There is one part of SEO that doesn’t revolve around keywords and their usage. A crucial component of site authority and maintaining your visibility on SERPs revolves around keeping your site free from defects. If you provide links to pages and the pages aren’t there, your site loses credibility. Providing redirects and keeping your site clear of broken links is crucial.

Broken links occur when the webpage that is being linked to no longer exists. If you’ve been on a site and clicked a button to take you to a different page, only to see a “404 - This page cannot be found” error, you have found a broken link. Sometimes, this is the result of a simple typo, while other times a page that once existed no longer does. Broken links are also commonly referred to as dead links.

Redirects are best understood in context. When updating your website, you may choose to change your URL structures or rename some categories. Your “About” page may shift to “Our History,” for example. While the URL is now “www.jeweler.com/our-history” there may be many places within your site or marketing that still points to “www.jeweler.com/about.” Your about page URL can be redirected so that anytime someone clicks a link taking them to the About page, your website will automatically recognize that this page no longer exists. Instead of taking viewers to a 404 page, they will be redirected to your Our History page.

Broken links should be avoided at all costs. If a potential customer is on your website and they cannot access the information they want because pages (or whole sites) no longer exist, they will become frustrated and are more likely to leave. Too many broken links can also damage your online reputation, and it will cause your site authority to decrease.

Internally, broken links can be fixed using redirects. If you are considering removing a webpage, think about any places you may have linked to it before deciding to delete it. If you are updating URLs or removing pages that have replacements, create redirects for those pages so the old links don’t end up dead.

When linking to external sites, it can difficult to keep tabs on those links. Perhaps a blog post has several links to another site that provides more context for your post. If that website gets taken down, you now have a broken link on your site. Tips to avoid broken links from external sources include using only credible sources that are unlikely to be taken down in the near future (i.e. IJO and RJO, GIA and AGS), and auditing your website with a broken link checker every so often.

One thing you should not do is not use external links at all out of fear they may someday break. The internet is designed to be, literally, an “interconnected network” and search engines prioritize that. Isolating your site will do more harm than good, even if you end up with a few broken links over time.

Punchmark makes it easy for you to update your URLs and create redirects. Within SiteManager, go to Content > Redirects. From here, you can alias old URLs to new ones. For more, see Redirects.

Here is an example of the power of redirects:

The Golden Karat has a long and clunky URL that ends with “/customize-your-own-gold-ring-1.” They want to simplify and shorten the text to “/custom-gold-rings.” So they update the URL.

Several days later, they notice their sales for custom gold rings have dropped to practically 0 and their bounce rate skyrocketed. After looking at their website, they realize the link in the menu to their category still points to “customize-your-own-gold-ring-1” instead of their new, shorter URL. Potential customers were unable to reach the page. Frustrated, customers simply left after receiving a 404 error. The Golden Karat updates the link on their main menu to point to the proper page.

A week goes by, and they have lowered their bounce rate but they still aren’t selling many rings. They start thinking about all the places they put the previous link: on paid ads, in blog posts, in newsletters, on other site pages… Instead of getting overwhelmed about updating each individual link, they create a redirect. Anytime someone clicks on their previous link, they will automatically be taken to the page with the shorter URL. Now their sales go back to normal.

Updating your links or deleting old, irrelevant pages can be tempting, but before you take any actions think about all the places a link to that page lived. Come up with a strategy to redirect your new links before broken links decrease your ranking on SERPs and increase your bounce rate.

After reading this section, you should understand the following:

  • What is a broken link?

  • What is a redirect? When is it appropriate to use a redirect?

  • What is a 404 error, and how can they be avoided?

To improve your SEO using redirects, follow one or more of these steps:

  • Audit your site to check for broken links using one of many free tools available on the internet.

  • Create redirects for any recently updated page URLs.

  • Repeat the above steps semi-annually or after any major site updates.