ll go back to charging them for all the things I don’t currently charge them for.

    Never though would I add a link without asking first or if a client prefers it not be there. It’s their site and it’s ultimately their decision if the links stays or goes.

  81. LobsterMan
    LobsterMan  • 14 years ago

    First of all, there is a plaque with the builders name on my building. Furthermore, the garage slapped sticker on my car without me noticing. If i wasn’t so lazy i’d take it off. Your point is clear, sneaking up on someone who is dependent on you and putting free advertising is a bad thing.

    Saying all that, I do ask to put links on sites I build. The value of the links to me is irrelevant, the client only cares about the cost to him.
    From my experience, If the client is satisfied with the site, 99% of the time he/she will gladly agree to me putting a link, not only as a courtesy, but also are proud to promote the person that built them the site they like so much.

  82. Joost de Valk

    Great to see the discussion about this in the comments guys, thanks for all of that. Let me state once again what I think this boils down too: you can have your links, just be transparent about them towards your client.

    Thanks for all the input, I’m quite sure we’ll have some more things to discuss soon ;)

  83. rogerpfaff
    rogerpfaff  • 14 years ago

    Here in Germany we have the imprint page. You must have such a site and I always talked to my customers and said them I want a link to my site for reputation and a kind of advertising. They were always ok with it even without discount.

    To put a link in the footer of a website is far more obtrusive and should not be made in my opinion because it’s the customers website and there my name or an agency’s name is not related to any offer the customer makes.

    My conclusion is: Talk with the customer, don’t pay anything or give a discount, put your link on page where interested people can see it but the customers communcation to his clients is not affected.

  84. Imran Khan
    Imran Khan  • 14 years ago

    True… it happens alot!!

  85. Simon
    Simon  • 14 years ago

    Thanks for giving me the kick in the ass to get rid of the link. I wanted to, especially since the developer has been so exceptionally unhelpful after selling his theme. I used to think that, since this was such a common practice, that it was perhaps a rule for theme buyers. Something unwritten, but sacred, and morally reprehensible if disobeyed. Now, I’m gonna say screw that! Footer link begone!

  86. benjamin
    benjamin  • 14 years ago

    Great point, and also a great example to use for explaining to clients about the business potential of a simple link. Outside of the web community few clients understand that “a link” can have real business worth (tangible and intangible). I’m going to start using this footer debate as a simple example to help clients grasp the business potential their site has beyond “just having a website.” Thanks.

  87. Von
    Von  • 14 years ago

    I’m putting links on my site from now on. Its is no ones place to say that this should be this and that should be that. If it suits you the do as you please.

  88. Chris Schryer
    Chris Schryer  • 14 years ago

    I have to agree with you about the transparency issue; I always put a link in the footer, and always clearly explain why to the client. Yes it’s a SEO boost etc etc, but here’s why I do it: What does it say to a person that they are buying a product you won’t sign your name to? I’m showing them that I’m proud of the work I’ve done, and want people to identify me with it. And that instills trust. Yes, it’s beneficial to me, but every small business appreciates taking every opportunity to promote themselves, and as I’m a small busniness myself, they get it. The conversation is always along the lines of “I want you to know, I’m going to put a link to myself at the bottom of the page, and also use your site in my professional portfolio”. Yes, they can hear that as “I’m going to use you”, which is true in a way, but they can also hear “I really really like the work I’ve done for you, and want as many people to see it as possible”.
    But at the end of the day, transparency is vital. Be honest with your clients about what you are doing and why.

  89. Mark
    Mark  • 14 years ago

    I agree with Leon. The analogy of the banner on the roof is ridiculous. On the roof would be a giant logo in the header. And nobody is doing that.

    Allow me a couple shots at more apropos analogies.

    1. You go to a store and you buy a t-shirt. The shirt has the company’s logo on it. Are you sending an invoice to the clothing company each month for you walking around with the logo on it? Of course not.

