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I am developing several websites and I usually place a 'created by' link at the bottom next to copyright to promote my job.

Is this a valuable link? Even if it comes from completely different sites (e-shops, forums, blogs, company pages etc)?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Actually, Google is looking at site-wide or template backlinks negatively these days. I do not happen to agree with this fully. It is traditional to give credit to those who have helped you with a link in the footer. But because of the excessive footer links used in template designers in the past few years, Google, and rightly so, has determined that this was an SEO tactic designed to game the system and it is. Therefore any link in a footer if it appears once is fine, but site-wide has caused severe penalties.

Case in point. I got a call a few years back from a template designer who was being penalized for links in the footers of the templates he designed. He was trying to get as many of these links removed as possible. He mentioned that if the link was broken and the citation remained that all should be well. And it was in time. I kept in touch and the penalty was lifted but the damage was done to his business as he nearly dropped off the face of the earth, as far as Google was concerned, for many months.

Evidence: Quote: Widely distributed links in the footers or templates of various sites



Why footer link diversification is horrible advice.

It seems to be all the rage these days to justify site-wide links in footers again as long as there is diversification. However, Google stills says no. (See the first link above.) Here is a warning shot over the bow of anyone who want's to try this tactic.

J.C. Penny was slapped with a huge Google penalty simply because of links created in the footer of sites. It was an ad bug of course and it cost J.C. Penny dearly. J.C. Penny and other companies where completely de-listed through the entire holiday season making the final salvo Google's. It sent shock-waves through the SEO community that they better clean-up their act and fast. Google was not here to play.



Taken from:

Cyrus Shepard of MOZ:

A couple of other rules that I see people violate all the time that Google has made painfully clear in the past few months: Don’t link externally in the footer. Just don’t. I’m not going to go into the reasons. Just don’t do that.

John Mueller in this video:

If it has a nofollow then it doesn’t pass PageRank and we wouldn’t have to worry about what you are linking to, whereas, if it doesn’t have a nofollow and it looks like it is essentially something the web design agency placed there themselves and it’s not an editorial link by that individual website then that’s something that the manual webspam team could be kind of unhappy about.

John Mueller in this video:

In general, if you’re linking things like your brand name then that’s generally fine. That’s a good way to kind of link to your website. That’s usually not something you’d need to add a nofollow to. On the other hand if your branded anchor text is something like “Cheap Web Hosting Seattle” or something like that then that starts to look a little bit manipulative, so that’s something where you might want to use a nofollow.

John Mueller in this video:

Essentially, if you’re dropping links in other people’s websites and you’re using those to forward PageRank to your website then that’s kind of an unnatural link…If you’re doing this for your clients then at the very least they need to be aware of this and they need to see this as something that they’re willingly placing there. So, instead of hiding it in a footer or obscuring it in some way on the sites that’s something I’d made as clear as possible and if you’re using this as a way to advertise your web design or your SEO company, then using a nofollowed link is just fine because it lets people click on that link, go to your website, see your services and make a qualified decision about your website….It should be something that is very clearly visible there and visible to the client that they understand that this link is there and if you’re only placing it there for advertising purposes then putting a nofollow on that link makes it just as valuable in the sense that users are still able to find your website and to see your services there.

John Mueller in this video:

Where the question is:

As a web design agency, one of our add-on sales is that we do hosting. As has been standard practice in web design for most of the web, we have a footer link (most are now branded).


That’s something where you have to think about how you are doing this on your website. If this is something that is essentially being provided in exchange for maybe a lower cost hosting, then that could be considered an exchanged link and an unnatural link. It’s something that the webspam team might take action on. If you’ve just been adding these links across the board for all of these websites and essentially this is not something that the webmaster naturally places on their website then that could be problematic in the sense that if these are PageRank passing links then that PageRank might be seen as kind of passing unnaturally. If you do that and you have a nofollow attached to that link then that’s absolutely no problem. ….One thing that you probably want to make sure is that, again, that this whole thing doesn’t look like an unnatural link and that it’s actually a link to your business and not something like, ‘Cheap Web Hosting’ is being the anchor text. So, really making sure that it’s something where when someone from the webspam team looks at that then we can say, “OK. It’s clear that the webmaster wanted this link there on their own and they’re ok with this link being there so that this is visible as a natural link on those pages.

(This speaks to the OP's question specifically.)

