Everybody’s been frustrated by this at one point or another. Picture it… You’re really digging deep into a great news article, blog post or piece of research material, then when you click a link, BOOM!! You hit a wall. Maybe not a wall exactly, but close enough. That really intriguing link you clicked took you nowhere… In fact, it probably took you to a page that somehow apologized for the page being moved, or not being accessible anymore.
“Great,” you say… “I really wanted to look at that really cool whatever it was… Oh well, I guess I’ll find someone else who can get me what I want, or show me what I was looking for.”
It’s much more than just an annoyance for your visitors; It’s a bad user experience and search engines have taken note of this. Google especially, has made it very clear. In all, there are only about 35 things that Google really wants you, as a website owner/maintainer, to follow. Listed in the Webmaster Guidelines, one can clearly see that broken links are mentioned. If Google says you should pay attention to it, then it’s probably important.
Just like someone might garner a bad reputation for keeping a messy or unorganized desk. Having broken links on your site will earn you a bad reputation with Google. That reputation could start to downgrade your rankings to the point that you may no longer be looked upon as an authority in your industry. Google’s main objective is to create a better web experience for everyone. In doing that, they’re trying very hard to not direct people to websites that have broken links.
The best way to protect yourself against having broken links appear on your site is to check your site regularly. Make sure none of the places you are linking out to have been moved or taken down for any reason. The easiest way to quickly check for broken links is to run your site through a quick ‘broken link’ checker tool.
- Xenu Link Sleuth
- If you have WordPress: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/broken-link-checker/
If you find any on your site, FIX THEM NOW!! Don’t wait or put it off just because the broken link is on a page that you think “no one goes to.” Google may still goes there, and they will find it.
It’s not just other people creating these broken links; you do it too!
If you move a page or change a URL on your site, you’ve likely created a broken link for someone out there. Maybe it’s just someone who bookmarked a page on your site, but maybe someone else has a link on their site to a really cool page that you created. Now, since you moved that page or changed the URL of that page, users may try to click that link to your site, and will get your wonderful, and often very annoying “Sorry we can’t find the page you’re looking for,” message. Please don’t be this guy…
From an SEO perspective, changing URLs without correctly redirecting the old page can have an extremely negative impact on your site. All the authority being passed through that link will now be going to a non-existent page! If you do have to change your URLs, make sure you’re using 301 redirects to preserve as much incoming link authority as possible!
Help other people out by creating a 301 redirect. It’s really very simple and can be done quickly. You just need to actually do it. If you are unfamiliar on how to create these 301 redirects, there are a bunch of resources available for you.
- If you have WordPress: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/redirection/
The bottom line here is that keeping broken links off of your site and helping others keep broken links off theirs will create a better user experience for your visitors and maintain your authority as a well-kept site in the eyes of search engines.