How Dead Links Can Affect Your Search Ranking and How To Fix It
On today’s episode, Bob and Jesse discuss dead links on your website, and how a broken link can significantly impact your engagement rates and search ranking! The pair discuss how to identify broken links, how to make sure links are routing properly, and more.
Also, there is still time to get questions in for an upcoming interview with Schema expert Terry Samuels! Don’t miss this opportunity to pick the brain of an expert. Whether you’re asking something advanced or simply want to know more beginner-level answers, the field is open for questions.
Thanks for checking us out, and enjoy the show!
Don’t miss an episode – listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart, and more!
What you’ll learn
- How to identify broken links.
- What to do to reroute link paths to repair broken links and keep traffic flowing!
- Why dead links can negatively impact your bounce rate and search engine ranking!
Here is the Transcript for Episode 89
Caleb Baumgartner: Hello and welcome to Local SEO Tactics, the podcast where we bring you tips and tricks to help you get found online. I am your producer, Caleb Baumgartner. And in today’s episode, Bob Brennan and Jesse Dolan address the issue of broken links on your website. Are you unsure of how broken links could affect your website and business? Bob and Jesse break down how broken links can affect your bounce rate and SEO rankings and what you could do to begin fixing these issues. Thank you for listening and enjoy the show.
Jesse Dolan: Welcome back to Local SEO Tactics, where we bring you tips and tricks to get found online. I’m here with Jesse Dolan, here today with Bob Brennan.
Bob Brennan: Howdy.
Jesse Dolan: How’s it going, Bob?
Bob Brennan: Excellent. How are you doing?
Jesse Dolan: Not too bad, sir. Ready to talk about some SEO tips and tricks here. So before we dive in, though, I do want to mention our free instant SEO audit tool for everybody out there. It continues to be a very popular tour, tour, a very popular tool. I haven’t had enough coffee yet this afternoon. And if you haven’t used it yet or if it’s been a while, take advantage of it again. Go on to localseotactics.com, top right corner, click the yellow button. It’s a free instant SEO audit. You plug in your webpage. You plug in the keyword that you want to kind of crosscheck it against or what you’re trying to optimize it for, and it’s going to give you a quick report, the good, the bad, and the ugly about the page, a punch list of things you got to do, and it’ll give you a lot of good insights. It’s not the end all be all for all SEO information. I mean, you still have to execute it and interpret it and things like that.
But if you’re wondering, where do I start on this, and how do I get going? Check that out. It’s totally free. You can use it as many times as you want. Go on to localseotactics.com and look for the yellow button for the free audit.
The second thing I want to mention, Bob, before we get into it is our friend Terry Samuels, we had him on for a two-part episode of a number of episodes back, a two-part interview I should say, talking about schema and Terry is going to be coming out again here in a few more episodes. We’ve got room for a few more questions. If anybody out there has questions specific to schema, and this can be anything from complete rookie, like would you guys mind talking about what it is again, or how do I even spell it? I mean, nothing is too low-end, right? So don’t feel like you’re going to be embarrassing if you get out here, or if it’s something completely complex.
If you’ve done a lot of schema and you’re just looking for one hack or one little trick to really get you over the edge, or anything in between, we want your questions. Terry wants your questions and we’re going to go through them. Like we keep saying, if you’ve got a question that you are struggling to get an answer for, so does somebody else. So speak up, reach out to us. Go to localseotactics.com/schema, and that’s S-C-H-E-M-A. So I’ll help you right there, that’s how you spell schema. So one of your questions is already answered.
Bob Brennan: Schema kind of blindsided us, right? I mean, that was something we were struggling with a few of our sites. We just couldn’t get them to move properly. Until we engage with Terry, I mean, we were kind of blown in the wind there for a while.
Jesse Dolan: It’s an area where if you do some research out there, there’s a ton of tools to help you build schema. There’s a lot of resources, but it’s a fast-moving area of the industry that if you’re only taking advantage of some of the free tools or some of that kind of things to help you jumpstart it, you’re really not taking advantage of all the schema possibilities that are out there. So yeah, connecting with somebody like Terry, asking some of these questions, getting that insight is going to be very valuable.