    2. You buy a car. The license plate frame has the dealer’s name, city and often phone number. Is the dealer paying you a monthly rental fee for driving their advertisement around? Still no.

    Nobody is having fits about either practice. The footer logo by designers is commonplace. It always has been and probably always will be, despite the rantings of a few malcontents.

    Melissa pointed out the most important thing. I found a posting on Craigslist by a web design customer who had hired a “firm” that took their money and ran. I checked out their portfolio. The styles were so vastly different, both in design and coding that it was obvious one firm did not put together the sites they had listed. But without any indication of who the actual designers were, there was nothing to prevent them adding the sites to their portfolio, and then scamming potential customers, poisoning their trust in the industry.

    Lastly, the logo can simply the client’s life if they happen to have hired a designer that has built them something gorgeous and successful. They don’t have to answer all of the “who designed your site?” emails if there is the – expected – link at the bottom giving them that information. I frequently want to know who designed a site when I visit one that is either very nice, or very crappy.

    And this textarea background doesn’t fit the size of the actual box. When I type the text runs outside the right side of the box. You should take away the designer’s link in your footer as punishment for the CSS gaff

  90. Leaf
    Leaf  • 14 years ago

    I actually put the link on all of the websites that I work on. While it does serve as advertising for me, it also provides visitors with a way to contact the web designer if something isn’t working on the site. I have had a couple of contacts for that reason. The additional benefit is that it lets my prospective clients “verify” that the sites in my portfolio are actually websites I have done. There are SO many designers who put sites in their portfolio that are obviously not their own work.

    Now I am not saying that many of those reasons provide value to the client, but I do give them a discount of about 10% for doing so. With about 150 clients, I have only had 1 client who had an issue with it. And the irony is that this client even had a whole segment in the contract mentioning that the link would bue included unless they wanted to forego the discount. They didn’t mention anything when signing the contract, but they did put up a fight about it after I caught them removing the link.

    All in all, I think that for small businesses, they have to realize that in order to get reasonable pricing, that the small li is part of the package. Of course when doing projects for larger companies, they pay much higher rates and therefore are exempt from the footer link.

  91. donnacha | WordSkill
    donnacha | WordSkill  • 14 years ago

    Any creative worker who signs his work is likely to take more pride in it and put more care into it.

    Most designers do this by default for smaller websites, it is a tradition that was established long before SEO became a consideration. The benefit to the designer, if any, is organic publicity; the benefit to the client is that visitors having site-specific problems or queries are more likely to email the designer about it and not waste the client’s time.

    Most importantly, however, it is a matter of goodwill; most designers will quickly agree to remove the credit if asked, but a small business owner should be aware that the designer may not, then, be as willing to give free advice and discretionary services in the future – and, seriously, pretty much all small website owners come to rely upon free advice and help from their designers.

    Any “expert” who later enters the equation will probably not have a full understanding of his client’s give-and-take relationship with the designer and will probably not bother to find out if the credit link is part of the contract that the client signed. Eager to please, removing the link is an easy win for the newly introduced expert but it is a hack and could actually hurt the client – unless, of course, the new expert is going to fully replace the original designer, and is happy to provide all the same free hand-holding.

    Bigger websites usually don’t have the credit link, but that is established from the start of the design process and the designers are usually getting paid a lot more than would get from smaller clients. They are completely different situations, it is wrong to transpose the conventions that have built up around one to the other.

  92. Jimmy Rittenborg
    Jimmy Rittenborg  • 14 years ago

    I would never mess up the sites my clients is actually paying me for, with such a link – but its kinda weird because my clients is always beggin me for doing it and then i always has to argument against it, and also bring up that house example, so i’ve actually HAD to do it twice. But those links is stupid and ugly, and yes – some crapheads is squizing some link juice out of them (especialy those who host all their clients on unique IP’s).

  93. Louie
    Louie  • 14 years ago

    That’s a shit analogy. It’s a tiny link for SEO and linkback purposes not a giant banner.

