BOULDER, CO – All Internet users have experienced the frustration of clicking on a Web link to find information, only to be disappointed by a message such as “Page Not Found.” SEO expert Ali Husayni, of Millionairium, offers tips on how companies can avoid disappointed customers – and Google ranking drops – because of broken links.
Husayni, President and CEO of the Google SEO company, offers insight into broken links and solutions to avoid them. “If a page is listed with Google and other Web pages on the Internet link to it or the site itself, yet the page is later removed, it creates a negative experience for web surfers,” Husayni says. “When they click on the link, they reach a dead end – Such as ‘404 Error — Page Not Found.’ Google wants to improve people’s experiences on the Web, and frowns upon sites that send people nowhere.”
It is a frustrating dilemma when someone is interested in gaining information about a topic that’s posted, yet when they try to click on the link the page has been removed.
One solution can be to ask hosts of sites that link to the page you want to remove to update their links. However, this could be difficult at times if you do not have a relationship with the host site.
“Google rankings of sites with broken links are negatively impacted,” says Husayni, an SEO expert. “It could take months to regain prior, higher rankings after they have been lost. This occurs particularly when a removed page is listed within the Google XML Sitemap.”
According to Google’s Webmaster Central information pages, Sitemaps provide a way to inform Google about pages on your site that may not be discovered otherwise. An XML Sitemap is a list of your Website pages. Developing and submitting a Sitemap helps ensure that Google knows about all of your site’s pages, including URLs that might not be discoverable by way of Google’s usual crawling process.
To avoid negative results from broken links, try not to ever remove a page from your site – however this is not always easy to do, Husayni says. And if one is removed, use a 301 redirect to tell Google spiders that the page is removed.
Google recommends that if you need to change a page’s URL as shown in the search engine results, that you use a server-side 301 redirect. Google’s Webmaster Central information pages say this is an ideal way to ensure that users and search engines are directed to the right page. The 301 status code means the page has moved permanently to a new location.
The 301 redirects are most useful if you have moved your site to a new domain, and want to make the most seamless transition. When people reach your site through different URLs, if your home page can be reached in many ways, then it is good to select one of the URLs as a preferred (canonical) destination, and use 301 redirects to send traffic from other URLs to the preferred URL. You may use Webmaster Tools to set your preferred domain.
It also is helpful to use 301 redirects if you are merging two websites and want to make sure that links to outdated URLs are redirected to the right pages.
To implement a 301 redirect for Websites hosted on servers running Apache, you will need access to your server’s .htaccess file. If you are unsure about your access or server software, check with your web host. You may consult the Apache Tutorial and the Apache URL Rewriting Guide for more information, Google advises on its Webmaster Central pages. If your site is hosted on a server running other software, check with your host for details.
Addressing the issue of broken links is worth the time and effort to resolve. It can help avoid frustration from customers who visit your site and prevent drops in rankings.
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