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Broken Link Building Improves SEO With Little Effort

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Broken link building
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Broken link building is one of the easiest ways to improve a site’s profile in search engine indexes.

Advice on broken link building often overlooks one critical step in making it effective. The advice focuses on fixing external links that point to a site. That focus is only half the solution.

The other half should focus on fixing internal links as well. Broken internal links lead to visitor frustration, lower time on site and a risk the frustrated visitor won’t return. It’s also logical to think that search engines frown on them as well.

The term broken link building is a bit misleading.

It might be better called broken link rebuilding, because that’s exactly what it does. It rebuilds broken links that can renew positive ranking signals for search engines that were lost after the links went bad.

How to Identify Broken Links

A search on “broken link checker” in search engines will produce a list of sites that offer the service for free. In most cases, the user of these products will enter the URL of the page, and the tool will provide the results for that page.

It’s a simple approach for simple sites. But sites with hundreds and thousands of pages (or more) will need to use tools that give a report on the entire site and not just one page.

The sites dedicated to identifying broken links often charge for checking an entire site, especially if the site has thousands of pages or more. A rare few will do an entire site for free if it is small enough. They do exist. Just run a search on “free broken link checker”.

This article won’t recommend which ones to use because they come and go all of the time. Use search engines to identify several of them and test each of them. One site I used did a great job and another was useless.

Fixing Links for External Sites

Most advice on broken link building focuses on external sites because a dofollow link from an external site sends a ranking signal to search engines.

Restoring an external link, especially from a major site, is money in the bank. Three methods fix broken external links:

  1. Send an email to the site owner requesting the fix. That approach carries a couple of risks. One is that the owner will simply remove the link. The other is that the owner will ignore the email.
  2. Redirect the broken link in the .htaccess file in the site’s root directory (.htaccess is a configuration file on Apache servers). The redirect may look something like this: Redirect 301 /Martinique/Martinique-Vacation-Guide.html /caribbean/martinique/. In this real-life example, the first URL is the incorrect landing page for the link on the external site. The second URL is the correct path for the landing page.
  3. For sites with major content management systems such as WordPress, use a plugin to fix the problem. These plugins usually edit the .htaccess file, which can be intimidating to a non-technical user.

The second and third methods offer both the easiest way to fix the error and a sure thing in getting it fixed.

But using the .htaccess file has one downside. A site with a lot of broken links and other redirects will end up with a big .htaccess file, which may slow server response times.

Fixing Links for Internal Pages

It’s always a good idea to check internal links on a regular basis for the sake of site visitors. Some SEO experts believe that fixing internal links also is a way to boost search engine optimization.

When 10 pages on a site all point to the same landing page, it stands to reason the search engines will believe the landing page is important. The best landing pages for internal links have the most content, the highest quality and the longest time-on-page metric in analytics.

If people visiting that page share it on social media, spend a longer time on it or interact with it in some way, the search engines will see that behavior as positive ranking signals.

But search engines will likewise see a page with broken links as negative ranking signals. They won’t send their users to such a page if they can help it because it will result in a poor user experience. It also reflects badly on the search engines for recommending the page in the first place.

Site publishers will find that it is in their best interest to pay attention to the broken link reports and fix any and all internal links that need fixing.

Besides, fixing internal links has the extra benefit of crafting an internal link building strategy that goes beyond just fixing problems.

The end result of fixing both external and internal links is a combination of positive ranking signals to the search engine and a better user experience with the site.

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