Broken links on a website are an indication that a site is not properly maintained and could be telling the engines, “we don’t care about the user experience.”
Broken links can also jeopardize the important internal link popularity. Instead of demonstrating that this destination page is a great resource for insert important keyword here, you are instead sending users and crawlers to a page that no longer exists, exists on someone’s desktop, or never did exist.
So why are broken links more than just broken links? To help explain how broken links are harmful and why this is a fix that can potentially save customers, and search engine positions, I will explain how broken links look to users and search engines.
It is frustrating and deterring when I am browsing a site and there are broken images and links pointing to pages that aren’t there. To me, a pretty critical browser, it demonstrates that the site is not maintained and if this company can’t even update their images and links, can I even trust that their information is recent and relevant? Additionally, if this low level of care is put into their site, might I expect the same level of customer care?
From the search engine crawler’s perspective, a similar image is portrayed. Google Webmaster Guidelines explicitly recommends to “Check for broken links and correct HTML” because this indicates that the site is well maintained and will likely provide the user with a good experience. Google and the other engines certainly don’t want to send users to broken up sites that are going to frustrate visitors – this looks bad for them too!
Furthermore, from a search engine crawler’s perspective, broken links negate a strong internal linking structure which can also reduce opportunity for successful and complete crawling and indexing. Think about it, the bots use the links to move from page to page within a site, and when they are consistently running into road blocks, you risk partial crawling, thus partial indexing.
The internal linking structure of a site also promotes strong internal link popularity so when broken links are present, you are wasting an opportunity to help increase the relevancy of another page of your site.
In the end, fixing broken links is a simple first step to maintaining your site. By ensuring that links aren’t pointing to private directories, development sites, pages that no longer exist, etc., you could improve site usability, encourage a complete crawl, increase the number of pages of your site indexed by the search engines, and potentially increase positioning.