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Bad Links Almost Certainly Impact SEO

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404 ErrorSometimes the proof isn’t there, but the evidence adds up and it just makes sense to jump to a conclusion.

That’s the case with bad links and search engine optimization.

Let’s start with one important piece of evidence in that vast and much-debated mystery of search engine algorithms.

One of the most important tools for any site is Google’s Webmaster Central. Anyone who is interested in using it can go to Google, click on Business at the bottom of the page and Webmaster Central at the bottom of that page.

Sign in, follow the instructions and add the site to track. Wait a day or two for data to start showing up.

Now click into the site profile. On the left side, click on Crawl and then Crawl Errors.

Note the number of errors and the different types:

  • “Site errors” take place when a clicked link times out. That’s often related to performance problems either with the site itself at that point in time or the page itself.
  • A “soft error” means the URL doesn’t exist, but the link doesn’t result in a 404 page either. That signals the need to create a 404 page that automatically displays when a page is not found. The 404 page should contain a site map.
  • “Not found” means the link led to a 404 page rather than the expected document. IMPORTANT: Google notes that “Generally, 404 errors don’t impact your site’s ranking in Google, and you can safely ignore them.”

Why Does It Matter?


ere is a simple question: Why would Google create these reports if they weren’t important? And if they are important to Google, they are important to search engine rankings.

The reason why is the user experience, which matters in fixing bad links for that reason alone and not just to improve SEO rankings.

Imagine going through a reorganization of a site that changes the paths of certain folders.

If links for those folders exist within articles or other navigational means, they will no longer work.

Likewise, imagine an article that expires or is deleted but has links going to it. Again, the links will no longer work.

Because Google tracks user behavior, it will note that a user goes to a page, clicks on a link and gets a not found or “404” error page.

Similarly, Google’s crawlers will go through a site on a regular basis (sometimes repeatedly throughout the day depending on the site) and test the links it finds.

The end result is the report in Webmaster Central.

Tracking Bad Links


he first problem for many site managers is that checking bad links often seems to be 98th on a priority list.

Even more, it is something that might be done once — when someone remembers to do it — and then forgotten once again until it is rediscovered a year or two down the road.

An easy answer is an automated reminder in a digital calendar. Once a month is ideal.

Although fixing a small number of errors may not have much impact on a site’s rankings, there is evidence to indicate that fixing numerous errors will have an impact.

Fixing them also will increase use experience, pages per visitor and total ad inventory.

In the complex world of SEO, fixing bad links is just one of many tactics that will help. But it is certainly worth doing on a regular basis.

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