How to make sure your backlinks are linking to right pages?
Website pages come and go, so when you are deleting a page make sure to replace them with a 301 redirect page or build another page with the same URL as the page you have backlinks pointing to. If a backlink just points to a 404 Page error it does not properly carry link equity throughout your site. A 301 redirect page is a page that takes place of the deleted page and redirects visitors to a new page will help remedy this situation. Similarly, restoring or creating a page with the same URL you have backlinks to will also do the trick. A good example is if you have a popular article or product and then you update the article and change the URL i.e. news.com/bestcars2017 and you update it to be news.com/bestcars2018 and just delete the original URL you will lose all the original link power if that was a popular page that other websites are linking to. We see this as well with products that are discontinued or out-of-stock. Just keep the page and mention that the product is out of stock and point visitors to a new product, or in the case of the article just point them to the updated page. We see this happen a lot during website redesigns but it can also just occur as your website grows and products and content evolve. It is always good to address this quickly as website owners that link to your website are likely to remove any backlinks that no longer point to functioning pages.
What are Backlinks?
Backlinks are links pointing to your website from other websites. In most cases backlinks to your website are very good things and are seen by search engines, such as Google, as “votes” for your website. The more “votes” you have the better you will rank. However, bad backlinks are backlinks that may be coming from penalized websites, link farms, low-quality directories or other sources that search engines may not approve of. If you have any of these types of backlinks pointing to your website it is important to disavow or have them removed.
Task 1 of 2: Fix 404 error pages that have backlinks pointing to them.
Backlinks are an important part of why your website ranks (or doesn’t rank). Link reclamation is one way to ensure that you are not missing out on any of the hard earned links you’ve previously acquired. As your website evolves and pages get added or removed it is possible that some of the pages you remove actually have valuable backlinks from other websites pointing to them. During website redesigns this can be an especially large problem if you don’t take steps to avoid it in the first place. To limit broken backlinks when doing a redesign try to keep as many of your existing URLs as possible and reuse them on your new website. If you use dynamic URLs and are changing platforms this may not be an option so you will want to make 100% sure that all your old URLs have 301 redirects pointing to your new URLs. This can be time consuming but is worth it. If you just have a few links pointing to 404 pages follow the steps in this task and the next to quickly reclaim them and avoid losing them.
Steps to complete this task
- Make a list of pages with 404 errors that have backlinks pointing to them
- Determine if you have moved the page (i.e. during a redesign) or if the page was deleted on purpose or by accident
- If you can restore/fix the page that is the best course of action. If it is due to outdated content or a product out of stock, the best solution is to restore the page and explain that the content is no longer up-to-date and provide a link to any new content. Do the same thing for products that have been removed or are out of stock.
- If you can’t restore/fix the page do a 301 redirect to a relevant page that is working (this usually keeps some of the link power coming in and more important the website linking to you won’t remove the link as it redirects to something relevant).
- Make sure that going forward you have customized 404 pages with navigational options that point users to the main areas of your website (until you find and fix 404 errors this at least improves visitor experience and internal linking).
Task 2 of 2 : Utilize 301 redirects when necessary.
A 301 redirect is a useful tool to let visitors and search engines alike know that you have moved a page. 301 redirects are considered permanent and as such tend to pass along some of the link juice coming into a redirected page to the new page. Whenever you have a page that has links pointing at it or gets significant traffic you should utilize 301 redirects rather than just having a 404 error. Point the 301 redirect to the most relevant page possible not just your homepage. While the proper deployment of 301 redirects requires some research it is always worth it and easier than getting new backlinks!
Steps to complete this task
Correctly implementing 301 redirects requires an understanding of programming and is specific to the platform your website uses.