It’s long been customary for web design companies to stick a small piece of text on the bottom of any homepage that they’ve done some work on. If you don’t already know why this is significant, read on, you might be unpleasantly surprised! In simple terms, every link that goes from your website carries with it a vote (some call this linkjuice) that says to search engines – see this website at the end of this link – I’m endorsing it. The net effect of this is to increase the authority of the domain that you are linking to – which in term helps them to get higher ratings in the search engine results pages (serps).
Some argue that web design companies that do this (without discussing it with their clients) are behaving properly as it is just like car dealerships putting a sticker in your back window advertising where the car came from. I (and lots of others) think this isn’t okay – unless it has been specifically discussed with the website owner and they’ve given it their blessing. Why? Well, it’s more than free advertising, it also gives the web design company a commercial benefit. If they have discussed it, or reflected it in the price – all well and good.
There has been a persistent and long running debate as to the ethics of this and you don’t have to look too hard to find fairly passionate responses for both sides.
I think this is a good example of the sort of thing that website owners or those commissioning new sites need to be aware of. It seems to be the nature of the web that sharp practice is more prevalent than other walks of commercial life.
So, if your website has one of these links and it wasn’t discussed with you or put in your contract, go and talk to your developer. If they want to advertise on your website, they must be prepared to pay!