What is Link Rot and how to Avoid It? [+ Tools]18 min read

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What is Link Rot and how to avoid it

Link rot, or the gradual decay of hyperlinks over time, poses a serious threat to the effectiveness and reliability of digital content in today’s fast-paced online environment. Did you know that a staggering 66.5% of links have rotted over the last nine years?

Addressing link rot has thus become a crucial task for SEO professionals and website managers. This guide will offer an exhaustive exploration of the subject of link rot, outlining the tools and best practices you can use to remedy this widespread problem.

Let’s get right into it.

TL;DR

  • Link rot refers to hyperlinks becoming non-functional over time, impacting user experience and SEO.
  • Factors such as URL changes, deletion of target pages, domain expiration, and server issues contribute to link rot.
  • Link rot harms user experience, lowers SEO rankings, disrupts partnerships, and may pose legal and compliance risks.
  • Identifying link rot requires manual scrutiny of key pages, call-to-action buttons, anchor texts, and external references, along with automated checks using tools like BacklinkManager.
  • Automated checks enable efficient identification of link rot by scanning for broken links, with BacklinkManager’s crawler and segmentation features allowing for strategic management.
  • Addressing a dead link involves evaluating its significance, deciding whether to fix, replace or remove it, aligning with original intent, understanding underlying causes, and maintaining open communication with users.
  • Monitoring external backlinks is crucial, with tools like BacklinkManager offering 24/7 link monitoring, notifications for removed or broken links, live link status and easy link management via partnerships and link vendor module.
  • You should try reaching out to site owners when you find a broken link. You can use BacklinkManager’s CRM feature to keep track of the conversation.
  • When you can’t recover your links, you can also counteract link rot by creating new content, turning potential losses into opportunities for attracting fresh backlinks.
  • Best practices for preventing link rot include choosing stable sites with high domain authority for external links, regularly updating web content to keep links functional and relevant, and implementing proper redirects like 301 redirects to maintain user experience.

Try the best tool for your link building campaigns! CRM + Link Monitoring + Reporting

 

What is link rot?

An explanation of the problem of link rot

Link rot, also known as link decay or link death, refers to the phenomenon whereby a hyperlink on a website becomes non-functional over time. This can occur when the linked web page is moved, deleted, or altered in a way that causes the original URL to become invalid.

Link rot, as you can see from the post above – can be very costly. That’s why it’s an important problem for link-building and SEO agencies and their clients alike.

In the context of digital marketing, dead links are more than just an inconvenience; they’re a barrier to efficient information retrieval and navigation. For SEO managers, a non-functional link can disrupt the user’s experience, reflecting negatively on the website’s perceived quality.

What causes link rot?

Link rot can be attributed to a variety of factors. Here are a few possible examples:

  1. URL Changes: If the target page’s URL changes without proper redirection, the original link will become broken.
  2. Deletion of Target Page: Removing or deleting the content being linked to, without updating or removing the corresponding links, leads to link rot.
  3. Domain Expiration: If a linked domain expires or is taken down, all associated links will cease to function.
  4. Linking to Volatile Content: Linking to content that is expected to change frequently, such as temporary promotions or event pages, can result in link rot once the content changes or is removed.
  5. Server Issues: Technical issues on the hosting server, such as downtime or configuration changes, can temporarily or permanently break links.
  6. Third-party Links: Linking to external sites that you don’t control can also cause link rot if those sites change URLs or take down content.
  7. Security Protocols: Changes in website security measures, such as transitioning from HTTP to HTTPS without proper redirection, can result in broken links.

Why is link rot problematic?

Link rot can significantly detract from user experience. Broken links lead to frustration among users, sometimes resulting in a premature exit from your website and a reluctance to return. Over time, persistent link rot can foster a perception of poor site maintenance, harming your website’s credibility.

From an SEO perspective, the presence of broken links can lead to penalties from search engines, which recognize link rot as an indicator of a poorly-maintained website. This results in lower SEO rankings, reducing the website’s visibility in search results, and subsequently affecting traffic and potential revenue.

Beyond the user and search engine implications, link rot also presents challenges in terms of analytics. Broken links can skew any data collected on user behavior and engagement, potentially leading to misinformed strategic decisions later down the line.

In the context of partnerships and affiliate marketing, link rot can disrupt these relationships and potentially compromise successful collaborations. If backlinks provided to other businesses or influencers become broken, it can damage relationships and impact reciprocal linking agreements.

