What to do When You Find Broken Backlinks

Broken Backlinks

A recent SalesFuel blog post discussed the importance of link building to SEO, based on information from Search Engine Journal. “Links are an excellent user engagement signal that search engines like Google value when ranking websites. Why is this? It means that businesses have spent time and effort to build links to content worth their customers seeing.” The presence of links also makes it easier for search engines to find the websites that house them. But SEO strategies can come crashing down if you don’t have a plan of attack for managing broken backlinks.

Backlinks are links that another company has on your client’s websites. According to Corey Patterson, writing for Search Engine Land, “broken backlinks occur when an external link from a site points to a non-​existent page on another domain. This most commonly occurs when a page URL has changed or the linking site added an incorrect URL.” Currently, approximately 12.2% of backlinks on e‑commerce websites take people who click on them to error pages, says Patterson. Backlinks can be broken within a year after being established. More than 50% of backlinks can be broken after five years. And that percentage of broken backlinks only gets worse with time.

You need to keep up-​to-​date on the status of the backlinks leading to your client’s websites. But even if you find broken backlinks, don’t panic. Patterson says that there are still uses for them.

When you find broken backlinks that are supposed to lead back to your client’s website, you can reclaim them. Reclaiming a broken backlink simply means reestablishing the link that used to be there. If your client’s website recently went through a refresh, there are probably a considerable number of links that now lead to error pages. That doesn’t do much to help your client’s brand credibility.

Once you figure out where your client’s broken backlinks are, you can start your analysis. A thorough analysis of the anchor text and site the link is attached to can help you determine if the site is still a good match for your client’s link. If the anchor text and sites are still good fits, then all you have to do is reclaim the backlink with the appropriate updated URL. Or, if your client would prefer that the text anchoring the link or the webpage the link leads to should change, jot down the changes you’d like to see.

Either way, you’re going to have to reach out to the site’s owner to make changes the easy way. First of all, let the site owner know about the broken backlinks. Then, "[p]rovide them with the relevant replacement link and ask them to update it,” says Patterson. “Ideally, the site manager will be happy you pointed out a broken link on their site and add in the live URL.”

If you can’t reach the site owner, there’s still a way to repair broken backlinks. Use a redirect to regain the link’s lost value. “Set up a 301 (permanent) redirect to a relevant page on your site. This way you’ll regain the lost link value and users will arrive on a live page,” says Patterson.

Your client may need convincing that searching and reclaiming broken backlinks is worth the effort. If that happens, look up their target audience's profile on AudienceSCAN on AdMall by SalesFuel. Use the data on the marketing tab in this report to show them what percentage of their target audience has clicked on text link ads on websites and how much more likely their customers are to do so than other consumers.

Rachel Cagle

Rachel Cagle

Rachel is a Research Analyst, specializing in audience intelligence, at SalesFuel. She also helps to maintain the major accounts and co-​op intelligence databases. As the holder of a Bachelors degree in English from The Ohio State University, Rachel helps the rest of the SalesFuel team with their writing needs.