    When some stooge installs a new muffler or services your car he puts a business sticker on your window. You want it taken off you say “don’t stick a stupid sticker on”.

  94. Ryan
    Ryan  • 14 years ago

    I’m the same as John. We make it clear to them we want it on the site, it’s in the contract and we don’t hide it. If they want it removed then that’s fine. If not, it’s on. It’s not like we don’t let them have options anyway. We make the footer area editable in the CMS. We get referrals while the client sleeps.

    One thing though, can you cite some sources for the Google/SEO thing?

  95. Melissa
    Melissa  • 14 years ago

    Let me make another point about why the link should be there. We have had clients get letters about “this photo is stolen” or “you have no right to optimize for this phrase”. When we have our link there the companies often contact us first and we can easily prove that all photos have been paid for and argue the law for them. This takes the hassle and stress away from the client.

    Oh and another point, we have had other “SEO Companies” claim the credit for our work. Our name is on the bottom of the sites. We have had clients call us and say that they were called for a reference for SEO services for a different company. The red flag was our name there.

    There are several reasons why it should be there. We tell each client ahead of time.

    • matty pants
      matty pants  • 14 years ago

      Best reply in this thread so far.

  96. Asinox
    Asinox  • 14 years ago

    Sorry but I saw houses with the company name who build its, schools, hospitals, etc. And why this post?, just for that!?

  97. ksolo
    ksolo  • 14 years ago

    i think the author / filmmaker comparison is more fitting in this case.

    benn – the scenario you brought up is somewhat on point, but not totally. authors and filmmakers who are making a work of art or a submission into a body of knowledge should definitely expect to have their names associated with that work.

    but a web designer is creating a ‘work for hire’, like a writer or filmmaker might also be commissioned to write a whitepaper or produce a commercial for a company. the crediting of the creator in that case is a privilege granted by the client (no matter what their size), not a right that should be inherently assumed by the person creating the work.

    oh, and um… Yoost? you don’t think the pic is a little… *too* severe? sheesh.

  98. Marchamont
    Marchamont  • 14 years ago

    I don’t object to these links because the designer’s done some work and is entitled to show off- but when the local garage sell me a car and put their sticker in the back window or on the number plates, that really pisses me off.

  99. Dan
    Dan  • 14 years ago

    Interesting post Yoast, although I also see them useful in identifying who actually did do a project so that people just don’t claim oh yeah there is no designed by link on Yoast.com I designed it.

    I think in most cases the effort of trying to explain SEO or why you want a link on a clients site is just going to confuse them (it’s why they are paying to have their site built in the first place). I like to discuss things as much as the next guy, but to spend 10 minutes at least explaining the pro’s and cons talking about this to a client just seems like a waste of time to me (way more helpful things to teach them in that time).

    I agree the SEO benefit is likely low for them anyways, it comes down to maybe their friends see the site, like it and can easily contact you. Or for the clients that struggle remembering who looks after their own website.

  100. Chris McMahon
    Chris McMahon  • 14 years ago

    I always ask and lately I’ve been switching to a ‘site credits’ link that lists everyone involved.

    I think a lot of people’s reaction to this is over the top, but on the internet outrage goes to 11.

  101. Filip
    Filip  • 14 years ago

    As for the house analogy, I often see car plates with the brokers name on it. I don’t know if it results in a discount or not, but the “link” is there alright.

  102. Pablo Augusto
    Pablo Augusto  • 14 years ago

    Some weeks ago we had a great discussion about this topic at Brazilian Google Webmaster Forum.

    The point is, if it was previously warned and discussed between the client and the designer/agency and also if the link intention is to promove the brand, and do not use manipulated anchor keywords to get SEO benefices i think that its nothing wrong.

    At free themes its the same thing, if the purpose of the links is to show users were to get this free theme, its aggregate value to the user, once its a useful information, but how did you said, if there are more than one links or this links is using longtails ill take them off or will stop use this theme.

