When it comes to SEO, broken links are a waste of potential. An effective link building campaign should involve both the creation of new links and ensuring the link’s themselves don’t disappear.
Of course, as long as you’re gaining new quality links faster than you’re losing links, your general profile will arguably improve. Yet link building is a lot of work, so reclaiming broken links is one way for an SEO agency to lighten their load and make use of existing opportunities.
1. Find Dead Links
There are many ways to find dead links but, ideally, you should use a specialised tool, such as Ahrefs. Why? Because Google console isn’t known for being accurate or giving you the entire picture in this regard.
Be sure to collect the data, making note of the URL where the link is, where is redirects to and what the end result is – for broken links, this is most likely a 404 error page. Additionally, tools like Ahrefs can also highlight when links have been lost or removed. While this is a different issue, it is also something to be aware of (sometimes a polite e-mail and get you that link back, after all).
2. Organise The Results
Once you have the results, it makes sense to compile them. Using a simple spreadsheet, you can see if particular URLs stand out – if you’ve changed the URL or structure of your website without setting up proper redirects, previously existing links are going to cause errors.
By grouping them this way, you can see exactly how much work you need to do. This ensure you don’t do anything you don’t need to do and can, as mentioned, bring up bigger issues, whether its common URLs not being linked correctly or specific websites removing your links.
3. Set Up Redirects
For the most part, a simple 301 redirect will solve everything. This way, you don’t need to contact the external website owner and, even better, one redirect will work for all matching, identical URLs. 301 redirects ensure the link works, giving users value when they click on it and letting Google pass on the link power, which helps with improving visibility.
4. Contact The Owners
There might, however, be a few times when you wish to contact the website owners directly. This is best left for noticeable situations, such as:
- When the post is sponsored or paid for, so you arguably have a right to a working link.
- When their content makes use of your unique information, data or infographics and the link has been typed in correctly.
- If it is a platform that you have a strong, close relationship with.
- If the link is relatively new – not many webmasters appreciate going through older posts to fix a singular link. It has more value for you, then it does for them.
This, of course, refers to broken links. If you’ve changed the URL, then you should set up a 301 redirect. You certainly shouldn’t contact people to change to your new URL. This is part of the risk you take when optimise your website with a new structure, without a proper redirect in place – it is not the fault of websites linking to you through the old URL.