Picture this: while googling, you stumble upon an intriguing article, promising a wealth of information, a juicy revelation, or perhaps a good laugh. You excitedly click the link, only to be met with a dreaded error message: “404 Not Found.” Alas, you’ve just encountered the ghoulish phenomenon known as “link rot”.
Around 8% of all links rot after the first 3 months, and close to 44% of all links are lost after 7 years — that’s a pretty enormous link graveyard! Whether internal or external, broken links will create an altogether frightening user experience, so don’t let this silent killer send your website to an early grave!
But fear not. This Halloween, link rot is one terror you can conquer. So, grab your virtual lantern, steady your cursor, and let’s venture into the shadows of link rot management.
What is link rot?
Image credit: Dreamhost
Link rot — a chilling phenomenon also referred to simply as “dead links” — refers to the gradual or sudden deterioration of hyperlinks over time. These hyperlinks, initially functioning as bridges between different web pages, documents, or resources, eventually become broken or invalid; when a user clicks on this link they’re directed to an error page, typically displaying a “404 Not Found” message. This occurs when the content behind the link has been removed or relocated without a proper redirect being put in place.
Types of broken links
1. Internal links gone awry
Within the dark corridors of your website lie the ghostly remnants known as broken internal links. A mere click, and you anticipate a journey to a particular page, only to be misled into a disheartening abyss.
2. External links leading to nowhere
A broken external link appears like a phantom. Your website attempts to guide explorers to an external page but the path has crumbled into darkness. While it’s wise to inspect your outgoing links and keep them updated, from an SEO standpoint, these ghostly links hold no immediate value; in fact, they’re detrimental to the user experience.
3. Shattered backlinks
Broken backlinks occur when another website directs a link to a page on your site that no longer exists or functions properly. In this spine-chilling scenario, you might lose conversion opportunities, so maintaining your links is essential for referred visitors to stay and engage with your content.
Why are dead links harmful to your website’s SEO?
When it comes to improving your website’s SEO and securing that top spot on Google’s search results, understanding the perils of dead links is paramount. Dead links can cast a gloomy shadow over your website’s potential to soar in rankings and attract organic traffic instead, leaving an eerily empty dead end…
Dilution of domain authority
Domain authority is the bedrock of a website’s credibility in the digital realm. It’s like the virtual credit score that search engines consider when determining how well a website should rank. Dead links can sap away this precious domain authority.
When your website has an abundance of broken links, it signals to search engines that your site may not be adequately maintained or worse, directing users to nowhere. This diminishes your domain authority, making it harder to rank higher on Google.
Adverse impact on link building
Link building services provide a strategic approach to augmenting a website’s SEO by acquiring high-quality backlinks from reputable sources. However, dead links throw a wrench in this well-oiled machinery.
When the backlinks you’ve painstakingly acquired turn into dead ends, your link building efforts ultimately go to waste. For an effective link building strategy, it’s essential to ensure all your acquired backlinks are active and contributing positively to your SEO.
Poor user experience, impacting outreach campaigns
Outreach campaigns often aim to engage and captivate users, attracting them to your website through compelling content and seamless navigation. Dead links, however, disrupt this flow and tarnish user experience.
Imagine an intrigued user clicking on a link you shared and exploring other pages on your site, only to be met with an error message. This disappointing experience can deter potential customers, partners, or collaborators, hampering the success of your outreach efforts and, subsequently, your SEO.
Increased bounce rate
Whether your website has one or multiple broken links this hinders their access to essential information and causes them to browse elsewhere. In the eyes of search engines like Google, a soaring bounce rate is a red flag, suggesting that your website may not be delivering the optimal user experience compared to your competitors.
Common reasons for broken links
Links don’t just break for no reason. However mysterious this phenomenon might seem, there’s always a reason for link rot. These reasons may include:
- You mistakenly conjured an incorrect URL, perhaps due to a typo.
- The URL structure of your site recently changed (permalinks) without a redirect leaving a creepy black hole of nothingness.
- The link path that once led to an external domain has now become a ghost town, vanishing into thin air, leaving explorers stranded in the digital abyss.
- Links to content — be it PDFs, Google Docs, or videos — have been spirited away or banished from the realm.
- A firewall or a geolocation restriction stands guard, forbidding the passage of wanderers from beyond…in other words, your firewall is blocking the page!
How to find broken links on your site
If you suspect broken links are lurking on your site, it’s time to hunt those fiends down! To uncover dead links on your site, you can either use a broken link checker or Google Console.
