Fix Broken Links, Please


A recent Search Engine News article alerted us to Google’s intent to continue to roll out Panda updates. The next one to be in the first part of 2012.

Panda is meant to weed out of the SERPs questionable and low value sites and pages. Among these are sites referred to as link farms. Because link farms have lots (ie bazillions) of links, and because it is, relatively speaking, too costly for them to adequately maintain all those links, a site with lots of broken links MIGHT be worthy of the wrath of the Panda. (good explanation of Panda)

“Check all links and make sure that the URLs still exist. If you find some that are no longer working, fix them or remove the links so that Google will not think that you are intentionally trying to abuse the search algorithm. Broken links give Google the impression you’re just a link farm.” Search Engine News article

I’m not sure what the official number is for “lots of links”, but suffice it to say it’s probably something larger than dozens. Our typical client doesn’t have thousands of links (though there have been a few). They don’t even have hundreds of pages. Setting aside the risk of a Google smack down, we consider it best practice to keep an eye out for broken links and their ilk, and to fix them promptly. Seems that most legitimate SEO types agree.

Broken links are simply links that aren’t working anymore (you can quote me on that). The broken link might be the result of something as simple as a typo, but most often it means the link is pointing to a page that no longer exists (i.e. 404 errors). This wikipedia article refers to it as link rot. Who wants a bad case of link rot? (Got a cream for that?)

Looking for link rot issues is a standard part of most SEO audits. We do it using tools like Screaming Frog and SEOMOZ crawl test to find problems (not affiliate links). Additionally, we monitor Google and Bing Webmaster Tools for our clients on a continuous basis. This seems to be standard operating procedure for most SEO’s, small and large.

Here’s where I’d like to pick a fight with a valued partner: the webmaster. By webmaster I simply mean the person or agency who’s been hired to build and/or maintain a client website. As someone who’s relatively new to the industry I don’t get why developers/designers/webmasters don’t monitor and maintain this critical aspect of website health. It seems to me this should be a regular action item for them. Isn’t this simply due diligence?

It’s time you website professionals up your game. Don’t wait for the SEO guys (or gals) to find the problems. We don’t want to make you look bad, but we can’t ignore the problem. We have to bring it up to a client. It’s like having a house built and then finding the construction guys swept all their trash into a closet in the basement or left a bunch of broken pipes and unnecessary wiring in the walls.

Granted, their are some developers and webmasters out there who are on the ball and getting it done. And I will acknowledge that many website owners simply don’t pay for this ongoing service. Please add this to your job description. Let the client know this is one of many numerous reasons why they need to pay you a monthly retainer. We’ll help you sell it!

I love developers. Some of my best friends are developers, well, I have some developers who are friends (not the least of which is my brother). I’m not hating on you. I certainly don’t want to do what you do, so I need you. And I want you to do good work. Anything worth doing is…. You have permission to remind me I said that.

Image Credits: Panda, Wiring Mess

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