I was actively browsing webmasterworld.com forum, and came to a thread where broken links are being discussed. If you don’t know what is Webmasterworld.com is, all I can say it is THE authority site where SEO scientists and Search Engine Engineers are actively discussing everything and anything about well… search engines and all the algorithms that goes with it. Yes, they are also the radar for any slight changes on the algorithms of major search engines such as Google.
I’m digressing a little bit already. Anyway, that’s an introduction of Webmasterworld forum for you.
Let’s go back to broken links. The question posted was “Do broken links hurt Google rankings?”.
Here are just some of the feedback I got from that thread, in no particular order:
– Internal broken links are quite likely a quality issue, always fix those as soon as possible.
– External broken links may not be quite so important, but it’s a good idea to run a check every few months and fix what you can.
– If the backlink breaks because the site changed the URL after the backlink was already in place, then that could cause a ranking drop.
One comment that caught my attention was,
” I think broken outgoing links may well be a quality signal. I recently went through my site with some tool or another and found dozens of broken outgoing links. I fixed them and several weeks later started to see my rankings and traffic creep up.”
And another one wrote,
“yes they affect, broken links and linking to bad neighborhoods ” and then poster gave the link on Google Webmaster Guidelines.
If you have noticed, majority of those who replied on the question “Do broken links hurt Google rankings?”, it can be easily concluded that YES, broken links can hurt your rankings!
Why did I conclude my take on this issue that broken links can deeply hurt your site?
Well, if you have read the Google Webmaster Guidelines, it stated there “Check for broken links and correct HTML.”. That’s it! End of discussion.
For incoming links, my suggestion is to use Google Webmaster Tool. Just submit and enroll your site, and Google will do the rest for you.
How about for outgoing links including internal links?
There are various tool that you can find online:
1. If you are using WordPress, you may want to check the Broken Link plugin (http://wordpress.org/plugins/broken-link-checker/) – it check your posts, comments and other content for broken links and missing images, and notify you if any are found.
2. Download Xenu’s Link Sleut application – a Window application that checks websites for broken links. It can work from Windows 95 up to Windows 7, albeit the current version is dated September 2010.
3. A1 Website Analyzer – my favorite tool. It does not not checks for broken links but it reviews your entire website or blogs for errors including but not limited to invalid HTML, misspelled words, invalid CSS code, find duplicate URLs and the best part is, it shows what to improve your site!
Broken links speaks about the quality of a site and the best way to protect yourself against having broken links appear on your site is to check your site regularly. I highly suggest at least once a month. Of course, if you have thousands links, manual checking will be a tedious task on your part so just use some of the tools that I’ve mentioned above.