In spite of the 450 odd algorithm changes Google purportedly makes to improve its search engine results, building links is still an incredibly important activity, to both improve and maintain search rankings.
It’s a noble and worthwhile past time if you do it ethically.
However, I’m often amazed at the amount of external links coming into client sites which point to pages which are ‘not found’.
Putting it bluntly, if someone links to a page which no longer exists causing a 404 error response from the server (page not found) there’s zero search engine benefit.
Get daily business news.
The latest stories, funding information, and expert advice. Free to sign up.
The best place to find these errors is Google’s Webmaster Tools Dashboard.
You can see all the ‘Page not found’ errors listed. If you’re lucky there won’t be any, but I’m yet to come across a site that doesn’t.
The main reasons for pages no longer existing usually comes down to two factors; either the site has been redeveloped and there’s a brand new site map (or structure), the other being that a webmaster has simply deleted an old page for whatever reason.
For those external link partners, this can be disheartening. They’ve taken the time to link to your website and you’ve inadvertently removed the page they linked to. Effectively, you’ve upset their visitors and their experience on the partner linking site.
Go and have a good hard look at yourself in the mirror.
What’s really cool about Google’s Webmaster Tools is that you can see which internal and external pages have links on them which point to your broken pages (and the broken page they link to).
In the example above, (and without going into the ‘whys’ and ‘wherefores’), having put the page up in 2007, I decided to remove it from our website simply because I felt that the content on it was not suitable for me or our brand. We all make mistakes.
The problem for us is that there are three web pages which link to a page which no longer exists on our site.
Here they are:
Okay, so what can you do to help your link partners and get the maximum SEO benefit?
The easiest answer can be to simply contact the webmaster and ask him or her to update the link. The risk is that this can take time, or they simply just remove the link to you altogether because it’s easier.
The best answer I think lies in 301 redirects, which are permanent redirects.
The trick here is to setup a 301 redirect, so when a search engine robot or human (using a browser) requests a page from your server which no longer exists, forward them to page which does, which ideally has content related to the old page.
Regularly audit your ‘not found’ errors and create the 301 redirects as necessary. It can be a lot easier than building new links.
For more Online Sales expert advice, click here.
Chris Thomas heads up Reseo, a search engine optimisation company which specialises in creating and maintaining Google AdWords campaigns and Search Engine Optimisation campaigns for a range of corporate clients.