You’re absolutely the right for us, that was a big breakthrough is getting into more advanced schema and really having a better strategy for it instead of just having it like, I mean, as a placeholder, if you will. So absolutely. And Terry is the best of the best in this area. So, yeah. Coming on again for multiple episodes, not just this next one coming up. So again, grab your questions, write them down, send them over to us, go on out to localseotactics.com/schema and get them in there. Terry will answer them. So looking forward to that, that’s going to be another fun episode with Terry.
So here today, what we’re talking about, we’re kind of kicking off a semi-regular series. We’ll be mixing in some episodes on these topics. It’s not just going to be linear front to back, but a bunch of topics kind of built around web audit, a web SEO audit. This is a process, just to kind of set the stage, that any new client that comes on board with us, one of the first things we do to really get things going is do a comprehensive web SEO audit. We get into the front end, into the backend, get into your Google Analytics, Google search console, into the website, and really just do a comprehensive audit on all the things related to your SEO. Whether it’s a direct ranking, whether it’s some kind of secondary signal, or user experience, something that just kind of matters in general, or something very explicit like page speed or security, we go through it all in that process.
And what we’re going to do with this interwoven series going forward is just pick a line item or two or a topic or two out of that audits and address it here for what it is that we’re looking for, what would be good, what would it be bad, and how to fix these items. So kicking off with the first one here today. This is going to be something that’s pretty common that we find on a lot of sites and that is pages that have links to broken pages. So first, we want to just talk about why that’s a bad thing. In the eyes of Google, they’ve been trying for a while to have backlinks and links become a less important part of their ranking algorithm. But really that’s where they’re kind of rooted, getting backlinks, having backlinks interlinking within your site, things like that are a big part of the Google algorithm and the Google crawler and the bot for understanding your website.
So when a link goes to a page that’s broken or no longer exists, that’s a bad thing, right? There’s a dead-end for Google there. And that has ramifications depending on the type of link and some of the stuff we’ll get into here in a second. But effectively, that’s what we’re looking for is pages on your website that have links to some other website that are dead, that are dead-ended, that are no longer existing, the page is gone. That’s a no-no. That’s something that you want to clean up, something you want to be aware of. So as we go through the audit, that’s what we’re looking for.
And Bob, you and I were talking right before we started recording, this is to be very clear, these are links on your website, right? You were asking about backlinks versus this kind of a deal. Backlinks would be something that’s on somebody else’s website.
Bob Brennan: Right.
Jesse Dolan: If it’s on your website and you’re pointing back to me, that’s what we’d call a backlink. We’re looking for the opposite here right now, today. We’re looking for on my website, if I have a link that goes to you and that link is bad, that’s what we’re trying to take care of, things that are on our websites.
Bob Brennan: So are these categorized then as internal links? Is that the idea, or is that erroneous in terms of using that phrase?
Jesse Dolan: Yeah, so an internal link would be if I have, let’s say on the homepage of my website, if I’m linking from the homepage to maybe my blog post page or a certain product or service page, that would be an internal link. It’s within my website. It’s internal. Yeah, that’s something that we’re going to want to look for. But we’re also looking for external links. If I link from my website out to forbes.com and if that link is bad, is broken, that’s what we want too. So the links are internal as a thing on your website, but that term internal linking literally does mean the concept if you have linking pages within your site, so just a little clarity on what that means there.
So really there’s a couple types of links that we’re looking for bad links, for dead links, for broken links. It’s going to be a link that returns, well, the number one thing, a link that returns a 400 error of some sort. That’s going to be a 401, which means unauthorized. If you’re linking out to a resource and it’s blocked, it’s protected in some way, you’re going to get a 401 error on the screen. Everybody’s probably familiar with a 404 error, which is a page not found, like this doesn’t exist anymore. The 401 is just not quite as common. Another one here, 403, which is forbidden, similar, you don’t have access. You’re not supposed to be here, right? And 408 does a time-out, something stalled out, page loading, the database loading, whatever it is. But anything in that 400 area basically means the page doesn’t exist for all intents and purposes, the crawl can’t be completed, the link isn’t going to load. Those are the most common areas that we’re going to find. Those are all what we call client errors or website errors. It’s a problem on the website.
Another type of error you’re going to run into if a page isn’t loading, and we’ve all probably seen this at some point in time, is a 500 error. That’s more of a server error. If your server goes down-
Bob Brennan: Or web.
