Technical SEO

Link Rot

Shahid Maqbool

By Shahid Maqbool
On Apr 12, 2023

Link Rot

What is Link Rot?

Link rot refers to the phenomenon where hyperlinks (outbound links) to other websites on your website become obsolete or inaccessible over time.

This can happen when the resource that your website was originally pointing to is moved to a new address or becomes permanently unavailable.

As a result, the link on your website to this resource becomes broken, dead, or orphaned, and is unable to properly connect users to the intended content.

When a user clicks on that link on your website that has suffered from link rot, they may encounter a "404 error" or a "page not found" message, which can be frustrating and lead to a negative user experience

FYI: Link rot is also known as Link death, Link decay, Reference rot, or Reference decay.

Reasons for Link Rot

There are several reasons for link rot:

  • Content removal: Web pages or resources your website is linking to may be removed or deleted, causing the links to become broken.

  • Website restructuring: Websites may undergo structural changes, such as updates to URL structures or the consolidation of pages, which can cause links to break.

  • Domain name changes: Websites may change their domain names - causing the links pointing to their old domain names to break on your website.

  • Expiration of domain name registrations: If the domain name that your website is pointing to is not renewed in a timely manner, the links may no longer work.

  • Dynamic page content: Links pointing to dynamic content, such as search results or dynamically generated pages, may become outdated or broken as the content changes over time. So it will result in link rot.

The Phenomena of Link Rot

The link rot phenomenon can occur in two ways:

The natural disappearance of links

Over time, links can disappear from your site. This can happen when publishers update or delete their websites.

For example, if a website is taken down or a web page is removed, any links on your website pointing to that website or web page will no longer work, resulting in link rot.

This can also occur when websites change their URL structures or when content is moved to a different location on the website without proper redirection.

As a result, when users click on a link on your website that has suffered link rot, they may encounter a "404 error" or a "page not found" message, indicating that the content is no longer available.

A gradual reduction of link power

Links on your website also undergo a process called "link power" reduction.

This means that as you add new content to your website, older content may be pushed further down in your website's hierarchy or navigation, resulting in a decrease in its visibility and link power. That ultimately leads to link rot where links are gradually losing their power or authority.

Difference Between Link Rot and Broken Links

Link rot and broken links are related concepts but have some differences:

Link rot refers to the gradual decay or deterioration of web pages’ links over time, leading to the eventual loss of access to the content.

This decay can happen due to several reasons such as changes in domain names or file locations, outdated content, or technical issues.

On the other hand, a broken link is a link on your website that leads to a web page or resource that is no longer available or accessible.

Broken links can occur due to various reasons such as the deletion of the page, changes to the URL structure, or server issues.

In other words, link rot is a gradual process that leads to the eventual loss of access to content, while broken links are links that have already lost access to their intended content.

Put simply, several broken links accumulated over time lead to link rot. 

How to Find and Fix Link Rot on Your Website?

Finding and fixing link rot on your website is an important task to ensure that your website's content is accurate and accessible.

Here are some steps you can take:

Regularly Check Your Website

Regularly check your website to make sure all links are functioning correctly. You can use various tools such as Screaming Frog to scan your website and identify any broken links.

Here is how you can do this:

  1. Download and install Screaming Frog on your computer.

  2. Launch Screaming Frog and enter the website URL you want to crawl in the search bar.

  3. Click on the "Start" button to begin crawling the website.

  4. Once the crawl is complete, click on the "Response Codes" tab, located in the bottom section of the screen.

  5. Click on the "Client Error (4xx)" filter to view all the broken links on your website.

  6. You can export the list of broken links to a CSV file by clicking on the "Export" button.

  7. To identify the source of broken links, you can use the inlinks report provided by Screaming Frog. This report can be exported and analyzed to determine where the broken links are originating from.

Replace Broken Links

Once you have identified any broken links on your website, take the necessary action to fix them, either by updating the links with other useful resources or removing them completely from your website.

Keep Your Content Up-to-Date

Keeping your website's content up-to-date can help prevent link rot from occurring in the first place.

Regularly update your website with new content, remove any outdated information, and look for all the external links that are pointing to other websites on a monthly basis.

If there are any broken links on your websites, immediately remove them and replace them with other useful resources. 

By following these steps, you can help ensure that your website's content is accurate, accessible, and up-to-date and that users can easily access the information they are looking for.

Takeaway

Link rot refers to when links on your website become obsolete or inaccessible over time. This can happen due to various reasons such as content removal, website restructuring, domain name changes, expiration of domain name registrations, or dynamic page content.

When users click on links that have suffered from link rot, they may encounter a "404 error" or a "page not found" message, leading to a negative user experience.

To find and fix link rot on your website, you can regularly check your website to identify broken links, and then take action to update or remove them.

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