sly : marketing

The Broken Links Dilemma

My website has been penalized by Google before, and with the new Panda 4.0 update, I’m doing my best to stay positive on what’s going to happen next. I have always been focused on quality content, and I’m building a community of like-minded people.

fixing broken links

The really hard part, is not writing the content. I have been writing about tools I am using, like Sanebox (the tool I’m using to filter my email), and I have written reviews about books I’ve been reading. I find it fairly easy to discover content to write about, and since I’m using the Pomodoro technique, writing all my blog posts in batches, during the weekend, I do have control of what I publish and how often I publish.

The really hard part is the technical stuff. By technical, I’m referring to what matters to the search engines, and the errors that keeps messing up my site. The errors that no human will notice. I’m focusing on writing, and if it looks like my website is up and running fine, I just keep writing and I’m happy. After my website got hit by Google, the last time, I have been more aware of why it received a penalty, and what I can do to prevent it.

Broken links

Broken links is an issue. The more links I’ve been adding during the years of blogging, mostly external links, the more broken links I’ve got. I was naive; I never thought that it could be a problem. The same goes for links in the comments section. I started out with a smile, everytime I received a comment. Some of the comments I received was clearly spammy, but I was still smiling, thinking that a new reader just discovered my site.

Again, I was naive, thinking that all engagement was good. To me, broken links is not just links that aren’t working anymore. To me, broken links, means bad links. Links that’ll end up hurting my site.

I don’t want my readers to end up at a place I wouldn’t want to be. That’s why I’ve been removing links from the comments, and that’s why I’ve been testing various tools to find all the broken links on my site.

I understand Google

I’ve been thinking about why I received a penalty from Google, and I have to admit that I still don’t understand why. I know Google is a huge business, and that it might be too much to ask for an explanation, but I’ve been trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. The only thing I’ve discovered are all the broken links on my site.

I understand why Google is hurting sites with broken links. They want the best for their customers. Like I said, I don’t want my readers to end up at a “bad” place, and I don’t want my readers to spend time clicking on links that doesn’t work.

Think about it; what we’re actually doing is turning friends into buyers. We’re a trusted source, and by adding a link to our site, we’re referring our readers to visit the website. So, we need to make sure that we’re adding the “right” links to our site.

Turn it into a habit

I’ve started to visit all the links from people who are commenting on my site. I don’t trust the name anymore. I’m making a visit just to make sure that the site is good enough for my readers. I’m doing this every single day. I’m doing it first thing in the morning, and it’s the last thing I’m doing before I go to bed.

I’ve turned it into a habit. I don’t need to use Full, my favorite iPhone app, because I’m doing it without thinking about it. It’s just part of what I do every single day.



25 responses to “The Broken Links Dilemma”

  1. Nathan Ambrose says:

    Yes, that’s good advice to check the backlinks. There’s far too much spamming going on these days. Any amount is too much of course. But it’s just ridiculous now..

  2. Likewise Jens! I’ve not linked out much but know a few broken ones are out there. I’ve detached on Google and simply make friends and create value, like you.

    • Hey Ryan,

      I’m still watching my backlinks and doing my best keep my blog on track, but I am more focused on creating relationships and keeping my community moving forward.

      Thanks.

      -Jens

  3. Kai Henning Melberg says:

    Very useful article Jens. I was unaware that broken links could cause you to get a bad hit by Google…or hit worse than before with the latest Panda bear.

  4. Hi Jens,
    I hope you are doing well, long time without making a comment. Sorry to hear that you got penalized by Google. Have you checked Google Webmaster Tools? did they send you a message?
    Having to go and check links is a huge bummer. I just can’t imagine how much wasted time you are having. You put great content, so soon you will bounce back.
    Cheers.

    • Hey Ric,

      It’s great to see you again. I’m doing great, I hope you are too.

      I have started to check out Google Webmaster Tools, but the thing is, I don’t like it how they’ve organized everything and the way it works. It takes a lot of time, and I just don’t get it. I know I should be spending time there and that I should be fixing the errors, but I’m not doing the job that needs to get done – but I’m working on it.

      Thanks for your kind words.

