Broken Links and how they can negatively impact on your businesses organic SEO

Broken Links and how they can negatively impact on your businesses organic SEO

February 27, 2024


Digital Marketing

Written by: Ryan Walsh

Date: 27/02/2024

What exactly are broken links and is a 404 mean?

404 pages simply refers to page not found errors, often referred to as “broken links” by SEO consultants. The link no longer points to that page, which results in an error message being displayed to shoppers.


User experience

Before we explain 404 codes and what they are in more detail, we also have to talk about user experience or “UX” for short.
The reason for this because you must put yourself in the shopper’s shoes, and offer the best customer service you can. If you run an e-commerce business, the best way to offer good customer service, is to have a well-designed website, that doesn’t have any glitches, such as 404 page not found errors.

So, let’s provide a really quick example, if you are shopping for a nice pair of shiny shoes and are constantly greeted by page-not-found errors (404 page not found) on a company website, this is likely to be slightly frustrating for the shopper.

It is likely to make the shopper bounce back into Google’s SERPs (search engine results pages) and the shopper, possibly annoyed that they cant view the product is therefore likely to buy the new shoes from another retailer. Therefore, by constantly presenting the customer with a series of 404 pages or even just one page where there is a 404-page error, you are therefore contributing to what is called a poor user experience or UX for short.


Why are broken links of concern to SEO consultants?

Broken backlinks can negatively impact the business’s search engine optimisation mainly because it doesn’t take the shopper to the page they had wanted to visit.
Therefore, the person might leave the page and go to a competitor’s website if they are originally greeted with a 404-page error.
A business with too many 404 page errors might be deemed as offering a poor UX; this can negatively impact the business’s SEO.

Let’s now have a look at some of the different types of broken links:


404 page not found errors

The 404-page error occurs when a blog post, perhaps a page, can no longer be found possibly because it’s been removed.

Soft 404 errors

You might have seen within your SEO tool, for example, you may well be using a quality SEO tool such as Screaming Frog, that your website has soft 404 page errors.

A soft 404-page error can occur when the page your blog posts returns the “200 okay status code”, but the page might still display a page-not-found message. This is referred to as a soft 404.


A 503 service unavailable message

Sometimes a shopper might be presented with a 503 service unavailable error. This error can occur when the server is temporarily unavailable to handle the request.


What would you say is the common cause of 404 page errors?

If pages and blog posts do get removed, say during a website redesign process, and the business no longer wants those pages, perhaps some pages are removed because they are no longer deemed helpful because the content for example might be offering outdated advice. For example, a blog post on “How to write content marketing in 2018” is likely to be no longer relevant and, therefore, out of date so that it might be removed.


Website migration

During a website migration to a brand-new content management system, links can break, which can have a negative impact on the business search engine optimisation.

What are the negative impacts of broken links on businesses’ search engine optimisation?

It’s perfectly possible that search engines, such as Google, might start to lower the business in its organic SERP’s, if the business has a lot of broken links.

The reason why Google is likely to lower a business in the SERPs if it has too many 404 page errors is if somebody is shopping for a product and is not presented with that product, instead they find 404-page errors, this means the business is offering a poor U.X.
Google therefore has many other businesses which may offer better U.X have stronger SEO, and therefore these businesses move up Google’s ranks, and the business with a lot of errors, such as 404 page not found errors, are likely to move down.


How do you mitigate the risk of broken links?

If you have a relatively small website, let’s say a brochure website, it might only have 25 pages or less.
Therefore, why not work through the website, checking the internal links manually, do therefore check all of the internal links, the main menu links and the footer to ensure everything is working.

If your website is relatively small, such as a brochure website, it shouldn’t take you very long to do.

Checking every link manually on a larger website, such as an e-commerce website, is impractical because you might have over 1000 pages. Therefore, we highly recommend Screaming Frog to check a more significant site as checking manually, well will take a huge amount of work.

However, using Screaming Frog, takes sometimes just a few minutes, you are then presented with a clear report, showing you if your business has any 404-page errors.


Google Search Console

You can also use the Google Search Console

Using the Google Search Console is a piece of cake; you can use it to find crawl errors by simply clicking button which gives you a list of broken links.


Maintain a consistent URL structure

It’s essential to maintain a consistent URL structure; for example, if you’re taking the website and one content management system to another, copy the URL so its exactly the same.

For example, if you are moving from WordPress to another content management system, make sure the URL is not broken and is kept the same.


301 redirects

Use 301 redirects, if necessary, your web developer will be able to implement this for you. This ensures that you point shoppers from a URL that no longer exists, then redirect the shopper to the new page.


It’s also essential to update your Site map and Robots.txt

It’s essential to update your business site map, and your robots.txt and keep these up-to-date, so the search engines, such as Googlebot know which pages should be crawled and indexed.


Set a date to carry out an SEO audit

For some of our clients, over 100% of their businesses is now generated now through organic search engine optimisation.
So just as you take your car in for its annual MOT; you should carry out an MOT website. However, you might want to check this much more regularly than just once a year; you should set a date, whether that be every month or on a more regular basis that you deem suitable, check the website for broken links, and also see if any other faults may have occurred.




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