We recently worked with a client who brought up a great question when they inquired about our strategy for redirecting URLs. As SEOs, we sometimes take for granted all the information we have in our head about SEO best practices and our understanding of Google's ranking algorithm. We love opportunities like this; when our client is engaged we can help educate them to continue to show the value in our search engine optimization services and expertise.
What is a broken link and how do you find them?
First things first, a broken link on a website can happen when a page is removed, moved, or renamed. This results in a user (or a bot) trying to navigate to a page that essentially does not exist. The easiest way to find out if your site has broken links is to use a free tool, like Google Search Console, or a paid tool, like Screaming Frog or SEMRush. These kinds of tools provide insight and reporting on broken links and issues resulting from finding broken links.
How do broken links impact SEO?
There are many ways that broken links can have a negative affect on organic search. First, here at Page One, we always focus on the user's experience when we think about SEO best practices. After all, the goal of Google's ranking algorithm is to serve up the best possible result for people! If a user were to encounter a broken link or a page that did not exist, how does that help them? It doesn't; it hurts their experience because they can't reach the content they seek. Second, when thinking about Google's spider, if it reaches a link that no longer exists, it can't continue to crawl the web pages and the crawler bot stops. This can hinder other parts of the website being crawled or indexed.
How do I fix broken links on my site? The strategy:
Setting up redirects is the best strategy for fixing broken links.
- What kind of 3xx redirect should I use?
Remember, not all redirects are the same. The best redirect to transfer link value is a 301 redirect. Sometimes, it may make sense to use a 302 or 307 redirect, which are types of temporary redirects. However, that may result in the link being redirected to lose it's value. In most cases we would recommend a using 301 redirect. Moz has some great information if you aren't sure which type of redirect makes the most sense for your scenario.
- Where do I set up redirects?
Depending on how your site is built, you may set up redirects in your .htaccess file or maybe you can use a plugin if you're using a specific CMS. Being WordPress power users, we prefer the Redirection Tool plugin and rely on that for a majority of ongoing URL management.
- Take a proactive approach to URL management.
We believe that a healthy foundation is imperative for any marketing campaign. This means we take a proactive approach to monitoring and cleaning up broken links on our client websites.
- Use a custom 404 page to enhance user experience.
As a best practice, your website should utilize a custom 404 page. This page alerts the user that the page they are trying to get to no longer exists and helps them by guiding them to the next best place to find the information they are seeking.
- Broken links might be a symptom of a bigger problem and sometimes simple redirects aren't always the best solutions. If you suspect a bigger technical SEO issue is at play when you notice an influx of broken links, simple URL redirects are probably not the right solution.
While a small broken link might be easy to brush off in the grand scheme of all things "web maintenance," it can be detrimental to your users experience as well as how well your website performs in the SERPs. Want to learn more or have any questions? Use the button below to contact us or leave us a comment in the section below.