    But the ones that make links like examples below have the clear objective to manipulate search engine results and should be punned and pointed to Google web spam team:

    Created by BRANDNAME see more from [a href=”http://BRANDNAME/SEO”] Search Engine Optimization[/a] at our site.

    os also

    Created by BRANDNAME [a href=”http://BRANDNAME/webdesign”] Webdesign[/a] firm.

  103. Ann Donnelly
    Ann Donnelly  • 14 years ago

    Guilty as charged Mr. de Valk, but only partially! I’ve either discussed it with a client or they see it in a draft and may or may not have me remove it. I give the client sites links from any relevant sites I have, so I’m not a complete robber here. All of my clients would know the value of a link from their site because it’s big part of what I discuss with them.

    Most are more than happy to give me a credit — more like a film credit than a painter’s signature, but I did always wonder if it really did give much benefit. I don’t think I’ve actually gotten many leads of off it and as Joost says, Google would value a link in the footer less — and most of the sites would not really count high in the relevancy area.

    I think it’s more appalling when you see a site with an “SEO by” type link because usually those are the one that aren’t optimised well!

  104. Benn
    Benn  • 14 years ago

    I always just saw it as a way of the web. You build a site / have one built, there is a ‘designed by’ footer link. It’s no big deal. Same way that you have the production company name at the end of a TV show, the authors name and publisher on a book or article, or having your item in a bag with the shops brand on it.

  105. Tony
    Tony  • 14 years ago

    I just include a link to my site on the footer of the WordPress admin.

  106. Jonathan
    Jonathan  • 14 years ago

    I would always ask the client if it’s okay to put a link in the footer. I would reciprocate by adding their site to my portfolio page with a link. Fair’s fair.

    • Leon
      Leon  • 14 years ago

      VERY GOOD POINT Jonathan and one I totally forgot about. I also give every client a link in my recent projects category on the blog and my blog gets way more traffic than their sites, at least initially. I find adding that link tends to boost them up a few pages in SERPS too so they should probably pay ME more money!

      • Dennis Goedegebuure
        Dennis Goedegebuure  • 14 years ago

        The key term here is intend and what you are trying to accomplish with the link in the footer. If you are showing off the designs in your portfolio, that is perfectly fine. And as you state, you get more traffic than your clients, so that would be sufficient making sure you get more work based on your quality.

        What the discussion is about, is tricking clients, who don’t have sufficient knowledge about the internet or webdesign in adding a link for your benefit while they have paid for a product.

        What would you say to a painter who just painted your house but added his name to the bottom of your front door? Would you agree that that is perfectly fine, as his competitors are doing this as well?
        Or would you say that he has to redo the whole door, because this is just ridiculous and was never agreed upon?

        I hate those footer links, and I would avoid any webdesign company who makes use of it!

        • Elio
          Elio  • 14 years ago

          ok another analogy: let’s assume you have a baby and the midwife adds a tatoo to the baby feet with her/his name. How about that?

          Under the *wrong* assumption that everyone can leave their mark on your site, we should credit the design agency, the one who developed the website and of course, the company currently hosting the site. Maybe we could also add the company where the domain name was registered. Oh, and if your logo was created separately, they deserve to put advertising on your website!!

      • richard
        richard  • 14 years ago

        in that case, if you would use the work you did for me as an advertisement, I’d invoice you for even more per month :)

        Unless of course, you have told me about it or it is at least in your terms & conditions ;)

        • Jason
          Jason  • 14 years ago

          Man Richard, you are hard core!!

          • richard
            richard  • 14 years ago

            haha Jason, I didn’t put the smileys in there for no reason ;)

            But to be honest; the site of a webdesignagency of course holds a portfolio; you need to show your work. It’s something completely different from putting a link in your customers website’s footer (and again, here’s the punchline…) WITHOUT NOTIFYING them.