Jesse Dolan: Yeah, or your web host goes down. That’s another way to put it. If you got a 500 error, same thing. You’re not loading the page. It’s not any better than a 400 error, just a different classification, so you’re getting various 400 errors or various 500 errors following a link. That’s going to trigger a broken link or a dead link. And that’s what we’re looking for. And I should state too, maybe I did, but just to be clear, those 500 errors, that’s what you’d call like in a server error or a hosting error, as opposed to the 400, which are more client or website-based.
Bob Brennan: Didn’t we lose, kind of a side tangent, didn’t’ we lose a server farm or hosting center, was it in England or whatever that caught on fire?
Jesse Dolan: Yeah, there’s a big data center. I’m forgetting the name of the company right now, but yeah, a big fire, a lot of large companies. One of the plugins we’ll use for page speed is WP Rocket. I know they ran some stuff through there. They sent an alert out to everybody saying some service was impacted. But yeah, it’s a great lesson in redundancy. In the era of the cloud, we think everything is cool, just saving it online somewhere, right? Sometimes you forget that that means not that it’s literally out in the cloud, it means it’s just on a computer that’s not yours.
Bob Brennan: Right. Not yours.
Jesse Dolan: So it’s stored physically somewhere and having a secondary backup or working with a provider that has backups, finding a way to be redundant is still important, even though we’re in the cloud nowadays. But yeah, that would be something, I guess, that would trigger probably about a 500 error if you’re trying to get to a site there, if the building burned down and the server is no longer responding. So, yeah, that’s basically in a nutshell what we’re looking for here. In this phase of the audit is again, pages that have links to broken pages.
What we just went through right there is the type of a status code that means it’s a broken page or broken link. At the end of the day though, it’s pretty simple. If you’ve got a link on your homepage, again, out to forbes.com, and somebody clicks on that link on your homepage, and that forbes.com page ain’t loading, it is giving you some kind of errors like this, Google sees that as a dead-end. Now you have information on your page. That’s bad, right? You’re not being authoritative or trustworthy or any of these things. You’re just linking out to things that don’t exist anymore. Your relevancy starts to drop, your authority starts to drop. And obviously, your rankings, given enough of these will drop, which is why it is a critical part of any SEO audit that we do is to make sure there’s no broken links and dead links on a website.
Bob Brennan: So is there a … You said, no. I mean, can you live with a handful of links being broken or is it like egads, you’ve got one. I mean, any idea how big of an impact one broken, two broken links, or several broken links might be?
Jesse Dolan: Yeah, I don’t think impact-wise, is it going to be earth-shattering? I would hope not because usually, the broken links are going to be still existing because it’s not a major function of a site, right? Like if your home page was down, you’d hear about it quick. Usually, if there’s some broken links, it’s not something that’s part of your A1, 80% of your traffic, or things like that. But that being said, we would want to fix every broken link that’s identified on the website, right?
Bob Brennan: Sure.
Jesse Dolan: It’s not pants on fire emergency, but definitely something that you want to clean up because it’s not just for the Google bot here, also your users, right? If your website, we’re not going to go through all the reasons here, but people engage with your website. They’re using your website as a resource to do things, to find things, to learn more. And if you’re pushing them to a dead-end, I mean, do they click out and go to a different website then? Do they move on with some other company or some other brand that’s going to give them what they need? So those are the potential, not only for the search engines to not crawl your website properly and then have your rankings get impacted but also from a usability standpoint. If people are having bad functional time, bad usability on your website, that’s going to be bad for you for business. And then ultimately that’s going to result in a decrease in your rankings because we get a lot of bounces. People will be out of your website onto something else.
So yeah, with that being said, Bob, that’s the reason why any broken link you can identify, you want to fix it. How to fix it? It’s really pretty straightforward. If your page is linking to a broken internal link, like we said from your homepage to your blog post or from your homepage to a service page, whatever it is, if it’s an internal link, then you just go to that page, edit it. And okay, well, what page should I have linked this to? I guess we don’t have that product anymore. We’re onto version two, make sure you’re linking now to the version two page, right? If you deleted the version one page or whatever the reason is, so replace that link with the proper live page that it should be linking to instead, or some other relevant resource, or you can set up redirects.
