18 Dec Take these Broken Links and Learn to Fly Again
Providing an excellent user experience should be a top priority for all businesses with a website. Competition in the digital world can be challenging, and customers are always searching for new brands that can better fit their needs. Just as in a traditional brick-and-mortar setting, your customers will abandon your brand online if they are not receiving the experience they are expecting. One crucial element to user experience on your website are links. Broken links can quickly drive customers away through delivering a poor user experience, and they can also tank your SEO efforts.
Let’s learn more about what exactly broken links are, how they can affect your user experience and SEO strategy, and how to better monitor links on your website.
What Are Broken Links?
When a user follows a link to or from your website, they expect to see the content they have been looking for on that page. However, when they are unable to view the linked content, it creates a poor user experience by leaving customers unsatisfied. Broken links also hamper your SEO efforts, which means your website can take a hit on search engine rankings.
Simply put, broken links are hyperlinks on your website that redirect to empty or non-existent webpages. Broadly, there are three types of broken links – internal, outbound, and inbound. Internal links direct your visitors to other pages within your website. Outbound direct visitors to other pages outside of your website. Inbound links are links on another website which direct visitors to your website.
Broken outbound links can be tricky to eliminate, as you don’t have control over external content. Therefore, it can be difficult to know whether the site you have linked to has been removed or relocated unless users tell you directly — something they are unlikely to do. When it comes to SEO, Google bots or Google’s web crawlers hop on every link within your website to collect data. If broken links are detected, your ranking will drop.
You can fix broken outbound links by:
- Removing the link if the content can stand alone without it and if the link was not a source citation.
- Using context clues to determine what page or type of content the broken link was previously directing towards.
- Checking digital archives to find what type of content was previously found on the page.
- Searching the link’s main website to see if the content was moved to another page.
- Replacing the broken link with updated versions of the content, if available.
When it comes to pages on your own website, broken inbound links and 404 pages can be even worse for your user experience by causing confusion and distrust in your site visitors. A 404 error happens when a page on your website is removed or relocated without proper redirection on the back-end. While 404 errors and broken inbound links do not directly harm SEO, they can cause second-hand issues such as high bounce rates.
You can prevent and fix 404 pages by:
- Updating your content on the existing page instead of removing it.
- Use 301 redirects on the back-end for pages whose content have moved elsewhere on your website.
- Contact the webmaster of any external websites with broken links which direct to your website, requesting they use an updated link instead.
SEO and User Experience
So, we now know that broken links can impact both your user experience and the state of your SEO efforts. We have also seen how they have the potential to affect both at the same time, such as with 404 errors increasing your bounce rate and thus decreasing your page ranking. However, let’s take a deeper look into why broken links are bad for SEO and user experience.
When it comes to SEO, there are some differing industry opinions in regards to broken links. Google claims that a small few broken links on your website should not directly harm your ranking. While this is somewhat true, broken links can still indirectly bring down your search engine results ranking. Bots, or crawlers, stop scanning a page when they encounter any broken links. This means they will move on to the next page, and any remaining links on the initial page will remain unindexed and without a page ranking.
Additionally, as previously discussed, broken links can decrease web traffic and increase bounce rates — both of which can weaken your SEO efforts. When visitors come across a broken link on your website, they are much more likely to leave your website and not come back because one bad link could indicate there may be multiple broken links. This site abandonment from your users causes search engine algorithms to believe that your website is not providing useful content and should therefore be ranked lower in results pages. A lower ranking means fewer visitors are likely to click on your website in the first place, thus causing a continuous downward trend in your website visitors and site engagement.
It’s easy for users to become annoyed and frustrated when clicking on a broken link. After all, they clicked on it for a reason hoping to be directed towards the content of their interest. Internet users simply don’t have the time to try again or come back after a dissatisfying experience. All it takes is one broken link and one instant of frustration to lose that potential customer forever, along with anyone they tell about their poor experience on your website. Such as the cycle goes — lost site visitors means lost customers, which means lost revenue and ROI. If broken links are left alone for too long, this can be very bad news for any business.
How Google Search Console Can Help
Sure, you can comb through your entire website by hand and check all of your links. If you have a small website with only a handful of pages, this could be a simple process to incorporate into your routine website maintenance. But, what do you do when you have a large website with multiple pages of content? How can you monitor and detect your broken links?
The best way to detect broken links on your website is with a tool such as Google Search Console. Google Search Console allows website owners to track, maintain and troubleshoot a website’s presence in search results. To get started, all you need to do is verify your website with Google Search Console. Use Google Search Console’s Crawl Errors report to discover broken links on your website.
If you don’t want to check links by hand even for a small website, web browser extensions such as Check My Links for Chrome can help with finding broken links. Keep track of the detected links by creating a spreadsheet for your own records.
Keep Your Website Up-to-Date with Digital Experts
Keep visitors to your website engaged by making sure your website is up-to-date. The best way to accomplish this is with the help of a dedicated team of digital experts in web development and SEO strategy. Virtual Stacks Systems UK can help your business find success online with dedicated website development and ongoing SEO services following the latest digital trends. Contact us today to discuss your website’s needs!