Broken links can sound the death knell of any site. There is no single thing the consumer hates more when clicking a link than to be greeted with the dreary ‘File Not Found’.
Making it still more confusing is the fact that some proxy servers can’t differentiate between a ‘hard’ 404, where the actual URL is not working, or a ‘soft’ one which merely indicates that the remote host is down, and this confusion is readily passed on to the consumer.
In today’s high paced world, instant gratification is expected, particularly from web search. A consumer confronted with a 404 message when trying to access a particular page will often disregard your site completely then and in the future.
Your site will be, in their mind, ‘broken’, and you will have lost their business and all the business they might have referred, as well as any possible backlinks.
This is why it is so very important to check all of your links on a regular basis. This includes links in articles that you have posted, as well as any other links you may have managed to place out on the web, and links from other sources to specific pages other then your home page.
If you have updated your content, and changed or removed any URL’s from your site, you may be losing traffic due to existing links not working any more. Contacting other site owners that link to you and providing your updated link will usually be greeted with appreciation, as they don’t want broken links on their site either.
You can check all the links in and out of your site by logging into your Google Webmaster Account and clicking on the site you wish to investigate. From there you can navigate through the different pages on your site and see where all your inbound links are coming from.
Once you check all your inbound links, do the same for your internal links. Getting a 404 message from inside your own site is just plain sloppy. Check and double check all of your page to page links to be sure that your site is fully navigational.
While you are in the link checking business, check all outbound links as well. It gives a poor impression to have a 404 message pop up when someone tries to check out a site you recommend; makes you look bad as well as the site you are linking to.
Working links are the lifeblood of any good traffic strategy, and there is no reason your customers should have to deal with broken ones. Use the tools you have to start monitoring your links, and fix any problems promptly. Once your site is in good shape, updating the necessary URL’s should be a snap whenever you remodel or change pages.
Getting rid of 404 and ‘file not found’ messages is one of the most important things you can do to keep your website looking professional and to keep the highest amount of traffic funneling into your site at all times. If you make sure all your links are in working order, you will be ensuring that every page is performing to its highest potential.