Understanding what a broken link is, its usability, the beneficial aspects it can carry along, and a preliminary guide to get started can provide robust progression in your SEO strategies.
What is a broken link?
A broken link, also known as a 'dead link', refers to links on a webpage that don't work anymore. This usually occurs when the webpage they point towards is deleted or moved, causing the link to lead to a 404 error page instead. Broken links can potentially harm a website's search engine ranking, user experience, and overall credibility.
These links are a part of the internet, and as much as we hate them, they still pop up everywhere. They can be found on almost every website, and can occur for a variety of reasons, including a change in the URL of the linked page, the linked page being deleted or moved, or errors when inputting the URL.
Broken links can also occur as a result of a website going offline, linkage to content (such as a file or a picture) that has been deleted, or a technical malfunction of a website’s server. Needless to say, regular auditing for broken links is an important part of maintaining a website.
Why are broken links important?
Broken links are significant because they can directly affect the overall performance of your website. Visitors may get frustrated when they click on a link only to find it leads nowhere, and this negative experience may discourage them from returning to your site. Additionally, broken links can negatively impact your SEO as well.
Search engines like Google factor in the user experience when determining search engine rankings. When the search engine crawlers find a broken link, it indicates a low-quality website and can hurt rankings. Google may decide to lower the website’s position in the ranked search results, which could lead to a reduction in site traffic.
Lastly, broken links can jeopardize your website’s reputation. They reflect carelessness and poor maintenance, thereby resulting in the loss of trust among visitors. In a time where credibility matters a lot, broken links can be quite harmful.
Types of broken links
There are several ways to classify broken links. The term primarily refers to links that lead to an error message, but it can also relate to a link that redirects to an unexpected page, a link that does nothing when clicked, or a link that leads to an outdated resource.
Internal and external broken links are the two main types of broken links. Internal broken links are links that fail to lead you to a different page on the same website, which can be caused by changing the URL of a page without updating the link, deleting pages, or errors in link creation. On the other hand, external broken links lead to different websites, which can stop working due to the website it leads to shutting down or moving the linked page.
Finally, there are broken image links and broken email links. These can be caused by typos, image, or email server issues. Identifying these different types of broken links will enable you to systematically correct them.
Examples of broken links
Examples of broken links can be seen in old blog posts where the author fails to update the links. Internet activities such as modifying the URL structure due to rebranding or SEO purposes can also produce broken links. Errors can also be found when migrating to a new content management system.
Take, for instance, when a company wishes to rebrand its portfolio and changes its domain name. If they fail to appropriately update all the links referring to the old domain name, this can result in broken links. Also, broken links can occur when an external page linked to gets moved or deleted. Let’s consider a blog that links out to research papers or publications. If the owner of that paper or publication decides to move or delete the page, the link on the blog becomes broken.
Another example might arise when an image which was formerly linked is removed or moved from its original location making the link broken. In the case of an email, if an email address has been discontinued or it contained typos, any links to it will be broken.
Handy tips about broken links
You can handle broken links by regularly carrying out website audits, using tools like Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools, redirecting old URLs to new pages, keeping your site structure as simple as possible, and updating your links on the go.
You could also use a 301 redirect. A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect which passes between 90-99% of link equity (ranking power) to the redirected page. Using it can ensure users and search engines are directed to the correct page, which can be helpful when rebranding or restructuring your site, or when you want users to be directed to a new page or site.
Another option is the use of a custom 404 page. By personalizing your 404 page, you can direct lost users back to other important aspects of your site. This could include links back to your homepage, site map, or even a search box.
Understanding broken links, their implications, types, and methods of handling them can make a huge difference in maintaining the quality of your website. From the types of broken links, which include internal, external, image, and email, to the importance, it is clear that these little errors can amount to significant problems if not dealt with properly.
Despite the potential problems they can cause, it is possible to handle these broken links. Regularly conducting website audits, keeping your site structure simple, updating your links, using 301 redirect where necessary, or having a custom 404 page can go a long way in solving the problem. All these put together can contribute significantly towards improving the user experience of your website, maintaining its credibility, and enhancing SEO rankings.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How can I identify broken links on my website?
There are several tools online that can help identify broken links on your site. These include online services such as BrokenLinkCheck or Dead Link Checker, and SEO tools such as SEMrush and Ahrefs.
Can broken links lead to lower SEO rankings?
Yes. Search engines consider the user experience when determining the search engine rankings. If their crawlers come across broken links on a site, it can affect your position in the search rankings negatively.
How often should I check for broken links?
This can depend on the size of your site and how often you update or add new content. However, a general good practice is to check for broken links every 90 days.
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