      -Jens

  5. Hi Jens, Yes, I understand what Google is trying to do too: give its users quality search results from trusted sources. They can’t check out every website personally so they need to use algorithms to assess the quality of websites. They also can’t tell us what those assessment factors are because then spammers would be all over that.

    But when a quality website such as yours gets hit we all have to worry.

    Deleting broken links is a royal pain, whether the links are cause by bloggers who quit or spammers. I’m with you, Jens. I am being much pickier with which links I allow in comments and with CommentLuv. Deleting broken links isn’t how I want to be spending my time.

    • Hi Carolyn,

      I have a love/hate relationship with Google. I understand what they’re trying to accomplish, but I don’t like the process and the little information they’re sending us. It’s really hard to keep up with what they’re doing, and especially when they’re not sending us any warnings until we get penalized. On the other hand, it’s up to us (me) to fix everything. It takes a lot of time and it’s a royal pain in the … but I’ll manage it 🙂

      -Jens

  6. metz says:

    Broken links are harmful since they make for a bad user experience and also devalue your SEO efforts. Google Analytics is a good tool to help you know your website performance and helpful for easily finding broken links. Your broken link issue will be saved, however, you need to check its performance, make a schedule when to know it still works properly.

    Your last take make sense. Turn it into a habit. By doing so, you can make your users and the search engines beyond contented.

    I have shared this comment in the content syndication and social bookmarking and networking website for Internet marketers – kingged.com where this post was found.

    • Hi Metz,

      I haven’t thought about using Google Analytics to find my broken links. That’s interesting. I’m using Google Webmaster Tools, and I’m looking at some other tools as well – but not Analytics. I’m going to take a closer look at it and see what I can find. I need it to be easy and hopefully fast 🙂

      Thank you.

      -Jens

  7. Tim Bonner says:

    Hi Jens

    I check for any broken links weekly now. I used to do it monthly but they just keep coming at me so I had to do it more often.

    I made all of my CommentLuv links on my blog NoFollow some time ago.

    I started to become concerned about some of the links that were coming through and I’m planning to do an audit next week to remove any ones that link to sales pages which I let through in the past.

    I have a love/hate relationship with Google too. I still think they need to give more information to people if they apply a manual action against their site.

    Otherwise how does the ordinary man on the street go about fixing these things. Half the time when we don’t even realise we’re doing something wrong!

    • Hi Tim,

      I’m doing some daily adjusting to my site now, and I’ll be doing a longer one every week as well. I’m spending more time than ever fixing things on my blog. I’m learning a lot, but that’s not what I thought I’d be doing. I was going to create content, not fixing a lot of problems 🙂

      How are you finding your broken links?

      I’m looking for new tools to help me do it fast and easy. I’ll probably end up paying for some tools, if I just can find the “perfect tool”.

      -Jens

      • Tim Bonner says:

        Hi Jens

        I use brokenlinkcheck.com at the moment but I’m also using a free desktop program called Xenu (Windows only) with has been very successful.

        I’ve started monitoring all backlinks with a paid service called Monitor Backlinks.

        Hopefully that will help me keep away from Google’s manual actions!

  8. It’s not just the broken links that will get you Jens. It’s been a year since I was whacked by Google. Luckily, I was not de-indexed but my organic search traffic dropped from approximately 10k monthly visits to 2k.

    What I found (in addition to the broken links) was that a lot of domain names had changed hands and many of them were now pointing to spammy sites. The offender that stood out the most to me was GoDaddy. I was amazed at the number of domain names that had either been parked with them (or possibly abandoned and now owned by them). Those parked domains were pointing to pages riddled with AdSense ads.

    The other surprise that I found was in my Google Webmaster Tools. There was one spammy site that had about 1250 incoming links to my site. The site webmaster denied they existed and I ended up disavowing the site. It’s a shame that we have to spend so much time monitoring links on our sites but there’s no avoiding it. Good luck recovering from your lost traffic. (I’m still no where near where I was over a year ago.)

    • Hi Sherryl,

      I’m sorry to hear about your experience and that your site was whacked by Google.