John Mueller in this video:

Where the question is:

Will I get a penalty (or an algo adjustment) for a sitewide dofollow footer link to my web designer? (The anchor is the company name.) What if there were three such links to sister companies? What about links to 10-20 sister sites? Should I nofollow them except for on the homepage?


Generally speaking that’s less of a problem. It’s something where it really should be clear to the user that the webmaster is linking to this site on purpose and not that it’s something that’s required. One of the ways you can guess at that is to see if this is a link that is going to domain directly more or less or does it have some kind of keyword rich anchor text that starts to look really complicated. If you’re saying that “This site was designed by www.marketsharewebdesign or something like that then that’s something where generally we’d say that’s ok.


But in the (Google Webmaster Help) Forum they keep on telling people that it’s a surefire way to a penalty.


I believe by “it”, he means, linking to your site in a client’s footer. John says, “Sometimes it’s a tricky situation, especially when you’re doing this like very keyword rich anchor text there then that starts looking very unnatural. If you want to be absolutely sure that this isn’t the problem then using something like a nofollow or linking using your domain name instead of keyword rich anchor text then that’s usually a little bit safer. ... Also, if you’re doing this (linking from clients’ sites in the footer) and this is essentially the only kind of link your site has then this starts to look a little bit complicated from our point of view in the sense that it might appear that these links are a requirement of having this website made rather than something that the webmaster is doing on their own free will. It kind of looks like a situation where you’re doing the web design for this website and in exchange for the pricing that you’re giving them you’re expecting a link back. Then you’re kind of in a situation of that almost being an unnatural link. It’s something where I can see that some people if they want to be on the extra safe side then that’s something that they might want to look into cleaning up. But if you’re doing this in a sense that the webmaster is essentially able to make this decision on their own and this link isn’t something that looks like a completely keyword rich unnatural link then that’s generally speaking ok.

Marie Haynes, the writer of the article states:

My gut instinct is that provided the link is clearly visible, and provided that you don’t have hundreds of sites that you have designed online then you’re probably ok. The problem here is that John sort of contradicts himself when asked about whether it is ok for web design companies to link back to their clients’ sites. In some places he implies that it is perfectly ok when linking with your brand name or url. But, in other places he is saying that if you are just adding a “Designed by….” link and the site owner has no say in whether or not the link is there then this is unnatural.


I extracted this list from the examples on the page.

  • Keyword rich links.
  • Multiple unrelated footer links.
  • "Money" keywords in footer links.
  • Link network.

I will add that there is likely a limit to the number of footer links pointing to any site. There is clearly a threshold. No-one can say what that threshold is. As well, clearly the inbound link profile must be diverse. If nearly all or too many of your inbound links are identical templated footer links, you will have another problem besides the sheer volume.

Another consideration: While it is said that linking patterns are being looked at and that links between sites with some commonality are being scrutinized, it is clear that it is at least permissible to link between company sites. I mentioned realms in another post. I will describe them again to be clear. If has several sub-domains;,,,, these are within the same realm. If,, and are the same company and share the same registration information and have similar contact information on their about page, these too are within the same realm. Realm is a term used in search as a way of illustrating relationships between sites. Footer links within a realm would likely be permitted as a natural link baring any other issue.

I will go back to what Cyrus Shepard says in how I originally answered this question.

Google says No. I have always admitted that there was some fuzziness surrounding the acceptable limits of what footer (and other site-wide) links will be accepted. Until Google becomes clearer in their guidelines, I believe the responsible answer to the question of whether a site-wide link remains- Don't do it! After-all, who can honestly say what is acceptable? Even John Mueller referred back to the anti-spam team as being the arbiter of the rules. And it sounds to me like the rules are just not clear.

So while some may get away with it, I say use extreme caution or avoid out-bound site-wide links if unsure. I harken back to the web designer who called me in a panic. He was following the advice that John Mueller says was likely okay. But it clearly was not. We know that search engines change the game often based upon discovery, trends, and what they learn. I cannot tell you something is okay today that may not be tomorrow.

So I guess there will have to be a gray area until Google says otherwise. It would be nice it they could put a few parameters around the subject so that honest people can play by the rules. I prefer the tradition of placing a link as gratitude and yet understand that requiring a link in a footer is unnatural linking. Until then, I say follow the Google guidelines. It is better to be safe than sorry.