To prevent this from happening, make sure you use a CRM to manage your link building partnerships. Ideally, use a dedicatedlink-building CRM with a crawler to update you on the status of your links in your partnership:

link partnerships in BacklinkManager

With a tool like BacklinkManager, you will get a notification if either your or your partner’s backlink disappears. You can also filter all your links by status, to follow up with all of your partners on rotten links:

Link rot detection in BacklinkManager

In some sectors, particularly those subject to stringent regulation, link rot could even pose legal and compliance risks. If key linked content that’s required for regulatory compliance becomes inaccessible, it could result in penalties or legal challenges.

And don’t forget the issue of opportunity cost. If left unchecked, the ongoing task of identifying and repairing broken links can become a costly and time-consuming process, impacting resources that could be better utilized in other areas of SEO management.

How to identify link rot on your site

An example of using automation to identify link rot

Identifying link rot on your website involves a combination of manual scrutiny, leveraging automation, and implementing strategic actions when dead links are detected. In the following section, we’ll explore how link rot can be identified manually, how automated solutions like BacklinkManager can help with that, and how to act responsibly when a dead link is discovered on your site.

Manual Checks

While automation plays a vital role in modern SEO management, there remains a place for manual checks in identifying link rot on your site. Manual checks, though less scalable, allow for a nuanced understanding of the context of each link. Here’s how you can conduct manual checks:

  • Review Key Pages: Focus on primary pages that are essential to your site’s user experience, such as landing pages, product pages, and key informational content. Inspect the hyperlinks on these pages to ensure they lead to the correct destinations.
  • Test Call-to-Action Buttons: Often, CTAs are crucial conversion points on your site. Manually testing these buttons and links can help detect any issues that might impede user conversion.
  • Inspect Anchor Text: Look for anchor text within your content that might be linked to obsolete or irrelevant pages. These links should be updated or removed to align with the current content strategy.
  • Verify Image Links: Images that link to additional content or larger versions should be checked manually to ensure that they are directing users to the intended locations.
  • Utilize Browser Tools: Some browser extensions and tools can aid manual checks by highlighting broken or redirected links as you navigate your site.
  • Document Findings: Keep a record of your findings during manual checks to inform future updates, repairs, or overall link strategy. This documentation can be a valuable reference for ongoing maintenance.

Automated checks

In cases where websites contain thousands of links, automated checks are an essential tool for efficiently identifying link rot. Automated tools scan your site, rapidly locating broken or problematic links, a task that would be cumbersome and time-consuming to perform manually.

BacklinkManager

BacklinkManager enables you to easily monitor the link status of all the links on your site, including factors such as do-follow, no-follow, and 404 statuses. To save you from manually checking a huge number of links, BacklinkManager’s crawler sifts through your site, identifying problematic links and allowing for quick intervention.

BacklinkManager monitoring for broken links

When you do discover a dead link, BacklinkManager’s ability to organize links into target groups allows for more effective management and prioritization. This segmentation facilitates a strategic approach to link repair and replacement, tailoring efforts to align with your particular goals and priorities.

Try the best tool for your link building campaigns! CRM + Link Monitoring + Reporting

 

Ahrefs

ahrefs link monitoring

Ahrefs is a powerful tool that can help you avoid link rot by effectively monitoring your website’s backlinks. Here’s how a beginner can use Ahrefs for link monitoring:

  • Create an account: First, sign up for an Ahrefs subscription to access their comprehensive suite of SEO tools.
  • Add your domain: After logging in, navigate to the Projects section and add your domain to start tracking your website’s backlinks and other metrics.
  • Access Site Explorer: Use the Site Explorer tool to analyze your domain’s backlink profile, including the number of referring domains, backlinks, and more.
  • Monitor new and lost backlinks: In the Site Explorer, navigate to the ‘Backlinks’ and ‘New & Lost’ tabs to keep track of your website’s newly acquired and lost backlinks. Regularly monitoring these links will help you identify and address potential issues, such as broken or toxic links.
  • Set up alerts: Configure Ahrefs Alerts to receive email notifications for new backlinks, lost backlinks, and keyword rankings. This will help you stay informed and quickly react to changes in your backlink profile.
  • Export data: Export your backlink data to a CSV file by clicking the ‘Export’ button in Site Explorer, making it easier to analyze, share, and archive your link data.
  • Learn from resources: Utilize Ahrefs’ Academy and Blog to learn more about link monitoring best practices and enhance your SEO skills.

