Designed By Credit Links Are Good Marketing

Every so often the topic of designed by credit links comes up with someone or another deriding the practice and framing it in a negative light. Lat week it was David Yeiser’s turn in his post on Design Intellection, No Credit Here. I want to take the other side and defend the practice, because not only is there nothing wrong with a designed by credit link, it’s actually smart marketing.

Let me point to David’s arguments and deal with each, since they’re the two common arguments against links.

1. If a person truly wants to know who built the site it will be discovered. Most likely he or she will contact the website owner or organization and ask them.

Really? is that true? I’m sure there are some people who will contact a site owner and ask who designed the site, but I would doubt it happens that often. A credit link certainly wouldn’t prevent someone from contacting the site owner.

All the link does is make it easier to find out who designed the site. It’s easier to click a link than send an email or fill out a form, so not having that link only makes it harder to discover who designed the site. It adds another barrier to finding out who the designer of a site is.

If we follow David’s logic why bother adding a phone number to your site. People will surely still email if they want to contact you. In fact why add an email address, since anyone can simply fill out your contact form. Why even have any contact information on your site since anyone can find out who owns the domain and send an email to one of the contacts listed on a whois.

OK, I’m taking that last bit to an extreme, but the point is each additional way to contact you makes it easier for the person wanting to contact you. Some people are happy filling out a contact form. Some aren’t. Some prefer email. Some prefer a phone call. Wouldn’t we advice our clients if they want to be contacted they should provide as many ways to be contacted as is reasonable.

The designed by credit link doesn’t do anything to reduce the chances someone will find out you designed a site. It can only increase the chances. Yes, some, maybe even many, people will still find out who designed the site, but it will absolutely be less people than if the credit link is present.

2. The client is paying you for your services. You are delivering a specialized product that is a very valuable asset to them. To stamp your name – even inconspicuously – on every page is tacky.

I think this is the real argument most people have against designed by credit links and all others arguments are trying to add justification to this, because this argument really doesn’t hold water.

Look around you at any product you see. I’d be willing to bet somewhere on it is the name of the company that produced it. Is there a logo on the clothing you’re wearing right now? If not I guarantee there’s a label somewhere inside with the company name on it. The computer you’re using to read this post, I bet the manufacturer’s name is visible. I see Macbook Pro right at the bottom of my monitor and a very visible Apple logo on the back of the same monitor. My previous laptop had a big Dell logo on lid and the model of the laptop just above the keyboard.

My TV, DVD player, and DVR are all clearly marked as is my stereo. My books all show the publisher and the author on the spine.The cardboard boxes I used to move into my condo have the name of the store where I bought them in very large letters.

It’s called marketing. If you build it they will come only works in Hollywood movies. If you want to build a business you need to tell people about your business. That’s marketing 101 and that’s all a designed by credit link is doing.

There’s nothing tacky about it. And before you say that design is some kind of higher profession and it’s tacky to market its higher purpose check out most of the artwork around you. I bet most of it was signed by the artist too. I guess it was tacky for them to let you know who created that painting.

Yes the client is paying me to design a site and I would never put a link there without asking them first. If the client says no, then no link. That’s their right. But I will ask because it is good marketing. In fact most of my clients have mentioned it to me and insisted I added my link before I ever bring it up.

Adding the link without first asking the client if it’s ok is wrong. Not asking if it’s ok is bad business.

It would also be tacky to make your credit link blink or have it be a dominant element on the page. But to leave it unobtrusively at the bottom, say near the usual copyright information isn’t tacky at all. If it is you may need to rethink your career choice.

Credit Links for SEO

I will agree with David here. Credit links should really not be part of your seo strategy or rather they shouldn’t be a big part. It’s still a link after all so why not get it. However search engines are smart enough to realize why the credit link is there and while I have no doubt the link counts I also have no doubt it doesn’t count for much.

Designed by credit links are not likely to have a significant impact when it comes to where your pages rank in search engines, though like most links they probably help, at least in some small degree.

In general designed by credit links are perfectly fine and and a more than acceptable practice. They’re simply good marketing. If you want to think they’re tacky then don’t add them, though you might want to think through the rest of your marketing, because it’s just as tacky and probably more so.

Designed by Credit Links are Good Marketing

Can we please stop telling people there’s something morally wrong with designed by credit links? If you think they’re tacky don’t use them. We all have limits to how far we’re willing to go in promoting ourselves. Credit links are very far from the envelope though. I’d be willing to bet most everyone who derides the practice markets themselves in some way that pushes things much further toward tackiness.