        • Leon
          Leon  • 14 years ago

          We’re advertising their sites!?

  107. richard
    richard  • 14 years ago

    saw this one TODAY, which ALSO has a footer link: http://skitch.com/merchandise/dsska/noticedtoday

  108. Gregg
    Gregg  • 14 years ago

    Your footer has one of those links you just talked about..you know the ones you don’t like…

    • Joost de Valk

      Not entirely true; I knew that one was in there, in fact, I added it myself because Frederick, who’s also a good friend and business partner, earned every bit of it :) It’s not the links per se I have a problem with, it’s the fact that people don’t talk about it openly.

      • Gregg
        Gregg  • 14 years ago

        Fair enough i guess. the only sites i’ve had a footer shout out on are ones that the client has actually asked me to put it in there, but havent done it since early 08.

  109. Thomas Offinga
    Thomas Offinga  • 14 years ago

    While I agree with your House analogy, I think those kind of links can be quite valuable. Too often have I had the problem where I really liked a website’s design, but could not figure out who made it. The first place I’d check in those cases was indeed the footer. It feel pretty natural to me.

    • Joost de Valk

      Maybe we should just revive the colophon, and not abuse a site wide footer for it :)

      • Mike Hickerson
        Mike Hickerson  • 14 years ago

        Yes! I was just thinking about a colophon for some sites I’m developing, as a way to give credit to the resources I used to create it and to share those ideas with others. I’m a newbie web designer, and I’m always wondering “How’d they do that?” on nicely designed sites.

      • Thoughtfaucet
        Thoughtfaucet  • 14 years ago

        Yes. Colophon. Totally. This would be nice because it could actually be content about the site and how it was made etc. When I do a featured project on my own site, I usually send the credit link on the client’s site to that page. Because, as noted above, sometimes people do like to know more about the design and like the design-by credit for that reason.

        A colophon makes the credit link much more relevant.

        And yes, being open about the value of the credit link (such as it is) is the right thing to do.

      • Roy
        Roy  • 14 years ago

        I Actually think that’s a fair deal. One thing the germans do pretty well with their impressum ;)

  110. Jarret
    Jarret  • 14 years ago

    Does any good artist always sign their painting? Of course!

    Would you expect to be able to buy a painting for less if the artist didn’t sign it? No! And good luck getting the artist to actually paint you something and not sign it and sell it for less.

    I’m in line with Leon, small business sites I don’t think mind at all as long as they are happy with your work and the only time it should be considered to be removed is with corporations or very large companies.

    • Joost de Valk

      Why do web designers think they have the right to compare themselves to painters? You’re an architect at best. You’re building online homes. Do good architects leave their names on buildings? No. It’s not art, it’s a functional thing.

      • Rembrand
        Rembrand  • 14 years ago

        Actually, architects used to leave a name plate or carved stone in/on buildings, some still do (not sure about the US, but I’ve seen it in Belgium anyway).
        I hardly think a link in the footer is as obtrusive as a banner or even an architect nameplate, it’s just a signature enabling people who go “hey, I like that site, I wonder who made it?” to quickly find the maker. It’s advertising, sure, but it’s also a form of recognition for the maker.

        • Rembrand
          Rembrand  • 14 years ago

          That said, it would be perfectly fair for the client to ask to remove it. And polite of the maker to inform the client before putting it in there in the first place.

      • Sam
        Sam  • 14 years ago

        I think you’re confusing “designers” with “developers.”

      • Leon
        Leon  • 14 years ago

        The clue is in our title – “designers”! Not quite art but it’s quite often very creative..

  111. John
    John  • 14 years ago

    I am guilty of using a footer link on my client’s sites, but I spell that out in the contract to do the work. Personally, I have gotten referrals from those footer links, so for me they work, and my customers have told me they don’t mind that it’s there.

