There are many different SEO tactics you can use to improve your position in Google search results.
From researching and deploying the right keywords and phrases in your content to encouraging organic external links with high-authority information — all of this can have a marked impact on your SEO performance.
However, all of this will come to nothing if you have broken links and orphan pages on your site.
Read on to learn more about what these are, why they are a problem, and what you can do about them.
What are broken links and orphan pages?
Both broken links and orphan pages are structural problems within a website’s framework.
As a website grows larger and more sophisticated, its structure must follow suit, encompassing more pages and offering more ways to link between those pages.
However, larger and more sophisticated should not necessarily mean more complex and more confusing.
In fact, businesses need to remain focused on delivering a smooth and intuitive experience to all of their users.
Broken links and orphan pages work against this focus, making the site more confusing and difficult to navigate. But what exactly do these terms refer to?
1. Broken links
A broken link is simply any link that doesn’t work. When the user clicks on this link, they are taken somewhere different from the location they expected to land in.
On very basic websites, this may simply be a generic error message in the browser, often referred to as “404 errors”. On more sophisticated sites, this may be a specially designed “content not found” page.
Broken links can occur for many reasons. You may have forgotten to update all of your links after moving content, or there may be a problem within the code itself.
2. Orphan pages
An orphan page is a page that is not connected to the rest of the website. It is there, and it is visible as long as the user inputs the correct URL, but there is no way to simply click through to this page from within the site.
Again, this sometimes happens when the site is restructured and one or more pages are forgotten about during the reshuffle.
Why are broken links and orphan pages such a problem?
Broken links and orphan pages are problematic for a number of reasons.
1. Google does not respond well to broken links and orphan pages
If someone clicks on your site and receives an error message, they are going to “bounce” from your site immediately. Google utilises this bounce rate as a way of assessing the quality of a website, assigning SERP positions accordingly.
If your bounce rate is too high — which will be the case if you have broken links — this is going to be harmful.
In addition, Google needs to be able to crawl your content. If its crawlers run into difficulty — such as links that are broken and pages that have been cast adrift — this may also have a detrimental effect.
2. Your lovingly crafted content is missing its mark
If you don’t mind that one of your pages is an orphan, or that one of the links to your content is broken, then what is the point of deploying that page or that content at all?
The idea of content marketing is to create content that users really engage with. If they can’t find that content, it has all been a waste of time for your content team.
3. You may be missing out on traffic
It’s not just the SEO downturn that could harm your traffic, as well as your revenue. If broken links are appearing on other pages, you may be missing out on a healthy volume of web traffic from these sources.
This is not something you can afford to lose, especially as Google loves organic links to your website from external sources.
4. You are providing a poor experience for your customers
If your page structure is full of broken links and adrift pages, it doesn’t present a good image for your company. What’s more, it provides a bad experience for your customers, who are likely to head elsewhere if you don’t fix the problem.
What can you do about broken links and orphan pages?
Fortunately, there are approaches you can take to fixing these broken links and orphan pages:
- Conduct regular site audits to ensure that all your pages are connected and all your links are working.
- Keep track of organic links from third-party sites and check to make sure that they are working.
- Conduct traffic source analysis, and follow up any sudden reductions in traffic from key sources.
- Ask users and partners to report any broken links they find.
- Work with a professional team during restructuring and reorganisation to make sure nothing gets left behind.