Don’t place one on a client’s site without asking first, but go ahead and ask. Most of your clients will be fine and some may even ask you to include it whether you ask them first or not. Understand there’s nothing wrong or tacky about them. Those links are simply good marketing.

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9 comments

  1. I have emailed a few site owners in the past to find out who designed their site and have never had a reply. You cant rely on your customers to do you marketing for you. Even if you thinK a link is tacky how about commenting your code instead?

    • You cant rely on your customers to do you marketing for you

      Great point. Hopefully they will market for you by telling friends and associates, but you can’t assume they will.

      I’m not sure how many people other than web designers and developers would view the source code. For people who work on websites you can add it. Every WordPress theme has a section at the top of the css showing who the theme author is.

      Kind of surprising that no one would reply when you asked who deigned their site. I can understand not everyone responding, but I’d think you’d get at least one reply. Guess it’s another reason to add the credit link.

  2. If I’m looking at a well designed site I *always* have a look in the footer to see who designed it, and usually do the same if the site is designed badly.

    I agree with all the points made in the article and I can’t see why anyone would think it’s tacky. I wouldn’t think it’s right for the designer to add their name to an advert, say on a billboard poster or similar as in that case the customer is paying for advertising and it could be seen as unfair if the designer tries to piggyback on that.

    • I do the same, though in fairness I am a web designer and probably do that more than the average web surfer.

      I have a hard time understanding why some think these links are tacky. Obviously they can be designed to be tacky, but as long as they’re unobtrusive I don’t see the problem.

      For whatever reason every so often I see someone telling others that including these links is wrong. Thought it was time I should argue that they’re perfectly fine.

  3. I know this post is old, but I don’t think the issues have changed.

    I personally think it is great marketing to include a credit link on sites one has designed or significantly worked on (yes, sometimes even sites I have done SEO on). I have gained a couple clients over the years, and for even one client it is worthwhile.

    I also believe they are quite good for SEO. Here is why: When a company allows your link on their home page, that is quite a vote of confidence. The search engines try to distinguish high quality links (those that are displayed in prominent places as votes of confidence) from low quality links that are tucked away where the website owner hopes visitors won’t see them (like on a “links” page.) While the footer is not the most conspicuous place, the home page is valuable real estate. The search engines know that most website owners won’t just let any low-quality link onto their home page, so I believe these are actually quite valuable.

    That being said, if I was the site owner, I would want that link to be pretty inconspicuous. As a consumer, I have always seen it as quite presumptuous when a clothing line places its logo visibly on the garment or when the vehicle maker puts its logo on the car. “Want me to be your walking billboard? The pay me, instead of charging me for the shirt. Want me to drive your logo around town? Then pay me.”

    So, while I like credit links both for the referral business they generate and for the SEO value, I 100% understand when somebody prefers not to have it included.

    • A good comment is always welcome no matter how old the post. :)

      I never understand why people have an issue with designed by credit links. It’s just basic marketing 101. I would never place one on a site without a client’s permission, but assuming they’re fine with it I can’t think of a reason not to add it.

      I also agree they shouldn’t be too attention getting. The focus should still be on the client’s site and not your link. The links became common enough that I think people know where to look for them.

      While I understand what you’re saying about seo, I’m not sure the links are that effective. Unfortunately it’s been a spam tactic to place links like that in the footer and I doubt search engines trust them much.

      Also search engines have gotten more sophisticated at understanding page layout. They tend to favor links within the content over links in the boilerplate.

      That said I don’t see how a designed by credit link would hurt. I just don’t think it will significantly help.

  4. I agree, designed by links are mostly unobtrusive, and still an effective marketing tool.

    Over the past few years I’ve had quite a few enquiries which came off designed by links, and more often than not they turn into clients! Sometimes it can be just as effective as getting high positions in Google because the person will already know they like the tone and style of your design, so they are far more likely to make that initial contact.

    In terms of SEO I can’t see Google taking this negatively, as long as not too much keyword stuffing going on :)

    • Sounds like we agree. :)

      I’ve had people contact me via those links as well and it has led to clients. Not a lot, but some. I see those links as mostly the same as the product logos you find on most everything you buy.

      I know the negative talk about them is that they’ve unfortunately been abused by some. However I’m with you. I don’t see Google or Bing being too upset about these links. At worst I would think they wouldn’t give them any value.

      Google has been stepping up it’s efforts in recent months to combat any tactic they consider spam and footer links are included in those efforts. However I think they’re targeting different kinds of links. I have a hard time seeing how they could penalize a designer for leaving a credit.

      With all that said I would never add that link unless a client was ok with it. If a client doesn’t want it there, then it won’t be there.

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