The Broken Link Epidemic And The Future of Online Publishing

It's no surprise, the continuous algorithm updates used to determine top search engine results have evolved in such a way that gives "quality content" a whole new meaning. Back in the day, search engines identified quality simply by keyword relevancy, which called for more key terms and backlinks in a piece of content to rank a page higher in search results.

Nowadays, without any useful information to back up those keywords or links, a page becomes irrelevant, or "poor quality," and starts to decline in rank. As a result, publishers are much more adaptive in developing content strategies and tactics to keep pace with the constant updates. But as these changes are becoming more involved and search engines become more sophisticated, "quality" user experience with the content is growing in importance.

Increasing Difficulty for Content Producers

Information is so easy to find, and there is so much of it available, it has naturally become more competitive for publishers with quality content to be seen in search engines. Of course, this is no surprise; but because of the ever-changing search algorithms, if content isn't up to date, it could become devalued.

In 2011, Google released an algorithm update, Panda, that evaluates sites for said poor quality content and reduces its visibility in Google's top search results. With each new Panda update, criteria for which content is analyzed becomes much more sophisticated. There are pages losing rankings because the content is outdated with broken links. These factors are greatly damaging the user experience, and thus, more easily flagged through search algorithms.

Link Rot and the Deterioration of Content Quality

Link rot is one of the major issues causing broken links. It's a result of the constant fluctuation of content location and urls without proper redirects being implemented. When a website owner changes the URL of a piece of content or deletes it without redirecting the URL to another relevant piece of content, you get a broken link.

Redirects are complex to implement at times but critical to avoiding broken links. But website owners have a tendency to not implement them successfully.

Link rot is inevitable and your website will eventually develop some broken links if you link to 3rd party content.

The Broken Link Epidemic - The Present

We conducted research on 90 different publishers' sites* to find broken links, and the results are astounding:

  • There were over 65,000 broken links (404 errors only) pointing out to other websites
  • 31% of those sites have over 100 broken links
  • 14% had over 500 broken links
  • 9% h
ad over
1,500 broken links
Some of the more popular sites on the list were in the top problem areas:

The implications of broken links are two-fold. According to "How Google's Latest 'Panda' Algorithm Should Change Your Content Strategy" on MarketingLand, broken links were a pattern triggered in a recent Panda update, which means if links are not constantly updated with proper redirects, it could flag a page as "poor quality" and thus be affected in search result, which will adversely affect traffic to the site.

The Future of Content Publishing

In order to remain in good standing with Google's different algorithm updates, it is important to make sure your content has absolutely no broken links. Content should always be focused on user experience. Information should be purposeful and useful...and current. Evaluate your sites regularly so that your high-traffic pages do not drop down in search rankings and then follow-up with your second- and third-tier pages, evaluating for quality and user experience. While updates to search algorithms will continue to change, stay ahead of the curve by setting standards for quality content and user experience. In the end, quality can't lose.