So sometimes what’s going to happen is maybe you have a brochure or a flyer that you printed off and it had a certain link to go to, like visit intrycks.com/bob, and we had that in posters all over town, that campaign is done and somebody deletes that page. Well, if there’s people out there that are still trying to go to intrycks.com/bob from some outside mechanism, you still want to make sure if somebody types that in or goes to that, they are redirected somewhere. So the reason I’m extrapolating this out is let’s just say on our homepage if we used to feature this campaign, learn more about Bob, click here, and we go to intrycks.com/bob. Well, if we have a new page for that, we can easily change our homepage to not link to intrycks.com/bob. We can now link our homepage to go to intrycks.com/jesse because we’re going to feature Jesse now. And that’s fine. That takes care of somebody on your homepage, clicking a button, and now going to a page instead of going to a dead-end.
But if somebody out there in the real world says, “Oh, I want to learn more about this,” and they type in intrycks.com/bob, that page is no longer existing. What you want to do is have that page automatically then redirect. And you can use some functions that are in WordPress. There’s plugins. Pretty Links is one that a lot of people will use to do this. But basically, you want to make sure that any broken links that are on your website, think about that. This is an internal income and a correct, and I’m going to point it to the right page, but was there a reason to keep this actual link, even though it’s dead, keep it alive so to speak by way of setting up a redirect that says, anytime somebody is coming to this page, I’m going to send them to this other one instead?
That won’t be something so much that impacts your SEO audit if you will, the thing that we’re looking for, but just more of a good practice to make sure that you don’t have anybody going to dead-ends. And there’s going to be a follow-up episode on this that we’re going to talk about for how to find these broken links.
Bob Brennan: Okay.
Jesse Dolan: And that thing right there, those old pages that lead to 404s is going to be something we’re going to talk about using Google Analytics to find those intrycks.com/bob-type pages that are old the campaigns that you might’ve forgot about.
Bob Brennan: So if you’re changing your oil in your car every 3000 miles or whatever the deal is, what do you think is a routine for checking for links? I mean, any thoughts on the frequency of that?
Jesse Dolan: Yeah, great question. If your website is pretty static and you’re not adding a lot of content or deleting content or things like that maybe a couple of times a year just to make sure.
Bob Brennan: Oh, wow. Okay.
Jesse Dolan: But if you’re managing a lot of content, if you have multiple users on your site maybe posting blogs or updating pages, if you’re updating your site more frequently, there’s just more of a chance that you’re going to have an error in a link, or somebody’s going to take a page down, you could even go monthly or quarterly. I don’t think there’s a paint by numbers exact rule. But if it’s something, the more pages you’re adding and deleting and changing around in your site, a lot of times these are just errors. It could be somebody used the wrong letter on a link, right? Somebody deleted the page on accident maybe. But it’s definitely something that I’d want to stay on top of. There’s a lot of automated tools. Again, we’ll get into in the next episode on how to find these. So part of my reason for answering your question with a little higher frequency than maybe you were expecting is because the process isn’t that hard to find these. So it’s-
Bob Brennan: Well, and actually, I was surprised at how low of frequency, I guess. Does any of that come into play in terms of how competitive your service or business is, and then maybe how large a market is? Does any of that correlate with-
Jesse Dolan: Yeah, I’d say it’s more not directly. The direct thing is going to be the complexity of your website, but that is going to be a factor of your market, right? If you’re in a market that’s super easy, you don’t need the world’s biggest, greatest website. If it’s a super tough market, you probably do. So in an indirect way, yes. The more competitive, the bigger the business, the bigger the market, then maybe the frequency is higher in this. And I forgot to touch on one spot too. We were talking mainly on internal links, fixing your website. There is the other part of this too if it’s linking to an external link. So maybe you’re supporting some organization or you’re pushing referrals to a preferred partner for some service you don’t provide or whatever it is, sometimes for SEO, we’ll link out to a Wikipedia article to try to establish some authority or something.
So the more of that stuff you’re doing, if you’re linking out to other websites as a strategy, the more you’re doing that, then I would up your frequency there too, probably do an at least like a monthly check. Because now if I linked out to bobsplumbing.com, and some page that Bob had on his plumbing website, I can’t control if you decide to delete that page, or change something, or if there’s an error. So the more you’re doing on that front, like linking out to external sites, then you’re going to want to check it more frequently because it’s outside of your control.
