What Is Link Rot?

Gipi Gopinath SEO

What is link rot?

Link rot can spell doom for a carefully thought-out linking strategy. Here’s how to identify link rot, and how to fight it.

Link rot occurs when a number of links, both internal and external, on your site point to defunct pages. While one or two broken links on a site isn’t a problem, over time, the number of broken links naturally increases, and this can be a big red flag.

If you’re worried about link rot on your website, there are a few things you should know, and some immediate actions you can take to combat this issue.

What is link rot? 

A smart linking strategy is crucial to SEO success, and is something we practice daily at Croud. The more legitimate links from reputable third-party sites you have pointing to your own site, the more power you’ll wield when it comes to keyword rankings and organic traffic.

Unfortunately, those links can go bad – or rot – either through a change in URL, a domain being taken down, or any number of other scenarios that would cause a link to no longer work properly. And Google can drop your ranking because of it, especially if you have many of them on your site.

For example, I’ve seen websites that link to news articles or social posts that no longer exist, and I’ve seen sites that included internal links that were spelled incorrectly (and therefore lead to a 404).

While this can be frustrating and disappointing for your readers as they try to navigate around your site, it can also be the spoiled apple in the fruit bowl of your otherwise-powerful SEO strategy.

Why does it happen?

There are any number of reasons why links go bad. As time passes, you can almost guarantee that some of the links you’ve created will break as the websites they lead to close down or update. The link could have been configured incorrectly in the first place, or perhaps the person behind your website hasn’t found the time to fix broken links.

One of the most common reasons I see is that many people just don’t know to look for link rot – or what to do when they find it.

How to detect link rot

Unless you feel like starting on page one and clicking every single link on your website, I’d definitely advise using a link rot detection tool.

Using a tool will quickly identify rotten links on your site so you can go about deciphering the root causes behind them. Whether it’s a misspelled URL, a domain that no longer exists, or something else entirely, you can sift through to fix the ones you can and update the rest.

There’s a palpable irony in linking to them, but below you can find the tools I routinely use for my SEO clients at Croud:

How to avoid link rot in the first place

Unfortunately, there’s no surefire way to avoid link rot—some links will go bad no matter what you do. However, there are precautionary steps you can take to keep link rot to a minimum.

For example, be selective with your external linking. Avoid using URLs that may be deleted in future, such as social media pages or comment threads. If you’re looking to link to blogs, aim for ones that have been around for a while and are already very well established, as an estimated 95 per cent of new blogs are doomed to failure.

Plus, you should always aim to link to the most authoritative article. That is to say, linking to an original scientific study is more reliable than linking to a news website covering the findings. Of course, this needs to be balanced with consideration about the domain authority of a website. But a permanent link to a domain with slightly lower authority is preferable to a link to a strong website that is removed in weeks or months.

Whenever you run a SEO campaign, make sure there is an exit strategy in place so that you can reduce link rot.

Don’t let the prospect of link rot discourage you from building a linking strategy, however. Finding ways to increase third-party links to your site is still one of the best strategies for SEO, and with a little regular pruning, it can be the edge you need to stay fresher than your competition.