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Broken and dead links hurt blog SEO

Updated in November 2020
Broken links and dead links are hyperlinks on webpages, which do not link to the destination.

broken links and SEO

Broken links arise due to many reasons, the main ones being:
  • The linked content's URL has been changed.
  • The author of the website / blog typed the URL wrongly.
  • The URL has gone private.
  • The host server has gone bad temporarily (e.g. down for maintenance or attacked by a malware or overburdened due to sudden spike in traffic) or permanently.
  • The URL has been blocked or removed due to its controversial or harmful nature.
  • Links to user-generated content (e.g. answer to "SEO expert near my office") can generate temporary URLs that vanish immediately after use. 
  • Webpages that need logging in cannot be browsed by non-logged-in users.

Bad or broken or dead links get multiplied on blogs and many other CMSs by replicating the same URLs in many places. For example, a bad link might come up on the search pages and category pages in addition to the page where it lies. 

A huge bad link issue arose for bloggers on Blogger.com platform in 2019 when the platform disowned country-specific sub-domains. For example, a blog with URL www.example.blogspot.in became www.example.blogspot.com overnight and links to the old URLs turned bad links.

DON'T IGNORE BROKEN LINKS ON YOUR WEBSITE OR BLOG AS IT HURTS SEO


There are three BIG reasons you must care that all the links on your website work:

  • Broken or dead links irritate visitors. Visitors might not return to a website that has many such links.
  • Broken / dead links also give the impression that you are not serious about the website/ blog. It hurts your online reputation as a brand and as a blogger.
  • Search engines are supposed to penalize websites for broken and dead links - by downgrading the website in ranking - even if there is no direct penalty for broken links.

 

HOW MUCH IS THE BROKEN LINK PREVALENT?


The 404 error code and some hlml messages that announce 'The webage is not responding.' are quite prevalent on the web. We encounter these messages routinely when we visit a hyperlink whose destination is not available.

A source on the Wikipedia page on 'Link Rot' states that about 5% links are found to decay every year. Some web libraries and archives have reported over half of their links going bad over a long period, leading to references on research journals becoming untraceable. Webpages of even highly authoritative websites are reported to be 'rotting' and not being cleaned by the website administrators.

We have seen during our blog directory compilations for more than 10 years that many hobby bloggers keep a large blogroll, and after a time, many of these blogs wither away, turn private or are taken off. The blog directories compiled by ITB too are susceptible to it. In our latest broken link check a month back, we had to remove 16 broken links from our directories as some blogs that once looked great had closed down while some had migrated to new domains without redirecting their old blogging resources to new blogs.


HOW TO ADDRESS BROKEN LINK ISSUE?


Checking one's website or blog for linking errors must be a regular maintenance activity for all webmasters and bloggers. You need to take the following preventive and maintenance actions:

  • Check each hyperlink's working after publishing any webpage, be that an article, a blog page or blog post. If you have a blogroll on your blog, be even more careful.
  • Do not, to the extent possible, link to a PDF document, or a standalone image.
  • If linking images or documents stored online, e.g. in dropbox, be sure that you are not going to password protect or remove such resources after some time.
  • Avoid linking URLs that are generated on your browser when you make a data query on a website. (For example, when you look for comparison between two gadgets with many filters on a gadget site.)
  • Check all your links every six months. If the website or blog has many links, use a link checker. (There are many available on the web, free.)
  • Have a custom '404' page. This is a one-time botheration but helps in the long run. If your CMS / host provide that facility, direct any bad link page to a page that says sorry and takes you to a related page so that the visitor is not put off seeing a rude '404' error page. Blogger and Wordpress blogging platforms have this option available on the website/ blog settings. This post tells how to create a custom 404 error page on Blogger.

BROKEN LINK CHECKERS ON THE WEB


There are many broken link checker tools (mostly free) available on the web, but let me not recommend any particular one because of ethical reasons. The problem is that the broken link checkers of well-known SEO companies are not completely free. I will rather recommend that you open a Google Search Console account and check dead links. That is fully reliable and safe.

After you have got the list, go to individual bad link and take corrective action.

Remember, you must fix broken and dead links as a regular SEO (search engine optimization) activity.