  112. Leon
    Leon  • 14 years ago

    I’m a web designer who does this on every site and surprise surprise I’m gonna disagree.. A tiny bit of text on the footer of a site does not equal a “banner up on your roof”. Unbalanced analogy there.

    In all my years as a web designer I’ve not had any client take exception to the fact that I’ve put my link there. The only clients who ask for it to be removed are usually large corporate or council sites.

    Shouldn’t it be up to the client to reject this practice if they want to rather than have someone else speak for them? Most of my (admittedly small business) clients are more than happy to promote my services in this small way if they’re happy with them and I don’t think it detracts from or damages their site in any way.

    Who looks at footers anyway!?

    • Hombre Pipa
      Hombre Pipa  • 14 years ago

      I agree that the analogy is unbalanced. What about the architects who put their names on plates at the side of their own designed buildings?

    • Kate
      Kate  • 14 years ago

      On the one hand I like to know who has designed a site, but on the other hand, I know it can sometimes be done in a sneaky way for SEO. ESPECIALLY those stupid ones where they link all the keywords like

      WEB DESIGN and SEO and PPC by SpammyMctool

      Whenever I see this on clients sites, I ask them why it is there, and they usually have NO IDEA WHY and have NO IDEA how to take it off. So when I say “Do you want me to take it off?” they are like YES PLEASE

      Which insinuates to me, that they don’t want your stupid links on there in the first place.

      • Kent
        Kent  • 14 years ago

        I almost always ask for a link back on sites where I do SEO, design, development, or consulting work. I always tell them why I would like it (usually as part of my description of the value of links). I generally don’t like to put it in the footer, but rather like to have a single link on an “about us” type page. I realize that the SEO value is almost always not as good coming from that route, but I just think that footer links look spammy in general (true or not). That said, I do have links on footers of several sites — always with their permission, always explained up front as to why I would like it.

        So, the point I guess is in response to your 3rd paragraph… my clients know exactly why my link is on their site. And they also know it is optional and that I will remove it when requested.

        Thought provoking post in my mind even if I don’t take Joost’s perspective entirely.

    • Jeremy
      Jeremy  • 14 years ago

      I would completely agree with Leon that your example is disanalogous.

      A website designer putting attribution in the form of a link in the footer of a website is not the same as a contractor putting a banner on the roof of your home.

      A more fair analogy would be to compare it to film credits that roll at the end of a movie. Or perhaps the name of a given clothing designer that is printed on the inside tags of all the clothes they make.

      It’s common practice across almost all creative industries to attribute work to its creator. This is no different.

    • Roberto
      Roberto  • 14 years ago


      I just think I’ll have to agree with both of you. Only partially, though.

      I agree with Leon when he says Joost’s “banner up on your roof” analogy is an unbalanced one. It surely is, can’t deny that. It is more like a small name (with a phone number) written on the doorstep.

      I agree with Joost when he says you SHOULD be telling them the value if you add a link like that.

      I disagree with both when you say “Who looks at footers anyway!?”, and that is where I make my whole point. Because I LOVE IT when designers leave their ‘designed by’, so we can track them down (Yay), and I am pretty sure many other people also love it.

      So… I do think it should be common practice, but always done openly.

      • Dave
        Dave  • 14 years ago

        I have to agree Roberto. If I like a WordPress theme on another site and I’d like to use it myself, if there is a link in the footer I can go and find out about it.
        Surely, when those employing web designers sign the work off (correct term?) they would have actually looked at what they have paid for? I know it seems underhand but if the customer hasn’t actually looked at what they’ve paid for then they only have themselves to blame?

      • Joost de Valk

        I think I can agree to most of that :) And I’ll admit to a bit of hyperbole, it was meant to start of the discussion :)

    • richard
      richard  • 14 years ago

      Leon; if you do not ask permission specifically, you suck. for real. I’d invoice you for 250 euro’s a month if you did this to me.

      If, however, you’d ask it, I’d probably give you permission, as I did to my offset printer today for adding a line to our DM which states: “this leaflet is printed by…” (small font, side of the leaflet).

