Are Broken Links Breaking Your SEO?
Are Broken Links Breaking Your SEO?
Let’s imagine you found a treasure map. A super detailed one that made it really easy to find the place where the big pot of gold was buried. You followed it to the letter, grabbed your shovel, dug deep and found a note that said ‘sorry, this treasure has been moved or destroyed, sorry!’
Well, this is kind of what a broken link would look like in the real world.
Ok, but in technical terms, what is a broken link?
In the most basic terms, a broken link is any link that doesn’t work or takes you to the wrong place.
They’re the little gremlins that lead you to those infuriating 404 pages which say things like ‘page not found’, ‘the page you were looking for doesn’t exist’, or simply ‘error’.
No one likes them, and they make for terribly annoyed web users. If you’re the owner of a website selling products and services, I’m going to guess that you probably don’t want your users to be terribly annoyed.
That makes sense! But why are broken links bad for SEO?
To help understand why broken links are bad for SEO it’s worth remembering that links are how we as users navigate the web. They’re the signposts we look at when deciding which site is most likely to give us the information we’re looking for.
In other words, links are the cornerstone of our user experience.
As a company which aims to be constantly improving our user experience, Google naturally pays very close attention to links. Should Google detect that your links are regularly sending users down dead ends, it’s going to punish you in the only way it knows. That’s right, it’s going to drop your site further and further in the rankings.
This translates to less traffic which translates to less sales.
Sounds like I really need to avoid broken links, but what if I need to remove pages from my site?
Don’t sweat it, it’s totally possible for you to reshuffle and remove things from your site without creating a trail of broken links.
Websites are constantly evolving beasts and it’s often necessary to move pages around or remove them altogether. The key is putting measures in place that mean links to these pages still take users to an appropriate place on your website.
To illustrate an example of how we as an agency avoid broken links, I present to you the Norfolk Yacht Agency (NYA) website.
They sell boats. Some really nice ones, in fact. The trouble is, they’re also really good at selling them, and a sold boat naturally means that page is no longer required on the website, so default website behaviour dictates that this is removed so not to get in the way of the remaining stock.
In order to avoid this from happening, we have created an archiving process which triggers once a boat is sold, leaves said boat in the listings for two weeks and then archives away out of the listings. But crucially, the page still sits within the framework of the site so that if Google has ranked the page in its listings, or if a user has bookmarked the page, the content remains.
Therefore, the page we’ve created to advertise that boat is no longer linked to from the ‘boats for sale’ page. It simply exists behind the scenes.
‘So why not let it delete?’ you might (reasonably) ask. If we did that, though, we’d create a broken link. Let me explain why.
When the page was created, it got indexed by Google. A link to the page might also have featured on a boating blog or maybe have been tweeted out by a yachting enthusiast. These links won’t magically disappear if the page is removed. No, they’ll remain clickable and will take users to an error page that we’ve already identified as being a terrible thing to encounter.
Instead, by moving the page to an archive, users are still able to access it. Whilst they may not be able to purchase the boat, they’ll be presented with a list of similar models for sale as well as the necessary contact information to get in touch with NYA.
All in all, this archiving of sold boats is good from both an SEO and business perspective.
Obviously, an archive isn’t going to be the answer in every case. Sometimes web pages need to be taken down as they no longer serve a purpose. In this instance, the best thing to do is to put a redirect in place that takes users to a relevant page or simply back to the homepage. This avoids any nasty 404 errors and helps the user find what they’re looking for.
Keeping on top of all this stuff ultimately keeps the user happy, who keeps Google happy. As everyone knows, keeping the search giant happy is the key to ranking well. It’s what SEO is all about.
At Nu Image, we make it our job to keep up to date with Google’s best practices. This allows our clients to be found by users who are interested in their products and services. If you’re looking to get ahead with your digital marketing efforts, why not get in touch with us today to find out how we can help.