Promotional Links or Spam?
To have a successful site, in terms of search engine optimisation, a site needs to rank in search engines for key products or services. As every man and his dog know, high quality links are needed from related sites and the best types of links are those anchor text links that contains your most important keyword/s. There are literally thousands of link building guides that comprehensively explain in gritty detail what others have considered to be the key to their success, whilst on the other hand, there are guides that have successfully prompted search engines to remove sites from the index because they have either linked to or been linked from a bad neighbourhood.
In terms of links, we all know what activities can attribute to spam; participating in link farms (communities of pages referencing each other), using hidden links, spam blogs or the practice of page hijacking. There is also the creation of multiple web sites at different domain names that all link to each other to generate traffic and links (doorway pages). It has got to the stage where everybody is very precious about who they link to and use PageRank as a guideline as whether a site is trusted or not.
So what about the links from a web development company stating in the footer of each site they have built “Web Development By [Company Name]” or “Web Design By [Company Name]“? The ethical question that comes out of using such links is whether these promote the work of the web development company or are purely a link building exercise?
This is a common practice amongst web development and web design firms and often results in hundreds of links from just one site. If you take into account multiple client sites that also have the link it can account for thousands of quality keyword anchor text links. It is clear that the use of a link in the footer is a good opportunity to promote the work of a web designer or web developer and theoretically it could bring more leads as the website is a testament to the quality of their work. However many would consider a link on every footer of the page of a website a bit excessive and even label it as an elaborate ploy to gain a large sum of text links containing important keywords. Is it not considered to be “spammy” having multiple links from the one website with the same anchor text (similar to links between domains with multiple doorway pages interlinking with each other)? Even if the anchor text was slightly modified differently for each page this would indicate that the links have been modified purely for SEO purposes rather than the promotion of their work.
One would think that Google would lower the value of multiple links from multiple pages in one domain but research (just do a search for “web development” in Google Australia) reveals that currently sites employing this tactic are being rewarded in rankings. According to Google Webmaster Help they consider a link scheme to be “Links intended to manipulate PageRank” and “Excessive reciprocal links or excessive link exchanging (“Link to me and I’ll link to you.”)”. Therefore according to Google’s own definition, does “web design by …” links not fit under this classification? So with that food for thought, what does the general SEO community think about this issue?