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Nice response, thanks for the info. – Menelaos Vergis Oct 10 '14 at 7:09
@Closetnoc, not completely true exactly. You only need to look at stack exchange's footer to relise this isn't always the case. It's all about relevancy. – Simon Hayter Feb 13 at 9:20
Look at the evidence you provided, it has stories of paid links, keyword anchors, stuffed links, and non-relevant links. Google now uses link profiling on sites and its far more complex than just slapping site wides. – Simon Hayter Feb 13 at 9:32
@bybe I love your answers and consider you as one of the sharpest knives in the drawer! BTW- I could use a sharpening!! I do not like to differ with you and will concede there is some flexibility with one exception- it is still a "no no" within the Google Webmaster Guidelines. I am not saying that you are wrong, I am saying there is a gray area, but that gray area is fuzzy. How is someone to know when they have gone over the line? So my advice is to follow Googles guidelines. I hope that I have not offended you with my comments. We are actually mostly in agreement. ;-) – closetnoc Feb 13 at 16:46
@bybe I looked at the footer links in the footer of this site. With a few exceptions these are all withing the same realm- meaning sub-domains of the parent site. The exceptions are SO and other sites that still fit within the same realm in that they all are linked by ownership, registration, contact info, and so on. There does seem to be tolerance for this according to John Mueller. I did agree that there are circumstances that would not get a site into trouble- a threshold as I described. But the safest advice is for any OP remains follow Google's guidelines. – closetnoc Feb 13 at 20:12

Footer links carry limited value in regards to link juice but may bring in relevant referral traffic.

My suggestion is that you use you

a) Make this link appear only on the home page and not a site-wide link

b) use your Brand Name as the anchor text in order not to over optimize your backlink anchor text profile which may result in a Penguin penalty.

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I up-voted this answer because of one important fact; a) Make this link appear only on the home page and not a site-wide link This answer is technically and factually correct. – closetnoc Oct 9 '14 at 4:33
There is no harm whatsoever in a sitewide link if it is nofollowed. – zigojacko Oct 9 '14 at 8:30
The question is about site-wide external (outbound) links in the footers of sites and the consequences are quite clear these days. Don't do it. – closetnoc Oct 9 '14 at 15:24

Minimal SEO value as it is a sitewide link but if you've built a great website which credits you in its footer then it's surely going to be positive from a branding / potential new lead generator perspective.

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This statement is completely false. Site-wide links in footers has been a bad idea since 2011 when Google de-listed J.C. Penny and others. In fact, it is a Google no no. – closetnoc Oct 9 '14 at 4:30
That's quite misleading actually. There is no penalty associated to sitewide links if they are for the purpose of internal linkage and navigational purpose. Sitewide links can have a negative effect if abused (as with anything) and it is common knowledge that sitewide links are largely devalued in terms of any SEO benefit. But you certainly won't get a penalty just for having a sitewide link (branded anchor) on a website on that factor alone. – zigojacko Oct 9 '14 at 8:23
The question is about external linking and the consequences are quite clear these days. Personally, I do not like the fact that Google has take such a hard stance over something that is a long standing tradition, but unfortunately, others have abused the tradition of linking in footers and ruined it for all of us. That is unfortunate. I would rather live in a world as you described it. Credit where credit is due. – closetnoc Oct 9 '14 at 15:19

Repeated External Links

Google understands repeatable content in sidebars, footers and headers. Almost every website has repeated content in these elements from text, to images and of course images. The website will not receive a penalty for something that is expected from most websites.

However, external links are some what treated differently. External links repeated on multiple pages will not harm your SEO unless the link is a paid link, a link to a malware site, a link to adult content assuming your content is rated for all or anything that Google does not approve off. Sites that have relevant links in the footer may slightly benefit, while those with non relevant will get zero benefit from Google.

Site-wide links can harm the receiving site if they have enough of these type of links as it can mess with there link profile.

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There is so much evidence and Google's own words along with stories from The New York Times that site-wide links in the footer, header, and sidebar are bad not only for the target site, but the linking site as well. This falls under the Panda model where if a case is significant enough to meet a threshold, a trigger is set. If the trigger is set, the next update/refresh will drop your SERP performance significantly or existence from the SERPs. Someone may get away with a little today, but can you say when the threshold changes? No. My safest and best advice is DON'T DO IT. – closetnoc Feb 13 at 3:44

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