As we have previously covered numerous times on this blog, one of the most important elements of an effective SEO strategy is link building. In fact, link building is so important that we have previously identified it as one of the ‘10 Commandments’ of effective SEO.
Link building is important because it not only allows you to increase your impact online through building up a network of internal and external links but also because it allows you to build up your brand authority. Both of these aspects of link building are highly valued by Google’s SEO algorithms.
If you engage in intelligent link building practices that are well thought out and well executed, you will be on your way to boosting your presence online. With SEO proving to be more important than ever for both small and large businesses – particularly as the volume of e-commerce sales increases across the board – there has never been a better time to get to grips with the fundamental principles of good SEO practice.
But no matter how well you have thought out and tried to implement your SEO strategy, the efficacy of this strategy can ultimately be derailed by what might seem like relatively simple mistakes.
Of these simple mistakes, perhaps the most common that we have come across when undertaking SEO audits for the clients we work with are broken links.
What makes broken links so bad?
In terms of what makes broken links an issue worth addressing, there are two main ways that they can be harmful to your website.
Perhaps the most pressing reason why broken links are worth addressing is because of the impact they have on user experience. Clicking on a broken link contained in an article can be a frustrating experience for the user and will ultimately give a bad impression about your website. Links are generally included because you want them to be clicked on – whether it is a call to action or a source of authority. It can be frustrating for users if they click on the link with one of these purposes in mind only to find that it brings up the dreaded ‘404’ error. In the long run, this might put users off reading or engaging with the content you are posting on your website – which is the exact opposite of what we hope to achieve with SEO!
Another important reason why broken links are worth fixing relates to the SEO itself. Broken links restrict the balance of your link building efforts across your whole site, which will in turn, impact your SEO ranking. To achieve a solid SEO score, you need a mix of both internal and external links, which are checked and verified by Google’s SEO algorithms. If your internal or external links are consistently broken, this will negatively impact your SEO score in the long run.
Finding broken links
To ensure that the internal and external links you are embedding in your web content remain healthy and fully functioning, there are thankfully a number of tools you can use to streamline this process. These include the free tools you have access to via your Google Analytics page, as well as several paid options. While both do essentially the same task, the paid options tend to be slightly more streamlined, though they obviously come at a cost.
In addition to using specific tools that seek out broken links on your website, there are also a number of metrics you can keep an eye on that indicate whether you might have broken links. Of these, conversion rates, bounce rates and website traffic will be the most important as more often than not, if these metrics are down, it will be because of some link-related issue.
‘Conversion rate’ essentially refers to the rate at which the links you embed in a piece of written content lead to a sale or clickthrough. On the other hand, ‘bounce rate’ refers to the amount of time that an individual user spends on a particular page. If the user does not spend much time on a page, the bounce rate will be high as they have ‘bounced’ off that page onto another one. More often than not, if a user clicks on a broken link, this will lead to them clicking off the original page completely and ending the browsing session on that website.
Although conversion and bounce rates will often be related to other sitewide SEO issues, they are also often caused by broken links. As such, they are metrics that are worth keeping a close eye on!
How to fix broken links
In terms of what you need to do when you find a broken link, this will ultimately depend on whether the link is an internal or external one.
If the broken link is external, you will generally have to either remove the link entirely and find a new place or way of embedding an external link on that webpage, or simply find a similar source to the original broken link and replace it.
If the broken link is internal, this might be related to a number of website-wide structural or indexing issues. As such, you should first check that a simple typo isn’t breaking the source. If you are satisfied that this is the case, you can then start trying to find other reasons why it is broken. This could include some internal indexing issue or the page being completely down. If this is the case, it will require a much bigger effort to get the website working again. You also have the option of simply deleting the broken link or replacing it with a new one.
As you can see, an important part of ensuring that your links are in working order is remaining vigilant. It requires you to keep track of a few key metrics, as well as to run specialised tools to root out broken links. Although staying vigilant does require effort and resources, it is nevertheless important as broken links can have a noticeable impact on your sitewide SEO.
If you have read all of the above and still have some lingering questions about link building and maintaining your presence online, why don’t you get in contact with one of our content specialists today? With a wealth of experience across numerous industries and sectors, our content specialists will help you to take control of your SEO and boost your presence online.