Broken link: Definition, ranking relevance and function

What is a broken link? This is a broken link (hyperlink) between two websites. The hyperlink in question refers to a page or another resource on the web that no longer exists.

In most cases, these linked pages have been deleted or moved without a suitable redirect having been set up. If users or search engines follow a broken link, the server returns a 404 status code (not found) or a 410 message (no longer exists).

What effect can broken links have on Google rankings?

Broken links are completely normal for any website. The internet is dynamic: individual pages and entire websites are constantly being deleted.

However, a large number of broken links can lead to a poor user experience. They also lead search engines down blind alleys during their regular checks of Internet pages (crawling). Both can have certain negative effects on a larger scale.

Broken backlinks are particularly regrettable. This is because the great SEO potential of such links is simply wasted.

How to repair broken links?

Website operators should take care not to accumulate too many broken links and repair damaged backlinks where possible.

A broken link audit with one of the many analysis tools available online (sometimes free of charge) will uncover such links.

Depending on the link type, they can then be repaired in various ways:

  • In the case of a broken backlink, it is important to contact the linking website and ask the person responsible to replace the broken link with a relevant link.
  • If an internal link is damaged by a deleted page, it can be re-established. If it is not clear what the page used to look like, the so-called Wayback Machine may help.
  • The URL of a broken link can still be redirected to another relevant URL. This should ideally have the same content. Alternatively, it is possible to link to a page with different but contextually appropriate content.
  • The simplest option is to do nothing and leave it at a 404. If the page in question had no valuable content or backlinks pointing to it and there are generally not many 404 links on the website, the odd broken link is perfectly fine. The ranking of the other pages should not be affected by this.

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