Will Broken Links Harm Your Google Website Ranking?
The first answer to will broken links harm your Google ranking is no. The second answer is yes.
Broken Links Won’t Harm Your Website
Google says “Generally, 404 errors don’t impact your site’s ranking in Google.” Note the word ‘generally’
404s are a perfectly normal part of the web. You will likely never be able to control every link to your site, or resolve every 404 error listed in Webmaster Tools. Instead, check the top-ranking issues and fix those if possible” Read more…
This is of course only part of the story. Google’s info page doesn’t mention anything about the number of broken links. It’s perfectly normal for Google to find broken links to your website from other websites.
Broken Links Can Harm Your Website SEO
Let’s look at another situation. Google finds lots of broken links, with your own website as the referrer. That’s OK sometimes. Maybe you’d done some old content removal, or changed your link structure, and hadn’t got round to fixing all the broken links. In a week or so you’ll have fixed them all with 301 redirects to the new URLs. No problem.
But what if Google continues to find broken links, every day – internal links from your own site pages to your own site pages. Clearly something is not right. Lot’s of bad internal links indicate to Google there’s something badly wrong with your website; some technical problem perhaps.
Google Tries to Serve a Quality Experience to Searchers
That’s the idea anyway. Farmer, Panda and Penguin are all aimed at delivering better web content to searchers. If Google thinks there’ something technically wrong with your website, it won’t consider your site as a quality experience now will it…
If this situation continues for any length of time, your site is going to lose ranking… That means your pages are going to fall further and further down the SERP list.
What About Visitors?
Google ranking is part of the story. What about your potential visitors. Do you think it’s a good experience for a lot of people finding indexed content in Google, clicking the link, only to get a 404 page offering to let you search for what they are looking for. I don’t think so.
But then it’s not going to be a problem for very long – as your website content falls further away from the first 30 listings, fewer searchers will find your site anyway.
People expect content in Google’s index to exist! If I click a link from a Google search and get a 404, I go straight back to Google and try another link. That website just lost me. If it’s a business site, it’s lost me as a possible subscriber or customer too.
How Can a Website Have So Many Bad Links?
It’s an unusual situation. One situation that comes to mind is a website with embedded (indexed) IDX feeds from a real estate Multi Listing Service.
Some IDX companies e.g. Diverse Solutions IDX remove sold and withdrawn properties. All of a sudden your indexed listing for that property is gone. but it’s still in Google’s index. And Google found these listings from IDX listings on your website…
What can be done
It’s Catch 22; if you have a site relying on 3rd party feeds like an IDX. You need those listings to get business, to give site visitors tools to find something to buy. But you are losing business because your site is “technically bad”.
The only thing you can do is reduce the potential for broken links in Google’s index – how you do that is up to you.
You may have to get rid of the 3rd party service, change to another one, or use HTML markup to stop this content getting indexed in the first place.
The following link may not be totally relevant to this article, but it’s worth reading as it discuses broken links, 404 page not found errors and the importance of 301 redirects.