What are broken links?
Broken, dead, or rotten links are web links that no longer work.
They are web clicks that take you to internal or external links that show 404 page not found errors; meaning that the link never existed or doesn’t exist anymore.
What causes broken links?
When web addresses change without being redirected or adjusted to new relevant address, if any; or when they are incorrectly typed, link rot results.
These happens when:
- sites shut down
- sites change domains
- perhaps due to a move from free to paid hosting, rebranding, or a fresh start
- external sites are mistakenly linked as an internal sites
- e.g. linking to hotmail.com from my blog without adding the ‘http://‘, will result in the non-existent url http://adventuresofanovicemum.co.uk/wp-admin/hotmail.com, instead of the working web address, http://www.hotmail.com
- pages are deleted within a site for whatever reason
- particular permalinks are changed
- the permalink structure of sites are changed
- web addresses are made up and entered in the url part of the comment section of sites
- this usually happens when users who don’t own sites don’t know they don’t have to type in a url if they have none.
- typos occur when typing in links
- sites are offline for whatever reason
- payment is not made for a domain or/and web hosting
What can be done about broken links?
They can be found and fixed!
To do this, search the plugin directory for your website or blog platform, for a plugin that can help to find and fix broken links, or check and individually fix them yourself through broken link checker websites.
My preference is for links checker websites, because plugins take up space, and some slow down sites.
There are many websites that check for link rot, but I prefer brokenlinkchecker.com, because it only lists the broken links and it shows exactly where to find them. Its free version unfortunately is limited to 3000 pages.
However, I just found out from this detailed post, about how to use Google Webmaster Tools to check it too.
As you can imagine, it’s easier and quicker when done regularly. The longer you don’t check the working status of the links on your site, the more time you will probably have to spend finding and fixing them later.
Why bother with broken links?
“Generally, 404 errors don’t impact your site’s ranking in Google, and you can safely ignore them”, says Google Webmaster.
“Yah”, you might think. However, Google guidelines highlights the importance of positive user experiences.
“make sure your site adds value and gives the user a reason to visit your site. … Our primary goal is to serve users with high-quality, relevant information.”
“What does broken links have to do with the experience of those who visit your site”, you might wonder. Well, if broken links to, from, and within your site is a regular part of your readers experience of your site, do you think they will keep coming back?
“Usability and user experience are second order influences on search engine ranking success. They provide an indirect but measurable benefit to a site’s external popularity, which the engines can then interpret as a signal of higher quality. … Crafting a thoughtful, empathetic user experience helps ensure that visitors to your site perceive it positively, encouraging sharing, bookmarking, return visits, and inbound links—all signals that trickle down to the search engines and contribute to high rankings.”
Broken links and positive experience of a site just doesn’t seem compatible to me. So, whilst on the one hand, 404s in themselves might not generally affect the ranking of your pages on Google, it obviously doesn’t give your readers a good experience of your site, and THIS feeds into your Google ranking.
In any case, why would you want dead links on your site?
Find and fix away, if you havent recently; and even better, make this a regular part of your blog check up. Whatever you do, don’t stress about it. According to Google,
“404s are a perfectly normal (and in many ways desirable) part of the web. You will likely never be able to control every link to your site, or resolve every 404 error listed in Search Console. Instead, check the top-ranking issues, fix those if possible, and then move on.”
How can I avoid / minimise broken links?
Redirect old urls to new urls whenever you make url changes.
Keep a note of where you guest post, and the known links (pings) to your site; this way you can informed those with links from your site if you make changes to the address of the linked pages. This should of course be done in addition to redirecting to relevant pages if applicable.
If you moderate your comments, do a quick check on of linked url(s) when you reply and approve them.
Test all the links you add to your site after publishing, to make sure they work.
“When you permanently remove content without intending to replace it with newer, related content, let the old URL return a 404 or 410. Currently Google treats 410s (Gone) the same as 404s (Not found). ” – Google
Something to avoid
Avoid redirecting urls of deleted pages to your homepage or pages with different content; Google calls these soft 404s. They waste Google’s crawling time, and can be detrimental to your search ranking. You can however make your 404 page more user friendly by adding helpful links to it.
I hope you found this article useful.
~ Is there anything else you think should be included in this guide? ~
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