      Your experience is very interesting though. What did you do to find all the bad links? Are you only using Google Webmaster Tools? I’m still a newbie when it comes to fixing all the bad links on my site, and I need all the tips I can get.

      Thank you.

      -Jens

      • Jens,
        I use BrokenLinkCheck.com.What I do is keep that open in one tab and then my comments (in WP admin) open in another tab. Then, I search on the domain name to find all of the comments with that URL.

        Adrienne Smith wrote a post about using the “Ajax Edit Comments” plugin. I have that installed too. (I plan on deleting that after I finish cleaning up comments again). That’s very handy because it adds a “More options” function in your comments and you can click on the “De-link” function to remove the URL from the comment too. (I do that after I remove the do-follow tag (if it’s there) and the CommentLuv link.

        As for finding the links that lead to parked domains and spammy sites. I don’t know of any other way to find those other than manually going through your comments. When I do this, I start at my last page of comments and follow the same process. (If I find a spammy site, I search for all comments with that domain and remove them all at once.) It’s tedious but I have avoided being further penalized (so far). So, I believe it’s effective.

        The thing that I was using GWT for was to look for incoming links. Another thing that I dealt with a long time ago was the “ReplytoCom” issue. That can get you too. (If you search for it, you can find a way to see if you’re affected by that.)

        • Sherryl,

          I haven’t been using BrokenLinkCheck.com, but that’s definitively something I’ll be checking out soon. I have installed the Ajax Edit Comments plugin as well, after I read Adrienne’s post. I am going through all my comments right now and trying to de-link all the spammy ones.

          Thanks.

          -Jens

  9. Lisa says:

    Jens, thanks for the reminder to check my broken links. I’m very cautious since my last Google penalty with where I link out to. I agree with Ryan best to find other ways than just Google to rely on traffic to our blogs. I hope the action reverses it for you too. Good luck with it.

    • Hi Lisa,

      Things are changing for me. I’m seeing more traffic every single day. I’m not sure if it’s because I am going through all my links or not, but I’m working hard to make my site a lot better, even for Google. On the other hand, like you said, I’m working on other marketing methods so I won’t have to rely on just Google to get my traffic.

      -Jens

  10. Adrienne says:

    Hey Jens,

    So from what I’ve learned as well, Google doesn’t penalize you for broken links. Not yet at least because that’s something that’s going to happen and they want to give us enough time to clean those up. I know that Matt Cutts himself had over a thousand himself so if he’s not getting punished then it’s got to be true.

    I’ve learned to stay on top of that too but you do have to be careful about who is linking to you and you link to. I really don’t think it’s fair when someone links to you that you had no idea about like what happened to Sherryl. But obviously Google still looks at that as part of your online reputation although that’s totally out of your hands. People are getting slapped because of it though so it’s just one more thing to stay on top of.

    I wish you luck moving forward and cleaning up broken links is never fun.

    ~Adrienne

    • Hi Adrienne,

      That’s very interesting. I had no idea that I can get slapped if the “wrong” sites are linking to my blog. I’m thinking, if we find the links, how can we do anything about it? Is there a way to let Google Webmaster Tools know that we don’t approve the links to our site, and “blacklist” them in anyway?

      Thanks for your comment Adrienne. You sure made me think.

      -Jens

      • Adrienne says:

        Hey Jens,

        That’s how Sherryl was hit the last time with over 1200 links pointing to her that Google deemed as spammy. What usually happens is someone let their domain name go and someone else bought it and now has some crappy site connected to it yet those links are still pointing to you for some reason.

        You can use Moz’s Open Site Explorer sites, just Google that, and it will show you the links pointing to you. Check them out and then your first thing is to contact the owner of the site and ask them to remove them. I think there is a process to go through before you ask Google to disavow them. To be honest with you, I’ve yet to have this issue so I’m not 100% sure of the process but get with Sherryl Perry and she’ll walk you through what to do. It’s happened to her unfortunately.

        That’s what I don’t like about Google, they are blaming us for what others are doing that’s out of our control. You have a great site Jens so it’s got to be something like that which happened to you.

        Good luck!

        ~Adrienne

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