Is it ethical to place your link in your client's website footer?

By James Catanich
Published: 2020-10-08T08:00:00+00:00
Updated: 2020-10-12T18:59:50+00:00

It's amazing at how many Agencies will tag their client’s website by putting a sitewidelink on every page that links back to their site. This not only drains "link juice" from your client's site, but Google has said many times, that they will devalue this type of linking practice. In short, it just throwing "link juice" away. Then when this client requests our firm to SEO their site, the first thing we do is remove this footer link and it’s amazing, the client's average position in the SERPs move up by 3 to 4 positions. Hummmm…

However, since this linking practice continues to be implemented, I decided to take a poll within LinkedIn where the industry professionals could voice their opinion. The poll lasted two weeks in the middle of October, 2020 and the question presented was:

    Is it ethical for an Agency or Web Designer to place links to their web site in their client’s web site footer?

    Option 1: It's ethical
    Option 2: It's unethical

The Results

Over 598 LinkedIn Members viewed this poll and the comments were like this:

    "Web Design and SEO requires personal branding for the people that really did the work. When we get a new project in, the first thing we do is remove the footer links and any branding (author tag). Once this is done, the original agency does not have a reference website because they do not have their brand on the site. So how can they tell the new clients that this is an example of what we did. Or how can a SEOer tell a future employer, look at what I did. If you don't have a personal website to show & tell, then you are just BSing everyone. Therefore, agencies use footer tags as their brand and in most cases, no authorization by the client was given. Hence unethical!"

    "With the meta tag for "author" I personally don't feel that this practice is ethical. The primary reason that I can see for doing this is to prop up your own agency's inbound link strategy. There are much better ways to do that without turning off customers and using their site to promote your own.
    I believe it's ethical as long as consent is given within a letter of agreement."

    "Only with written consent or within the written contract."

    "Till it is done with the consent of the client it is ethical."

    "Without a contract or contract clause, it is unethical."

The final results:

50% say it's ethical

50% say it's unethical


However, there was an overwhelming agreement that without a written contract stating that this was ok, it’s an Unethical SEO tactic.

In Oct 09, 2012, Moz summed it up the best:

    a) If i was the owner of the site i wouldn't want to leak PR on every page even if i did like the work that was done

    b) If i was the website company i wouldn't want sitewide footer links on sites which make it look like I am paying for sponsored themes

    c) if the links are nofollowed, both parties lose, PR is still leaked from the owners site and benefit is not gained for the website company

    I think the best solution is a dofollow homepage ONLY footer link. This is the highest PR page, usually the most traffic so good visibility for advertising, you're not creating tons of sitewide links with identical anchor texts, and the owner is only leaking some PR on their homepage.

And it is still good advice today.