If you are in a competitive market you need links to compete. In 2004 I remember a web design firm quoting a new launching auto insurance firm (which wanted to buy SEO services) a design for ,000 and then claiming that "the SEO was in the code" ...
as though somehow there was no need for a link building/buying budget.
The equivalently dishonest marketing angle would be an SEO grabbing a set of free web templates to go along with their SEO services and claim that everyone gets a free professional custom website design as part of their SEO package.
Sure that was 2004 & that web design company was not as well known as it is today.
But the web designers who lie about the importance of code validation for SEO and those scamming their customers with fake "in the code" SEO packages can go to hell as far as I am concerned.
What ***really*** annoys me about the arrogance of the web designers like the one quoted above is how they can know absolutely nothing about SEO and then claim that valid code is the key to SEO.
The article mentions some shoddy survey, that you can use their tools, and that "From only £100 a year, a company can implement a solution that will ensure much-improved rankings." They also flat out lied with this gem "Search engines expect the keyword or phrase on each webpage to make up six-to-ten percent of its content." To apply the equivalent sort of advice to web design I would have to write truly useless design tips like A lot of our best customers in our community are former web designers who got started doing design, but care about the success of their customers and began moving themselves up the value chain by offering web designs that come with real SEO services.