Bob Brennan: Yeah. And especially, I suppose if it’s like a news article or some other media type thing. I mean that’s going to be changing quite frequently.
Jesse Dolan: Yeah, that’s another great point. If you’re doing a lot of PR releases or some syndication and those kinds of networks, then yeah, you might be checking daily or weekly because the links out there are much more important to you. That gets a little more advanced. I guess when I initially answered your question, I’m kind of more on the basic side, the day-to-day regular local business. But yeah, back to how competitive your niche is, how competitive your market is, and how aggressive your SEO strategy is, you’re probably creating pages with internal and external links more frequently than others doing some PR releases, which a lot of PR stuff will expire after a month or for a quarter, so you kind of want to know that. So the more aggressive you are in that creating content and managing content, yeah, up the frequency. Again, there’s tools we’re going to get into in the next episode. You can set this up with some automation to check stuff automatically for you, get pinged if there’s a new broken link discovered. Fire it off to your web guy, web gal and they can fix it pretty quick.
Bob Brennan: It makes sense.
Jesse Dolan: Yeah. It’s just an easy thing to keep up on. And it’s something that really can impact, like I said, not only the Google end of your business but also your client, your customers that are on your website hitting dead-ends. So with both of those things, they’re being either direct or indirect ranking factors, as well as usability and conversion factors, this was something we thought would be a good one to kick off this SEO audit mini-series on because it’s an easy one for all of us out there to check our websites and get it fixed up, and it can definitely hurt or help you with your SEO rankings. So hope that all makes sense. You got any other questions, Bob? Does any of that need more explaining?
Bob Brennan: No, I’m excited to move on to the how-to and everything involving that.
Jesse Dolan: Right on. So I think that pretty much does it for this episode. Let me pull up and to read our five-star review here. If you haven’t left us a review yet and if this is your first time listening to an episode, we would like to invite you to go give us a review. Localseotactics.com. Go down to the bottom left corner, click on reviews. From there, you can jump over to Google, Facebook, Apple Podcast, whatever outlet you’d like to leave us a review. If we’re bringing you value, we’d love to get a good trade. Give us a review and let people know that we made an impact in your business.
And with the content we’re providing here, if you’re a longtime listener, no time like the present. If we haven’t heard from you yet, we’d love to hear from you now. Same thing, go on out to the localseotactics.com, click reviews, and send one off to us. We’ve got a bunch more in queue here. We’re going to keep reading them. It’s kind of the favorite part of the show is getting that feedback, not because it strokes our ego for any reason, right? Like that’s not why it’s fun at all, but …
Bob Brennan: We’re guys, we don’t have egos.
Jesse Dolan: Right.
Bob Brennan: I said we’re guys. No egos here.
Jesse Dolan: Never. Never comes into play. All right. So we’ve got a great five-star review here from azwebdr. So Arizona Web Doctor, I’m assuming. It says, “I’ve just recently started listening to their Local SEO Tactics podcasts, and I’ve enjoyed learning more about the basics of local SEO. Thank you for all you do. Keep it up, especially during COVID-19, as has been very,” where is it at, “helpful.” One more word. One more word was cut off. It very helpful. I’m glad we can be helpful, azwebdr. That’s what we’re here for. And yeah, not to expand on that too much but during this last year of 2020 with COVID, we’ve actually seen our business and a lot of our client businesses really grow. I think a lot of the advice we gave people how, early on, to jump on board, how to reconnoiter your site and communicate. I think there’s a lot of good tactics there. And a lot of businesses really made the right strides. I think we’re all looking forward to opening it up and switching us back the other way for what we need to update.
Bob Brennan: We’ll have to do a remote podcast in Arizona next winter.
Jesse Dolan: That would be fine. That would be fine. We had a mild winter this year. I think we got lucky. We’re probably due for a hard one next year.
Bob Brennan: Yeah.
Jesse Dolan: I heard it’s not very snowy down in Arizona. Texas, it can be apparently, right?
Bob Brennan: Yeah.
Jesse Dolan: All right. I think that wraps it up for this episode. Any other closing thoughts, Bob?
Bob Brennan: Nope. Looking forward to the next one.
Jesse Dolan: Cool. All right, everybody, thanks for tuning in. We’ll catch you on the next show.
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