Using a broken link checker tool
Picture a broken link checking tool (such as Ahrefs’ unambiguously named broken link checker) as your mystical lantern, illuminating the dark corners of your website to reveal the broken links lurking in the shadows.
Here’s how to use a broken link checker:
- Choose a suitable link checker — many SEO tools such as Ahrefs and Screaming Frog include link-checking functionality.
- Enter your website’s URL and let the tool embark on its spectral hunt through your site.
- Delve into the results to discover your broken links. Armed with this newfound knowledge, you’ll know exactly where to go to fix them.
Using Google Console to discover broken links
Google Console, a mystical oracle in the SEO realm, can also unveil the secrets of broken links haunting your domain. To use Google Console for deal link discovery:
- Visit the Google Console dashboard and navigate to the specific property (website) you wish to investigate.
- Head to the ‘indexing’ section and examine the page errors to reveal a list of URLs causing problems, including broken links. Click on each error to unearth more details.
- Head to those pages and fix your broken links by rectifying the URLs or setting up appropriate redirects.
How to fix dead links
Once you’ve found those ominous dead links, it’s time to fix them — this process differs slightly depending on whether you’re fixing internal links, external links, or backlinks.
Here’s what you can do about them:
Put the page live again
Your broken link could be down to the page being accidentally removed or deleted. Where possible, all you need to do is put the page back up and you’ll reclaim the lost equity.
Redirect to a closely-related page
If the page has moved or the link leads to a product you no longer sell, you could set up a 301 redirect. Simply choose an equivalent page to replace the broken link.
Check for typos
Check that you’ve typed out the link correctly. An extra digit, letter, or dash could send users to a 404 page. If the page you intended to link towards is actually still live, copy and paste its URL over again to ensure accuracy.
Email the owner of the linking site
If you’ve changed the URL for an external link, then you can try to find the contact details of the linking site and politely request that they update the link to the new URL.
Regularly check for broken links
The best way of fixing broken links before they do real damage is through regular site maintenance. If you have a huge site, checking daily could be a better option; but otherwise, weekly checks should be sufficient, enabling you to capture broken links before they have a chance to do any real harm to your UX or rankings.
How to start broken link building
Did you know that reviving inactive links on external websites can markedly enhance your domain authority and advance your overall SEO strategy? Participating in the art of broken link building presents a distinctive chance for a mutually-beneficial outcome — a win-win for both parties involved!
Here’s how to start:
1. Find broken links on websites
If you’re running an existing outreach campaign, utilise a broken links checker to identify dead links on those sites. It’s crucial to replace these inactive links with relevant content, so find a high-quality link from your site.
2. Identify and replace your competitors’ broken links
Extend your search to your competitors’ sites to identify dead links. Locate deceased pages and reach out to the website owner hosting the broken link. This provides a golden opportunity to replace it with a link to your own content!
3. Reach out to the website owner
Once you’ve identified a dead link and found a suitable replacement, compose a well-crafted email. Address the specific page and broken link, proposing your replacement URL.
How to craft an email for broken link building
- The Greeting: If you know the recipient’s name, use it for a personalised touch!
- The Issue: Let the recipient know what page on their site you’re referring to (provide the URL), and tell them which link is broken.
- The Introduction: Introduce yourself and the website that you’re working with by name.
- The Solution: Provide them with the URL you want the link to point to.
- The Benefit: Of course, you’re mainly doing this for your own benefit, but remember that broken backlinks are also harmful to a site. Emphasise how resolving this broken link is advantageous for both parties, aiding SEO efforts.
- Keep it Short: Keep the email brief and to the point, covering the essential points succinctly.
- Be Patient: Allow some time for the website owner to respond. Follow up politely if needed, avoiding excessive follow-ups.
Here’s an example email by Semrush:
I noticed your article “How to Grow Spring Flowers” [insert hyperlink] contains a broken link.
Looks like FlowerMag deleted their flower report, as the URL brings up a 404 error.
If you’re looking for an alternative to improve your SEO, we’ve just published a new article on the best spring flowers for beginners [insert hyperlink] here at FlowerFanatic.
We found that tulips are the most popular flower for spring!
Now you’re ready to banish those ghostly dead links and avoid link rot forever more! Whether you opt to buy backlinks, check on internal links, or embark on an outreach campaign for link building, tending to your links is the key to a well-performing site. Never underestimate the power of link maintenance.
Looking for professional link building services? Seeker is an SEO company in Bristol that can help you gain and nurture your links. Get in touch with us today to find out more.