Link building is one of the most important aspects of search engine optimization. Link building is the process of creating a strategy that encourages external links that point to your site. After all, according to Google, linking is one of the most important ranking factors when weighing the value of a website.
“In general, business owners with a local focus should always be creating high-quality content for their website, improving on-site SEO for specific cities or regions, and integrating a locally targeted link building strategy,” says digital marketing agency Silverback Strategies.
The links between websites help build the foundation of the Web, which connects everything on the Internet. However, as you begin to work on creating your link-building strategies, one of the first steps you should take is fixing your broken links. Here’s what you need to know:
What Is a Broken Link?
Before you dive any deeper, it’s important to understand exactly what a broken link is. A broken link is a link that directs the user to a destination that isn’t working or no longer exists. When the webpage no longer works, it reflects poorly on you—the person who pointed your site visitor in that direction.
How Can Broken Links Hurt You?
There are several ways that broken links can hurt you. Let’s start with the user: if a user finds that they’ve clicked on a link in one of your blog posts that doesn’t take them in a direction they expect, they can become frustrated. No, they will not always click the “back” button on their browser; many of them will move on to the next best thing. And when this happens, it creates a negative chain of reaction. As users start to become frustrated with the lack of value and credibility offered by your site, it can harm your credibility as an authority in your space, and even hurt your conversions in the long run.
Your SEO Will Take a Hit
We’ve discussed the domino effect of a bad user experience due to broken links, but you also have to consider one the biggest negative effects of all: your SEO will be damaged as a result. This is because search engines hate broken links, and consider them proof that your site isn’t accurate, or providing value to the user. Think about it: if the most important metrics all play a role in how search engines perceive your websites, then high bounce rates due to broken links will frustrate big engines like Google.
Search engines crawl your entire site to determine its relevance. These “spiders” use links as context clues to gain a better understanding of your copy. When they reach a link that’s broken, it’s similar to hitting a brick wall—you can’t go any further. This can prevent them from conducting a proper indexing process, which results in your website appearing lower in search engine results pages.
Fixing Internal & External Broken Links
According to the Library of Congress, the average lifespan of a webpage is 100 days. The average lifespan of an entire website, however, is nearly three years. With this in mind, it’s important to think about how often broken links can occur—even on your own webpage. Broken links from other websites happen, but it’s also possible that you’ve got some broken internal links, too. For instance, you may have decided to delete a page on your site to create a better version of it. If that page you deleted in linked to in other areas on your website, it creates a broken internal link.
One of the best and easiest ways to fix broken links are to use broken link tools. If you use WordPress, you can install a broken link plugin like Broken Link Checker—one of the platform’s more popular options. This plugin will scan your entire site to ensure there are no broken links. They will even make it easy for you to update broken links without having to manually open each page that contains one. There are also other tools, like Screaming Frog, that provide the same service.
Employ Preventative Measures
Thankfully, there are several ways you can help prevent future broken links that hurt your SEO and reputation. First and foremost, conduct a site audit regularly to make it easier to catch potential issues before they become a bigger problem. Additionally, you want to always be linking to reputable sources that have longevity, and therefore aren’t like to shut down shop any time soon.
And lastly, always refrain from deleting a page from your site. There’s a proper way to handle page deletion. The reason why is because deleting a page will result in a “404 not found” error. Instead, simply redirect the page to its new location, or create a 410 page, which informs the visitor that the content has been permanently deleted.