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Google clearly wants to send its web searchers to high-quality websites.  Does that mean that it penalize your website if you have broken links?  Do 404 errors cause you to lose rankings?  Should your SEO (search engine optimization) plan include fixing things like bad links, broken images and 404 err0rs?

broken heartAbsolutely!

404 Errors and broken/pages links clearly cause you rankings to suffer… at least based on what I have seen!

I recently setup keyword tracking for a new client and tracked 286 keyword phrases.  I immediately spent hours fixing broken links, which included:

  • Removing or fixing over 1000 broken images
  • Setting up about 100 301 redirects
  • Fixing several dozen broken internal links within the site

What tools did I use?

  • Google Webmaster Tools were what I used to find external links pointing to pages that no longer existed and were generating 404 errors… I fixed those with 301 redirects (see my WordPress Go-Live Checklist to see what tool I use)
  • Screaming Frog SEO Spider is what I used to discover all the broken images and broken links within the website.

What were the results?

Within one week, from the 286 phrase I tracked, the website moved up 1713 spots.  That means, on average, each keyword phrase moved up 6 spots in the search results!!  And, it happened immediately! Here is a screenshot from my software:

404 errors and seo

One thing is unclear… WHY did broken images, bad links and 404 errors hurt this site?  Was it because Google actually penalized them?? (or filtered them negatively as the case may be?).  Was it because they were leaking page-rank or page juice? I don’t know!  What I do know it it works.

I know something else too: During the last week we have captured hundreds of additional visitors who were landing on 404 pages when they entered the site.  Additionally, when people surf through the site, they are also having an improved experience.

If you want to find out more… there is some discussion and debate out there on the issue… many of these experts say that these errors don’t hurt your SEO!  Obviously, my small case study above would seem to indicate otherwise.