Nothing drives people away from your website faster than a slew of broken links. Imagine clicking on a link and expecting to learn more about a topic or see a great video. Instead, you’re hit with the infamous 404 error — a virtual dead end that leaves you wondering what could have been.
Having a broken link once in a while probably won’t cause a big problem. But if visitors constantly run into errors on your site, they will stop coming back. Broken links make your site seem poorly maintained, both to users and web crawlers. Over time, your site ranks lower and lower in search engines, which means fewer people will find you through organic search.
Why Do Broken Links Occur?
Routinely checking your site for link errors is one of the simplest ways to boost SEO. You want it to be easy for visitors to find the right pages and get the information they need. First, you should understand common reasons why links go dead in the first place.
A website has several types of links. An internal link connects two pages on your domain. An inbound link leads from an external domain to your site. An outbound link leads from your site to an external domain. A link breaks when a significant change is made to the origin or destination page. For example:
A link leads to deleted media, such as videos.
A page is moved to a new URL.
A URL is updated/renamed.
An entire site is moved to a new domain.
A site is temporarily down for maintenance.
As a busy site owner, you can easily forget to update links when you move or rename pages on your domain. That could eventually add up to a load of bad links if you have a content-heavy site, such as a blog. On third-party sites, you don’t have any control over changes to webpages, making it even more important to test links periodically and ensure they still work.
What’s the Big Deal About Broken Links?
Still wondering what broken links have to do with SEO best practices? Top search engines rank your site based on its performance and the experience it delivers to users. Two vital factors include:
The length of time users spend on your site
The frequency of backlinks from other quality sites
When users find a high volume of relevant information on your site, they stay longer, click on more links, and link back to your content. The anchor text for a link sets up expectations for users, especially if you’re sharing media. Visitors quickly get frustrated when a content experience is cut short and they have to go somewhere else to get answers.
Not only do bad links mess with navigation, but they make your site look neglected and hurt your credibility. A disorganized site destroys opportunities to keep visitors around long enough to convert them to customers or subscribers.
How to Manage Broken Links
The good news is there are relatively simple ways to check for bad links. You can use free plug-ins or diagnostic tools, such as the Addme Broken Link Checker, to search for links that should be removed or updated.
Once you have a report, you can repair broken links by locating the correct URLs. Of course, this is easy for internal links because they exist on your domain. To update outbound links, try using a search engine or a search tool on the destination site to look up the title or topic. Sometimes, a page no longer exists at all, and your best option is to find another site with similar content.
Inbound links are a bit trickier because an external site is linking to yours. It’s up to third-party sites to maintain their own links. However, if you’re aware of a few quality sources of backlinks, it’s worthwhile to contact the site owners and offer updated URLs. Other professionals are just as concerned about maintaining good site health, so it’s in their best interests to respond positively to this helpful gesture.