If you’re a website owner, you’re likely aware of the importance of high-quality backlinks for search engine optimization (SEO). From helping users discover your website to escalating your page rankings, there’s no doubt that links from authoritative sources have tremendous power.
But even after tracking down those invaluable backlinks, they only serve their purpose when they’re in good condition. If the site where the link was placed gets removed, the link becomes useless. This is known as a broken link.
The accumulation of broken links will not only be a huge demerit in your SEO score, but it could cause you to lose valuable ‘link juice.’ In this article, we’ll be discussing the different types of broken links, why they must be addressed, and the most effective methods to detect and fix them.
What are Broken Links?
Broken links (also known as dead links) are links from other sites or pages that have become inactive due to several reasons. Generally, broken links occur because a page has been deleted or its address has been changed, either unintentionally or deliberately.
Whatever the cause may be, broken links can be very time-consuming to identify and fix, since they’re typically scattered throughout your website or blog. That’s why it’s important to establish preventative measures to avoid broken links in the first place.
How Broken Links Affect SEO
The search engine’s algorithms are constantly scanning websites for any errors and redundancies; this evaluation is referred to as ‘crawling.’ Web pages littered with broken links aren’t given priority by search engines because they are not ranking factors.
Moreover, a significant number of broken links could make your website look poorly maintained and out of date, damaging your reputation and trustworthiness in the process.
Search engines will occasionally discard a website with a high concentration of link errors, and thus, a lowered rank in search engine results pages. The more broken links a website has, the more ‘link juice’ it loses.
Unfortunately, broken links come with the territory of website building, especially for large and ancient websites. Thankfully, some steps can be taken to track and repair broken link errors.
How to Find and Fix Broken Links
First off, you should conduct a thorough audit of your content and hyperlinks to determine the number of broken links you need to address. There are some tools available online to assist webmasters in conducting an audit of their links.
The next step is to identify the root cause of the issue. Broken links can occur for reasons such as a page being moved or deleted, incorrect links being used, or a page not responding correctly. Once you’ve ascertained the reason for the dead link, you can address the issue accordingly.
Deleted Pages or Pages with Incorrect Mark-up
If the page to which the link is connecting is simply missing, or if the mark-up on the page is wrong, then all that’s needed is a little bit of modification. Try and locate the page by name or URL, and if found, paste the correct web address into the link.
If the page was deleted, you can redirect the index of the page to another page on your website. You should also add a 301 redirect in the root of the old URL and point it to the new one. This also helps to retain existing rankings, as well as some of the ‘link juice.’
When webmasters need to move a page or a website to a new address, they often cut-and-paste the URL of the old address to the new one. This is not a good practice, especially if the connection between the two sites is permanent.
It’s best to configure a ‘301 redirect’ from the old URL to the new one. This type of redirect fights link rot and tells the search engine that the page is relocated permanently, carrying its SEO value (link juice) with it.
Link rehabilitation is the process of cleaning up broken links by analyzing the anchor text and detecting any incorrect or outdated links. Tools such as Ahrefs, DeepCrawl and Google Search Console will help you drill down broken link errors quickly and effectively.
Then you’ll need to figure out how to replace the broken link with a valid URL. If a link is linking to a third-party website, then you should check to make sure that website still exists and is available. If it is, it may be a good idea to visit the page manually and reapply the new link.
If the link is redirecting to an internal page on the same website, then the issue is likely that a URL path within the website has changed. Simply changing the URL path of the link should point the link to the correct page.
Once you have fixed the broken link and have redirected it to the new page, it is important to make sure the new page has the same primary content as the page being linked out to. If the page does not exist anymore, then it is essential that you find a page with similar content for it to link out to.
Aside from relevancy, quality is the other key factor to consider here. You want to make sure you are linking to pages that are of quality, especially if you are linking to third-party websites.
It is important to research the page you are going to link out to as you want to make sure you link out to a reliable website with legitimate content and minimal spam.
Broken links are a major demerit to any website, and unfortunately, they can appear anywhere, at any time. Therefore, it is important to check your website periodically to look for any link rot, especially if your website has been around for a while.
Alternatively, you can use tools such as Ahrefs, Majestic and SEMrush to audit your backlinks and detect any broken links. Doing so will not only help you reclaim valuable ‘link juice,’ it will also help you continue delivering an optimal user experience, and boost your website’s trustworthiness and search engine visibility.