Are Broken Links Really That Bad?

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Broken LinksI read up on and visit a lot of tips and resource sites. Last year (2013) I did see broken links talked about fairly often. Many talked about how having broken links on your website can have a negative impact on your rankings.

I am not a broken link expert, and frankly I can’t think of a way to actually test them for negative ranking. There are just too many variables that come into play that could be a contributing factor.

I recently came across an older standard html (non-PHP/database) type of site that did seem to rank fairly well. I did not spend a lot of time analyzing what it ranked for compared to the competition because I don’t have time to do that for the fun of it. This site had a fairly significant number of links to other sites that were dead, non-existent, or in other words broken. These were on inner pages. I didn’t count them all, but there were plenty. I would estimate in the 25% to 50% range. Two of the inner pages that I examined had a Google Pagerank of 2 and 3, which is fairly decent.

Would these pages rank better if the broken links were fixed or replaced? Possibly, but who knows. Google could change something at the same time and you really wouldn’t know for sure.

I think any site that has been around for a while and has a decent number of articles, posts, topics, etc. is bound to have some broken links. The bigger the site the more they will likely have.

I am more concerned about visitor experience when it comes to broken links than I am with losing rankings. I mean if you write a great article and tell your visitors to visit some link for additional information and it happens to be dead that’s a poor user experience. I know we can’t catch them all, but fixing or replacing them with a suitable working alternative is ideal. I just hate it when I have been searching long and hard for something unique and when I go to click on a link…BOOM! Nothing but a dead non-existent page or website.

Bummer Page Not Found

Since I hate it when that happens I do try to fix and update any broken links that I have on my website several times per year. I use http://www.brokenlinkcheck.com/. It is free to check up to 3000 pages on a top level domain (main domain ie: yoursite.com, but not yoursite.com/blog/).

What really amazes me about the broken link checker is just how many it finds related to comment links. By that I mean the area where someone leaves a comment on your site/blog and they enter their site in the name and/or CommentLuv field. I swear I find more non-existent sites and CommentLuv links than I would like to deal with or fix sometimes. Why these sites or links disappear is a good question that I don’t have an answer for. I guess maybe they gave up or quit. Maybe they thought they were going to get rich quick, or found out that running a website was more work than they thought. It could be anything really.

I am not as concerned about broken comment/CommentLuv links as I am with in article or post links. I still consider them to be a bad user experience, but in my opinion they are not quite as important to fix as the ones in an actual post. I do fix them just not as often. I usually let them pile up for three to four months before I get around to them.

Maybe you would see a drop in rankings if your site had broken links plastered all over every post or page in large quantities. This isn’t something I have an interest in testing out to see what happens.

My site has been around for quite a while now and at any given time there will be at least some broken links. I haven’t noticed a drop in rankings that could be directly attributed to them.

About: Jeremy LeSarge - AKA: Ray (209 Posts)

I am the site owner and administrator of DialMe.com. I provide help and tips for Boonex Dolphin on the main part of this website where you will also find an assortment of other resources. Here, on the blog I write about a variety of topics surrounding WordPress, technology, social media/networking, SEO, and webmaster resources.




8 Comments

  1. Reply

    Hi Ray

    I agree with you. I think links in the post itself that have become broken are more important to fix than the ones in the comments – from a user experience.

    I ran my blog through the broken link check last week only to find a CommentLuv link where the site had been hacked by Nigerian spammers.

    It was a relief to see that one go, I can tell you!
    Tim Bonner recently posted..Lost Your Mojo? 9 Ways To Streamline Your Blogging DayMy Profile

    • Reply

      Hello Tim,

      You really never know what the broken link checker will find or where on your site. I couldn’t imagine ever finding them the good old fashioned manual way. Finding one that way would be like winning the lottery.

      I run my site through the broken link checker every 2-4 months depending on what is going on. The vast majority of what I find is related to comment links. I occasionally find a broken link in one of my older articles, but it’s fairly rare.

      I am sure there are quite a few site owners out there that have never checked or cleaned up their broken links. Some sites are just so big with tons of comments I doubt that they bother because they would find so many all the time they would never be able to keep up.

  2. Reply

    Hey Ray,

    The one thing I’ve learned is that Google looks at around 200 different things to rank your site. Broken links are just one of them.

    Before last year I had a lot of broken links never realizing I needed to clean those up from my earlier posts. When Google did one of their ranking sweeps my site didn’t do well and I couldn’t understand why because on the surface I was doing everything right.

    Last spring I did an entire cleaning of my blog and fixed all the broken links and remain on top of them now. Google did another sweep and my site scored like a 98 so I know that had a lot to do with it. That wasn’t a page rank score though so whatever site you were looking at could have not had that issue when Google did the last sweep but does now. You just never know but it’s never good to have a lot of broken links period because they definitely look at those.

    Hope you’re enjoying your weekend.

    ~Adrienne
    Adrienne recently posted..How To Lose Customers FastMy Profile

    • Reply

      Hi Adrienne,

      To me broken links are just not a good user experience especially the ones in an actual article. Comment links are another story. I swear some of the sites people comment with come and go so darn fast that I am getting tired of cleaning them. I couldn’t imagine keeping up with all of them on a very popular site.

      I fix and clean mine up a few times per year for user/visitor experience rather than trying to improve rankings.

      If they do have an impact it brings up a few questions such as: is it per site or per page, and at what point or how many would it take before one would notice. Also, if they are nofollow or dofollow does it make any difference. I know Google is constantly changing their algorithm and updates, but I am leaning towards if they do play a role it’s very small under normal circumstances. That’s just my opinion at the current time though. Who knows they could flip a switch and put more emphasis on them at any time.

      The website and pages that I was originally looking at was around 3-5 weeks ago. The only reason it caught my attention was there were a lot of links I would have liked to visit for additional reading, but unfortunately they were dead. It did have a lot of good information otherwise.

      I am curious about the score of 98 you mentioned. I have seen a few score things, but never really spent much time with any of them because they all seemed different. It’s been a while though since I have looked into or paid that much attention to one so I was just a little curious.

  3. Reply

    Hey Ray,

    I’m trying to remember now the service I used for that scoring of my site. It’s been late last year that I used it so let me try to track it down and I’ll let you know.

    ~Adrienne

    • Reply

      No big deal if you don’t remember or find it. When I see things like this mentioned from people that I know that have used or tried I will usually take a peek at it to see what it’s about or how I happen to score. Especially if it’s fairly quick and easy.

  4. Reply

    I don’t know whether broken links has a telling impact on SERP standings or not. But, looking from a visitor’s POV, a broken link can be annoying.

    I use ‘Broken Link Checker’ once in a week to keep an eye on bad and broken links.

    • Reply

      Hi Arun,

      I usually don’t notice so much if they happen to be broken comment links. I guess I am more tuned into the article part a little more. Although, I do visit comment links from time to time too. Any time a link doesn’t work it can be annoying and a bad visitor experience.

      Keeping up with them is another story though. It’s not too difficult in the early stages, but if your site grows in content and comments it does get a little tedious and time consuming after while. Good to hear that you are keeping up with your broken links on a weekly basis.

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