Why Broken Links Can Harm Your Website… And What to Do About Them

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By Boris Dzhingarov

Today, more and more business owners enjoy using website building platforms such as WordPress, Weebly and Wix due to the fact that not only are they easy to use, but they also allow you to take total control over your website and make changes at any time, without the need to pay a professional to do it for you. However, what many business owners don’t realize is that these changes could actually damage their website, reputation and, ultimately, their brand.

These changes usually occur when a website owner deletes or renames blog posts or website pages. When you delete, rename, or change the URL of a page or post that has already been indexed by search engines, posted on social media, or added to a user’s list of bookmarks or favorites, a broken link will be left instead. And, broken links can make your business look bad in more ways than one.

How Broken Links Affect Your Business:

Broken links may not seem like such a big deal at the time, but they can actually cause you to lose clients and customers. They lead to irritation and frustration – for example, imagine you’d bookmarked a post to read later, only to find that it’s showing a ‘404 page not found’ error when you finally sit down ready. If customers and clients are trying to access information that they have bookmarked, an article that someone’s linked to on Facebook or Twitter, or even a digital product that they have purchased and the link doesn’t work, it won’t be long before they begin to distrust your brand.

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When it comes to purchases, broken links can seriously damage your conversion rates. After all, if the link to a landing page or even the product itself doesn’t work, how can the purchase be made? Or, if the link for a new program or service that you’re using as part of your marketing strategy doesn’t work, then people won’t be able to sign up.

How Broken Links Can Damage Your SEO:

One broken link may not seem like too much of a big deal. But, when people are bookmarking, favoriting and saving links from your site only to find that the link no longer works when they return to it in the future, it’s hardly going to be a positive user experience for them.

And, the same is true for search engines. Google and other search companies such as Yahoo and Bing work to ensure that users are provided with the most up-to-date, relevant, useful, and on-topic content at any time. So, it’s easy to see why search engines don’t like broken links to pages that don’t exist; it goes completely against their aim of providing a positive experience for the end user. As a result, too many broken links on or from your website can lead to penalties from search engines. Your site will be classed as less desirable and that can eventually cause your search engine rankings to drop. And as we all know, a lower chance of your site showing up in the top search engine results can be seriously damaging to business.

How Broken Links Affect Your Reputation:

When you think of a highly reputable website that you trust, think about how many broken links you’ve ever experienced on the site. Chances are, the answer is zero. This is because businesses that care about maintaining a stellar reputation won’t take a chance with broken links. Broken links can be seriously damaging to your reputation, particularly if you run an online business. If you’re regularly publishing blog posts, social media posts, product pages or informational and landing pages with broken links, the entire operation is going to look unprofessional and sloppy.

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And, your users will only forgive broken links so many times before they stop trusting your brand altogether. As a result, they’ll simply stop clicking on your links or even worse – making purchases from your brand. Remember that whenever somebody links to a page on your site or shares your blog content, their reputation is also being put on the line. If you then change the URLs or delete shared pages and posts without redirecting the link elsewhere, it’s not just your own reputation that you risk damaging, but also that of those who’re sharing content on your behalf.

How to Identify and Fix Broken Links:

Before you can get the best from an organic SEO strategy, an SEO campaign or digital marketing campaign, it’s a wise idea to make sure that you’ve cleaned up any broken links that could potentially get in the way of the campaign’s success. Fixing any errors should be a top priority – even if you’re not considering starting any new SEO or marketing campaigns right now.

First of all, you can check your site using Google Webmaster Tools to identify any bad and broken links that could be damaging your reputation in the background. Most broken links are internal links, so they should be easy to remove once identified.

Then, you’ll need to redirect the old page or post URL to a new one, so that when users click on the link in social media or from their own archives, they will be posted to actual content, rather than the infuriating ‘404 page not found’ error. It may not always be possible to redirect the page to the exact same content that was there originally, but you should always try to forward it on to something similar wherever possible. Finally, you will need to request that any old URLs are removed from search engine listings to make sure that your SEO efforts and search engine rankings aren’t negatively affected.

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To Conclude:

At the time, one broken link may not seem like much. But to a customer who’s bookmarked that link or taken the time to click through to it from social media, landing on an error page can really ruin their user experience. And if it happens too often, it will not only cause your customers to lose trust in your brand, it can wreak havoc with your search engine ranking too.