There comes a time in every link builder’s career when a technique comes to mind that just seems too good to be true. It may seem so damn simple you can hardly keep it contained.
If it seems a little suspect though, it probably is, and it won’t end well. Just yesterday, Search Engine Land posted about Google “releasing a new search algorithm it hopes will better catch people who spam its search results or purposely do things to rank better.” So let’s hope your brilliant idea isn’t the SEO tramp stamp!
What is the SEO tramp stamp?
Links back to your site in your client’s footer. It’s shameless self-promotion, and speaks volumes about the types of links you’ll shoot for in client campaigns. The SEO tramp stamp is link spam of the sketchy variety, and here’s why we say no to it.
Your Link Spam Just Threw You Under the Bus
Because Google relies heavily on its link-based algorithm, and because the links you plop in the footer aren’t there because of merit, your tramp stamp is quite arguably link spam. Wait, isn’t spam bad for SEO?
Yes it’s bad for SEO, but this kind isn’t considered by all to be bad because it produces ranking results. “But, so do a whole bunch of other shady link building techniques!” I’d be willing to bet that the same SEOs who tramp stamp the footer would balk at other spammy techniques, but for some reason, this one prevails.
The reason this is bad is because it shows that spam is not beneath you, and gaining links in an editorial manner (which are much more meaningful, valuable, and built for longevity) may not be your strong suit. That’s bad, and not in the cool Michael Jackson sort of way.
So if spam is your strong point, your short-term victories are not scalable, and won’t produce long-term results. And we know long-term results mean everything to the business owner who is trying to make a prolonged, sustainable profit. If your clients barely stay in business, how can you?
Your Stamp Hurts the Trust and Relevance of Your Clients’ Sites
I’m all for the quick wins when it comes to link building, but a quick-win link doesn’t have to compromise your client’s site, or your integrity as an SEO. You wouldn’t link to your client from your own footer because the link isn’t relevant, it provides no additional value to your site, and you know the link juice could be used strategically elsewhere on your own site. You don’t like link juice leaks, and neither does your client (if they know better).
Yeah, but does it work?
Sure it does. Even if it isn’t the Willy Wonka golden ticket in your backlink profile, there’s a good chance it is helping.
I’ll give you a quick example. I recently came across an SEO/Web Design company that is killing it in the local SERPs. I do, however, know of other local companies that are delivering a higher caliber of work with their SEO consulting (and design chops).
I jumped into Open Site Explorer, and in a mere five seconds, I was able to see that the majority of backlinks on the first two pages of results were coming from keyword-rich anchor text in their clients’ footers. The average Page Authority of each link was 49, and the average domain authority was 53.
Not the highest P.A. and D.A., but if they’re getting tons of these links over the years, from a multitude of .coms and .orgs that are aging, that’s surely helping them rank really well, at least locally.
So yes, it works. And yes, it has worked for a long time. So when is Google going to drop the guillotine on this tactic? Google is already dropping the hammer on less than valuable/relevant links, so the tramp stamp can’t be far behind. SEO tramp stampers: Just like the tramp stamp tattoo fad, so too will your link popularity fade. Get to work on increasing your quality signals now, before it’s too late. Get to know about the Google over-optimization penalty, though. SEOmoz has a whole Whiteboard Friday video that, which you should watch.
Bad Neighborhoods Breed Bad Link Karma
Unless you’re actively involved with link building for each client that has your link stamped in the footer, you’re just asking for trouble. The point being, you have no idea how they are building their link profile, or if there is any quality to them at all.
For all you know, they are out buying links, attaining tons of links from seriously low quality pages, and creating a bad neighborhood for you to be linked to. I suppose you could check every client’s backlink profile on a regular basis—or you could spend that time building quality links back to your site instead! The latter would be so much more beneficial to you in the long run.
Recently, Wil Reynolds of SEER Interactive posted about the issues they were having with rank (banned in Google for 12 hours, to be exact) and he commented, “Oh one more, watch which clients you link to, that’s all I’m sayin.” Along the same line as a bad link profile linking back to you, if you’re linking out to a site that is involved in shady practices, the bad link karma can go both ways.
People Hate to Get Burned—So Do Your Clients
How many times has your site gotten spammed? Your e-mail?
Just as we can’t stand getting caught in the quagmire of spam, they can’t stand it either. Some SEOs, though, are taking advantage of a client site only to get more business for themselves. Those who are succeeding at self-promoting, footer-link spam are only preying on those who don’t know any better (clients).
- If you were hired to implement an e-mail campaign for a client, you wouldn’t slip an ad for your SEO business in it, would you?
- If you were hired to run a social media campaign for your client, you wouldn’t tweet about your business would you?
- If you create an infographic for a client, you don’t link back to yourself, do you?
Spend Time on Quality Self-Promotion and Links
Rhea recently shared a link building spreadsheet, and even if you’ve already taken a look at it, it deserves a second and third look. If you haven’t seen it, download it and use it because there’s no excuse for crap links. You’ll know what works, how much time you need, and who to get them from. In the meantime, let’s look at a short list of things you can do to promote yourself and get quality, meaningful links back to your site:
- Create engaging, meaningful, sharable content
- Create educational content
- Give something away
- Create tools, widgets, badges
- Sponsor events
- Use PR outreach
- Participate in social media marketing
- Write guest posts
- Create contests
The list of link building strategies (originally published by Jon Cooper) is long and I get it—it takes work. But hard work pays off, and the SEO tramp stamp isn’t work at all. Think about it. The tattoo tramp stamp looks desperate (no offense to the ladies…or men) and cheap. It has that nickname for a reason! Don’t give your client a bad reputation for personal gain. We’re better than that as an industry.
About the Author
Joe Schaefer is the owner of Untypical Marketing.