It may not seem like much on the surface, but deep down, a broken link is doing some serious damage to your website, your reputation, and your business. A single broken link can impact your search engine rankings, your site’s user experience, result in lost customers and revenue, or, in worst case, all of the above.
Web users are a fickle bunch. When a website works perfectly, nobody bats an eye because “it’s supposed to be that way”, but when something goes wrong - out come the claws! Don’t get mauled by website errors that are easy to find and easy to fix.
What Causes Broken Links?
Broken links are the ones that bring you to a page that says “404 error”. The most common, self-inflicted, causes of broken links are:
- Renaming or moving a webpage and forgetting to change your internal links
- Linking to content (PDFs, videos, etc.) that has been moved or deleted
- Linking to a third party page, and not knowing when they change the URL or move the page
Whatever the cause, broken links are frustrating errors that need to be addressed immediately. Let’s take a look at some of the ways in which a broken link can impact your site.
The debate over exactly how broken links impact your SEO is ongoing. Google has stated that simply having a broken link or two on your site won’t hurt your rankings, but the impact shows in other ways.
Broken links stop search engine crawlers in their tracks
Crawlers are busy little guys (they’ve only got an entire Internet to scan over and over again), so when they run into a broken link, they stop crawling that page and move on to the next one, meaning any pages it hasn’t crawled won’t be indexed or receive a ranking.
Broken links lead to lower website traffic
If a user encounters a broken link, they will likely be discouraged from continuing to any other pages. By spending less time on your site, search engine algorithms will assume it's because your site isn’t providing visitors with quality content or information, resulting in a lower ranking.
We’ve all run into a broken link at some point, and it’s a frustrating experience. Whether it’s preventing us from paying a bill or from watching a video of a baby panda, it’s something we’ll remember the next time we visit that site. That is, if we ever come back.
Users favor sites that work
No surprise there. If your site is a chaotic mess of broken links that impedes users from completing a task, they’ll move on to the site that works - probably one of your competitors. Trust takes time to build, but only a moment to lose.
Broken links are roadblocks in the conversion process. No matter how much time and energy (and money) you’ve spent getting customers to your site, if they can’t reach the point of conversion, all of your efforts will have been wasted.
Bad news travels fast
Losing customers is a bummer. Not only are you losing revenue from them, but you’re going to lose their closest friends as well. KISSmetrics did the math, and 44% of users will tell others about a bad online experience.