SEMrush

link monitoring SEMrush

SEMrush is a powerful SEO tool that offers a variety of features for link monitoring. By keeping track of your website’s backlinks, you can maintain a healthy backlink profile and avoid link death. Here are some actionable steps for beginners to monitor their links using SEMrush:

  • Backlink Analytics: Use SEMrush’s Backlink Analytics to analyze your website’s backlink profile, including the total number of backlinks, referring domains, and anchor texts. Regularly review this data to identify trends and potential issues in your backlink profile.
  • New and Lost Backlinks: Monitor new and lost backlinks in the “Backlinks” tab within the Backlink Analytics section. This allows you to track the stability of your existing backlinks and discover new link-building opportunities.
  • Backlink Gap: Utilize the Backlink Gap tool to compare your backlink profile with your competitors’. This can help you find websites that link to your competitors but not to you, which could be potential link-building opportunities.
  • Backlink Audit: Regularly perform a Backlink Audit to identify potentially harmful backlinks and disavow them, protecting your website from penalties and negative SEO impacts.
  • Set Up Alerts: Set up Backlink Monitoring alerts to receive notifications when your website gains or loses backlinks. This enables you to stay on top of changes in your backlink profile and react accordingly.

SearchConsole

google search console to review linking domains

Continuing our discussion, let’s examine how Google Search Console can be employed for link monitoring, an essential aspect of maintaining and improving your website’s search engine ranking. Regularly monitoring your backlinks can help you identify potential issues and capitalize on opportunities for growth. Here’s an actionable guide for beginner SEOs:

  • Step 1: Log in to your Google Search Console account and verify your website, if you haven’t done so already.
  • Step 2: Navigate to the “Links” section in the left-hand menu to view data about your website’s backlinks and internal links.
  • Step 3: Regularly review the “Top linking sites” report to monitor your website’s backlink profile. Keep an eye out for any sudden changes in the number of backlinks, which could indicate an issue or an opportunity for further link-building efforts.
  • Step 4: Analyze the “Top linked pages” report to track the performance of individual pages on your website. This information can help you identify pages that may require optimization or additional promotion to acquire more backlinks.
  • Step 5: Use the “Top linking text” report to monitor the anchor text used by other websites when linking to your content. Ensure that the anchor text aligns with your target keywords and accurately represents your content.
  • Step 6: Set a schedule for regularly checking your backlink profile in Google Search Console. Consistent monitoring will allow you to detect issues and capitalize on opportunities in a timely manner.
  • Step 7: If you identify any problematic backlinks or patterns, take action to address them. This may involve contacting the linking website to request changes or using Google’s Disavow Tool to disavow harmful backlinks.

By following these actionable steps, you can effectively use Google Search Console to monitor your website’s backlink profile, maintain a healthy link profile, and improve your search engine ranking over time.

By leveraging automation, you can free up valuable time and resources to focus on strategic initiatives and other essential aspects of your digital presence.

What to do when you detect a dead link on your site

Detecting a dead link on your site is just the first step in addressing link rot. Once identified, prompt and thoughtful action is required to mitigate potential problems.

First, determine the significance of the dead link. Is it tied to a critical business function, a major content piece, or a significant call-to-action? Understanding the importance of the link helps prioritize the urgency of the fix.

Next, evaluate whether the link should be fixed, replaced, or removed. If the linked content has moved, updating the link with the correct URL is the obvious solution. If the content no longer exists or is irrelevant, you might consider replacing the link with a new, relevant destination or simply removing the link altogether.

When replacing links, ensure that the new destination aligns with the original intent and context of the link. Redirecting users to unrelated content can create confusion and negatively impact user experience.

If the dead link is part of a pattern or trend, you may need to delve deeper to identify underlying causes. Understanding the root cause can lead to more sustainable solutions and prevent recurring issues.

Remember, open communication with your users is vital. If a critical link is temporarily broken, consider implementing a user-friendly error message to guide users to other parts of your site and maintain a positive experience.

Dealing with Link Rot on External Websites

Link graphic

Link rot can also occur on external websites linking to your site. It’s not easy to fix link rot on external sites, as you can’t control what the owners of third party platforms decide to do with their websites. There are, however, various strategies you can use, such as monitoring your backlinks, reaching out to site owners, and creating new content.

Monitoring External Backlinks

The monitoring of external backlinks is paramount in maintaining a strong online presence. In the dynamic world of online content, where web pages can be updated or removed without notice, automation is a critical ally. BacklinkManager offers 24/7 link monitoring, enabling you to see the current status of your links at any given time. It does a two-factor check on every link you’ve built to ensure the data it gives you is accurate.

BacklinkManager sends you instant in-app or email notifications when a paid link gets removed or a page goes 404, meaning that you’ll hear about any changes immediately.

BacklinkManager will highlight when a page goes 404

This makes it harder for rogue vendors to remove your links without you noticing, and equips you to demand compensation when this occurs.

