Ahrefs: 66.5% Of Links To Sites Are Dead. How Can We Protect Our Link Building Strategies?

Having dead links on your website is not good for your SEO because they take your visitors to broken pages and make Google see your domain with less authority. For this reason, it’s necessary to understand how important a link building strategy is and how to avoid having dead links.

dead links

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You probably passed through the experience of checking a website or a blog post, clicking on a link to check extra information and seeing a broken page. It’s annoying, right? But, more than that: dead links are bad for a SEO strategy.

Some of us may think that websites don’t have many broken links. If you agree with that, we’ve some (bad) news for you. According to Siteefy, there are around 1.17 billion websites in the world and 83% of them are inactive. 

So, do you remember all the links you inserted in your blog posts about two or more years ago? How can you be sure they are still there? If they are not, your organic results are being affected.

Recently, Ahrefs launched a study showing how 66.5% of links to sites have rotted in the last nine years and the main reasons why that happens. We will explain it to you in this article, as well as teaching you how to avoid having dead links on your domain in order to make it stronger.    

What is happening with the website’s links?

Ahrefs is a very popular software among people who work with SEO. Some of its tools include site audits, link building, keyword research and competitor analysis, which are very helpful to build digital strategies and make better decisions.

Since January 2013, Ahrefs analyses how webpages’ links are performing and, according to them, 66.5% of the links pointing to 2.062.173 websites have rotted. Further, 6.45% of them have temporary errors.

This is very bad for the users’ experience and also for SEO because Google recognizes it as an issue that can affect the websites’ position on SERP.

Why are those links being lost?

There are different reasons why a link can be lost. Ahrefs’ study identified the 7 most common:

  • dropped (47.7%)
  • link removed (34.2%)
  • crawl error (6.45%)
  • redirection (5.99%)
  • not found (4.11%)
  • not canonical (0.82%)
  • noindex (0.73%)

A page drops when it’s removed because it can’t be crawled or indexed. It happens when the page or the domain itself doesn’t exist anymore.

On the other hand, a removed link is different because the page still exists, but it no longer links to you. Normally, it occurs during a content refresh or just because the person responsible for the website decided to no longer link to you.

A crawl error happens when a search engine (like Google, for example) tries to reach a webpage and fails. If the page appears after a new crawl, the problem is solved. But, if it doesn’t, the page may drop.

301 Redirect is a very common action when a website is migrated. However, it’s necessary to be sure the link is being taken to the right URL as well as avoiding too many redirections. When the link is not redirected properly, its status changes to lost.

When a link is not found, that means the page has been deleted. So, if a redirect is not done or a new content is published in that link, the status won’t change.

A non-canonical page is something you don’t need to be worried about. When you see it in an audit report, that means the link has just shifted location, like what happens when it changes from HTTP to HTTPS.

Pages marked as “noindex” are considered lost by Ahrefs because, although they exist, will not be found in search engines.

Finally, we must remember that Ahrefs used their own tools to develop this study. But, when you audit your own website, there are also other good softwares you can use, like SEMRush or Screaming Frog.

Why is a link building strategy important to SEO?

When we insert links in a website or blog, we give visitors the chance to check them. Further, we inform Google that our page is connected to other internal and external pages too.

So, in the same way you will never give a friend a bad recommendation for something, you won’t do the same with your public and Google offering them links to bad websites, right? That’s the reason why your links must be very good to make your SEO work through on-page and off-page actions.

On-page SEO

This type of SEO involves all the internal links of your site or blog. However, it’s not just a matter of inserting the links, but doing it based on a strategy.

Topic cluster is the most important one because it determines which articles are essential to your SEO strategy, so all the articles related to the same topic will link to them.

For example: our blog post about interactive content is very strategic because Rock Content offers this kind of solution through Ion. So, every blog post about interactive content will have the first internal link to the main article, which makes its digital authority grow. 

Off-page SEO 

Off-page SEO is a strategy dedicated to insert external links in your website and have other pages linking to you as well.

Some people may think it’s a risk to include external links in your content because the visitors can leave your page and never come back. But, activating the option of opening external links in a new tab can solve this problem.

Furthermore, it’s important to remember that this kind of link building offers a good experience to your readers and makes Google see your page is connected to good domains.

The same happens when other pages link to you. So, having good partners for link exchange and creating really good and shareable pieces of content is necessary. Want an example? Imagine how great it would be having the White House linking to your website.

How to avoid dead links on your website?

Now that you know the importance of a linking build strategy, it’s time to learn how to avoid dead links appearing on your website.

SEO Audit

The first step is running a SEO audit. If you have a huge website, with a large amount of content, an audit will probably take some hours to be completed. But, the results will show everything you need to fix. The best way is to do it every quarter, but you can do it every six months too.

Replace or redirect the links

After identifying all the dead links you have, the next step is replacing them with new content on the same URL or redirecting them to other similar pages (this is what people do most).

Remember: every dead link is an issue and Google doesn’t like it. So, fix them as soon as you can to make your website perform and rank better.

Transform dead links into link exchange opportunity

Dead links are a good opportunity to make new link partners. A common practice among SEO experts is replacing a broken external link to someone else’s page. You can use a tool like Semrush to identify these broken links.

Then, you can get in touch with the person responsible for that page and say something like:

“Hello! I’ve found this article written by you and included this in a blog post of mine about this same topic. Do you think it’s possible to have a link of mine in your blog too?”

Also, if you find dead links in someone’s domain, you can use a different approach to have a link of yours included in there:

“Hello! I’ve noticed that your article has a broken link to digital marketing and my blog has a great piece of content about it! Please, feel free to replace it with my link.”

Some people will accept, some people won’t. But, after following those three tips, the problems you have with dead links will be solved.

I hope this article was helpful for you and your link building strategy. Now, if you want to be sure your SEO strategy as a whole is good enough too, stick with us and take our free assessment to find out!


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