Broken Links and Your SEO

Posted on March 31, 2011 • Written by Brad Anderson

As Google and the other search engines place more and more emphasis on a site’s authority as its rating factor, the SEO world is having to change its tactics. Although it was once a world where SEO was determined by on-site content. Today, SEOs are becoming much more focused on the backlinks that their websites are getting, the quality of those links, and how they stand up over time. On-site SEO is still important, but it serves more as a baseline measurement for search engines. Rather than rating sites against each other based on on-site SEO, it seems that increasingly on-site SEO is just a minimum requirement to even be considered by a search engine.

So SEOs are melding with a number of other jobs, like marketing and copywriting, to create comprehensive SEO strategies that focus much more on helping a website get noticed, popular, and respected, rather than stuffing it full of keywords and hoping for the best.

Linking in and Out

Generally linking-in (or generating backlinks) is considered a good SEO strategy. And it is becoming more important as search engines continue to evolve their algorithms. Generating backlinks garners more traffic and boosts your Google Pagerank, so it is hard to argue that reaching out to other sites and creating good content on your site for others to link to is a bad idea. However, linking out is a bit controversial.

In the Google world, you’re popular if a lot of people link to you, but you don’t link to a lot of people. Basically, that’s the definition of popularity. You have more people who want to be your friend than you want to be friends with. However, linking out from your site to others’ (especially in blog posts) can be an effective strategy to get noticed by other bloggers and websites in your industry and to form mutually beneficial relationships.

As well, linking out can help you be more useful in the eyes of users and can help you generate a reputation for being a resource to the online community for a particular topic. And these are both positive outcomes that will boost your SEO and site traffic. However, linking out also comes with some pitfalls in the form of broken links.

How Broken Links Harm Your SEO

According to most SEOs, broken links on your site probably won’t affect your site’s SEO. For example, fixing broken links on old blog posts doesn’t seem to affect your site’s overall SEO or page rank. Not to mention that fact that Google, Yahoo, MSN, and other companies that own search engines have a good number of broken links all over their sites. If broken links were a big deal, those would be fixed right away.

But just because broken links don’t have a direct effect on your SEO doesn’t mean that they can’t harm your site. The real harm to your site with broken links comes in the form of a degraded user experience.

Just because a blog post you wrote over a year ago isn’t getting much traffic anymore is no reason to think that it might not be the first page a users sees when first encountering your website. Keep in mind that search engines search for the best content to match to user queries. If your year-old blog post is the best match for a search, it could be the first page a site visitor sees when coming to your site. Basically, any page on your site could be a home page.

When you have broken links on old blog posts, users will decrease their confidence in your website, click “back” and go on searching for the information they need somewhere else. So, primarily, you want to fix your broken links to improve your user experience and encourage your site visitors to stay on your site longer—maybe even click a link or two and go to your actual home page.

Tips for Fixing Backlinks to Improve Your SEO

First of all, there are a number of tools and plugins that you can deploy on your site that will consistently crawl you site and alert you to broken links. When you first install a solution like this, you could face a mountain of broken links to fix—especially if you’ve have a large site that is not updated frequently or if you have been blogging for more than a few years.

But don’t worry, finding out about broken links through a plugin like this is much better than hearing from your users that your site is useless or having them bad mouth your site to others. Once you find out about broken links, just spend a few minutes a day going through your site and fixing them. With a little work each day, you should get through your broken links in no time.

Next, you can prevent future links from coming up broken later on by linking to more trusted sites and content. If you link to small-time sites or startups, you will probably increase the chance that your link will be broken in the future. Startups are a dime a dozen and may not be around a year from now. On the other hand, news sites tend to keep their content up for longer periods of time. So, when you can, link to a story about a company, product, or new website instead of actually linking to the company, product, or website. This could save your some work down the road. On the other hand, you want to give your users good links directly to the items you talk about, so try and find a balance.

Lastly, the best way to make sure you are not hit with mountains of broken backlinks in the future is stay on top of them. If you’ve installed a broken link plugin, this should be pretty easy to do. Whenever you see a broken link pop up, go fix it right away.

Fix Links, Fix SEO

If you are constantly staying on top of your broken links, all the pages of your website will be clean and user-friendly. And you won’t be afraid of anyone coming onto a year-old blog post as their first interaction with your site. Overall, fixing your backlinks, will increase your website’s image and trustworthiness, leading to higher traffic and more SEO love.

Brad Anderson

Written by Brad Anderson

Brad Anderson is the Executive Director and Founder of Fruition. Brad’s focus is supporting Fruition’s team to enable sustainable growth and excellent client satisfaction (EBITDA growth). With a strong statistical background, Brad built Fruition’s in-house software that is used to manage client success.

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