Likewise, BacklinkManager’s Backlink Monitoring by Status feature enhances your ability to manage external backlinks effectively. By switching between your do-follow and no-follow links, you can easily find the specific link you’re looking for via the search bar.

Reach Out to Site Owners

If you encounter a broken link pointing to your site, it’s advisable to contact the site owner and request that the link be updated. BacklinkManager’s CRM feature will make this easier for you, as it stores all your partners’ contact details and any previous correspondence in one central location.

Company link profile on BacklinkManager

In your outreach, be sure to clearly and concisely explain the purpose of your outreach and the desired outcome. Explain the situation, provide the necessary details about the broken link, and offer assistance if needed. If the link is part of a collaboration or partnership, mention that as well.

Persistence is key when reaching out to site owners. If you don’t receive a response, it’s essential to follow up in a polite manner. If email communication doesn’t yield results, reaching out via social media platforms might be an alternative. Some site owners are more responsive on social channels.

If the site owner doesn’t respond or refuses to fix the link, consider alternative actions, such as replacing the link on your site or reporting the link as broken to search engines.

Create New Content

Creating new, high-quality content is a neat way to counteract the effects of link rot by attracting fresh backlinks. There are two strategies that are worth considering here:

  1. Creating Content for the Third-Party Site:

    If you discover dead links on a third-party site that were previously directing traffic to you, a proactive solution is to offer to write new content for the linking site. By doing so, you not only rectify the problem but also continue to drive traffic from that site to yours. Crafting content that aligns with both your goals and the third-party site’s audience ensures that the links remain valuable and relevant.

  2. Developing New Content on Your Site:

    Another option is to create new content on your site that’s related to the topic of the page that was previously linked to from third-party sites. By crafting quality content around similar themes, you’re positioning your site to attract good backlinks organically. The new content can become a destination for those interested in the subject matter, and you can further promote it through manual link-building efforts.

By engaging directly with the challenge and creating new content tailored to the situation, you can turn what might have been a loss into an opportunity for growth and drive more traffic to your site.

Best Practices for Preventing Link Rot

Finding rotted links on Ahrefs

To prevent link rot, it’s best to stop it from occurring in the first place. This can be achieved through a combination of choosing stable sites for external links, regularly updating web content, and implementing proper redirects. Let’s look at these one by one.

Choose Stable Sites for External Links

When selecting external links for your own website, opt for sites that are reliable and have a history of remaining operational. These are typically websites with high domain authority and receive a considerable amount of traffic, such as:

  • reputable news websites
  • educational institutions (look for the telltale .edu domain!)
  • well-known industry publications

Choosing stable sites for external links ensures that the links remain active and do not become disconnected, which in turn safeguards the integrity of your content.

As a nice bonus, these sites typically have a high domain authority, meaning that they’re excellent backlinks for the health of your website!

Regularly Update Web Content

Keeping your web content up-to-date is essential in ensuring that links remain functional and do not become invalid. This can be achieved by:

  • Locating inactive links and modifying them as necessary. You can use automated tools such as BacklinkManager to monitor changes.
  • Staying abreast of industry events, trends, or changes in regulations. By being proactive in aligning content with these factors, you minimize the risk of linking to outdated information.
  • Regularly reviewing past content for accuracy and relevancy, and removing content that no longer feels current or on-brand.

Failure to frequently update web content may result in decreased search engine rankings, reduced user engagement, and a reduction in website traffic.

Implement Proper Redirects

When a link is no longer valid, it’s important to implement effective redirects to ensure that users are directed to the appropriate page. This can be achieved by establishing 301 redirects or utilizing other techniques such as URL rewriting.

Using proper redirects, such as 301 redirects, helps maintain the link equity and traffic of the original page, ensuring a smooth user experience and minimizing the impact of link rot on your website.

Summary

Although it’s an often-overlooked aspect of website management, link rot can have a profound impact on user experience, search engine rankings, and overall website performance. It’s not merely a technical concern, but a multifaceted challenge that involves keeping content relevant, engaging, and compliant with industry standards.

Businesses can combat this issue by systematically identifying link rot on their own site and those of third parties. Once a dead link has been identified, it’s a matter of replacing it, writing new content and negotiating with external partners if necessary.

In an environment where businesses have thousands of backlinks from a multitude of sites, the automation provided by BacklinkManager is an essential tool for saving time. BackLinkManager will monitor both internal and external links for your 24/7, instantly notify you when one of them goes down, and store your communication with external partners so that reaching out to them is effortless.

But don’t take our word for it! Book a free demo today and see for yourself!