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Should we try to fix broken inbound links?

Most of us don’t have nearly as many inbound links as we’d like. We all know that inbound links have a significant impact on search engine rankings, and it’s hard to get them when our site is a commercial one about a non-consumer product. So if another site links to ours, but the link is broken (following it returns a ‘404’ error), is it worth trying to fix things?

Firstly, it’s important to understand that having pages go away is normal, and inbound links do break. The search engines are very aware of this, and won’t penalise either site.

But is it worth fixing? I’d say yes, even though a Google spokesman recently disagreed, saying: “The SEO ‘value’ of bringing a 404 back is probably less than the work you put into it.” That’s fine for those with lots of links, but in B2B sectors where every one is precious, the exercise may have more worth.

If the link was once correct but the page it links to is no longer there because its content became irrelevant, I’d probably leave things. For example, if it links to us as a red widget supplier but we only sell blue ones now, if we got it ‘fixed’, it would be linking to us unhelpfully anyway.

However, if we still sell red widgets but the page was superseded, maybe we should get it pointing to the updated page. If the originating site can be persuaded to update the link, that’d be great; otherwise, we could set up a ‘301 redirect’ at our end.

The same applies if the link is to a page that never existed. Great if the originating site can update it, but a 301 at our end is fine.

Broken inbound links can be found by examining the analytics for our site’s 404 page, or by looking at the server logs.