      How’d you feel if you got new business cards for your company with a very small line on the back that’d say “vista print”, while paying good money for it?

      • Leon
        Leon  • 14 years ago

        I’ve got vistaprint cards in the past and was happy to have their name on it for the price! I’m a budget web designer but if I was a high end one I’d probably want to “sign” my work too as Jarret says below.

        • richard
          richard  • 14 years ago

          exactly, which again proves the point Joost makes; you’re happy with their name FOR THE PRICE. Your clients will be happier with you if you treat them the same. Hell, you could even just ask like 100 euros/pounds/dollars more upfront and tell them “but if you agree on my link being in the footer, I’ll give you a discount!”, so you end up with the same pay and everyone is extra happy. If they don’t want it, you’ll get a hundred {money} extra :)

    • Joost de Valk

      Leon, you’ve just validated my whole point… Most of your clients don’t know the value and you should be telling them the value if you add a link like that, whether they actually look at the footer or not. And, you know, if nobody looks at them, why not leave them out?

      • Leon
        Leon  • 14 years ago

        I don’t see how it’s relevant whether they know the value or not? Just because a link like that might be valuable to me doesn’t make it a liability for them? I think you’re presuming website owners are stupid too.

        • Joost de Valk

          It’s an advertisement you haven’t told them about. It represents value, do you truly not think that warrants at least a remark from you to them?

          • Leon
            Leon  • 14 years ago

            PS – since you’re only concerned with asking permission for the links, why are you presuming it wasn’t asked for? Do web designers have a reputation for being sneaky or something!?

          • Joost de Valk

            I’m not presuming anything, just seeing that a lot of people don’t get asked first, and telling web designers to do ask for it :) Some of you never actually read what I write, do you? :)

          • Leon
            Leon  • 14 years ago

            It may warrant a remark, I’ve never thought about it till now to be honest. I just presumed it was the done thing as you see it everywhere else and if all my competitiors are doing it I’m sure as hell gonna try! The client does have ample opportunity, even before a site goes live to see it and object if they like and I’ll take it down no problem. I guess for me, presenting the site to them with the footer link there is me asking for permission..

  113. Roy
    Roy  • 14 years ago

    Ries and I just had this discussion, maybe you should just send them an invoice for advertising on your site and nofollowing the darn link ;)

  114. richard
    richard  • 14 years ago

    SOOOOO totally agree on this one. I really get pissed upon seeing those, and it happends TOO often!

  115. Vanessa Fox
    Vanessa Fox  • 14 years ago

    Do you think though that agreeing to leave the link in place in exchange for a discount on the service is similar to a paid link?

    • dan ppcproz
      dan ppcproz  • 14 years ago

      def Vanessa, its a paid link, another good reason why footer links shouldn’t have much value.

    • Joost de Valk

      Yes :) I was wondering whether I should touch on that in the article, but I think it is.

      • Remi van Beekum
        Remi van Beekum  • 14 years ago

        I agree. If you get a discount for having that link on your site, it’s a paid link.
        But how about free themes? A lot of free themes have a design by link at the bottom. You don’t pay for the theme, so it cannot be a paid link ;-)

  116. Dennis Goedegebuure
    Dennis Goedegebuure  • 14 years ago

    Very annoying indeed!
    I would encourage every “client” to take a good look at the code of their site as well, as some designers put attribution in the head section of websites they designed and build.
    I’ve seen this happening, where the interactive agency did a very poor job in coding for search engines, using all flash, but then had attribution in the head section of the site!

    • Joost de Valk

      Hehe yeah absolutely, also stuff like <meta name="copyright"> and then the name of the coder are very annoying, even though they’re useless.

  117. Nicolas
    Nicolas  • 14 years ago

    Agreed! Actually, I only had it on one of my websites and removed it a few weeks ago. Found out that people spread the word even without my name in the footer.