Don’t Cry Over Spilled Link Juice, Get It Back!
Regardless if you’re working for the client or for your own website, it is crucial to start with link building at the beginning. Don’t allow to continue old malpractice of shady SEO experts from the past and make some damage to your or somebody else’s business. Because of that, you should get into campaign very strong and aim for the highest goals. Everybody loves to win big, but keep in mind that wins in big campaigns won’t happen overnight.
Before you start celebrating you’ll need to arm with plenty of patience, motivation, perseverance, and at sometimes you’ll need to get lucky. The text below will show how to ensure those wins once you start a serious marketing campaign, and help you to overcome the most common challenges along the way.
Link reclamation and 404 pages
Once you launch your website online, it will start to change from the day 1. That is pretty normal since it will start to receive and handle plenty of information. Your pages will be edited, moved, shifted, URLs will get modified and, at the end, content will change. The most important part of your content are the links since those will affect both on-page and off-page SEO.
Once you’ve updated page’s URL, modified subfolders or changed some page info, you are in danger to lose your hard-earned backlinks. Sometimes, this can be avoided with page migration that includes a 301 redirect. This way, you’ll ensure the visitors are redirected to the new page, and this action will pass link equity as well.
On the other hand, if you didn’t redirect and have inbound links connected to the old URL, be aware that those links are lost together with their equity. Because of that, it is important to check if there are some dead 404 pages with external links pointed, once you start working for a new client. This simple action will get you some small wins at the beginning and below you’ll see a few methods of finding 404 pages which have inbound links:
1. Webmaster Tools
The best way to find the pages that are returning a 404 error, is to get yourself Webmaster Tools. It is free and highly accurate. This tool can do much more when it comes to SEO, so go ahead and get familiar with it. Once you got Webmaster tool access, go to crawl errors section and easily check for 404 errors.
Once you hit the button, the list of all URLs with issues will appear in front of you. Of course, you should be focusing on the ones that are showing 404 errors. Clean these malfunctioning URLs as soon as you can and while you’re at that, run them through a backlink analysis tool, so you can know for sure if some links are pointing toward dead pages.
You can use either of the following tools for mentioned action: MajesticSEO, Raven Tools, Ahrefs, Open Site Explorer or Cognitive SEO. You’ll just need to enter your 404 URLs there, and you’ll see if any pages are linked to them. The next step should be recovering all links that are pointing toward dead pages. Before that, you should get informed about another method of discovering error pages with links.
2. Open Site Explorer
This is another great tool capable of locating an inbound link with a connection to dead pages. However, OSE doesn’t have as many resources invested into crawling the web, as Google does, so there’s a chance it won’t find all 404s that Webmaster Tools did. Don’t allow this fact prevent you from using the tool since you will need a second data source, which will help you to be sure about as many errors as you can. Once you enter URL in a search bar, you’ll get a CSV file with all your top pages, so you can filter them by HTTP Status. While filtering, keep your eyes open for all 404s, and possibly 302s which are temporary redirects. Keep in mind that this redirect won’t pass link equity, so those links can be listed as lost.
Analyze link quality
Now that you are informed about some useful tools, it is a great time to start reclaiming the links connected with dead or wrong pages. Before you reclaim the link, you should learn about quality and authority of sites linking to dead pages with 404s. Make sure to check the following: relevance of the site and the page, PR or DA for the (home) page, the placement of the link, quality of the content, anchor text.
Finish your analysis with checking other pages on the site, and other links on the given page. This examination will give you enough information about the overall quality of the website, the page, and the link. GWM is an SEO Company that recommends you go through all the steps since that’s the only way to learn about website’s quality and if the link isn’t relevant to it, you should forget about it since it probably can’t provide any value for you.
At the end, you should decide which links are worth saving, and there are two options ahead of you. You can create a 301 redirect for the error page, to one of the relevant pages of your website. Another way is to contact the webmaster of the linking site and ask them to update the link since the page it was connected to is moved.
The first option is usually better unless your goal is to reclaim just one link which is opposed to every link connected to the given page. With the first solution, you will lose some link equity, it will be weaker, but on the other hand, you won’t have to annoy webmaster. You shouldn’t rely on them, so take everything in your own hands instead. Webmaster can do whatever they want, and at the end, pull down the link altogether instead of updating it.
Once you checked and fixed all or majority of your wasted links, you should focus on the strategy of maintenance, so you don’t get in this bad spot ever again. You’ll need to spend some time on link analysis at least once a month. First of all, choose the date of the audit and stick to it at any cost. Beginning or end of the month is your most logical picks.
Next, create and maintain a live spreadsheet that includes all the links you found. Keep updating the page every time something new happens. Webmaster Tools can help you a lot with this. Check your list of links with a software you choose. One of the best is „Link Check Tool“. Set your spreadsheet to give you alerts when something is changed so you can act quickly and reclaim lost links.
Once you get the alert, make sure all bad links are removed and replaced with working ones. At the end, write down all changes and reasons of those changes, so you can know what to do if something happens regularly. This will save you some time and your productivity will increase. Repeat the procedure every month and keep your backlinks healthy and online.
There’s no reason to feel frustrated about dead pages, or low-quality websites that are linked with yours. You’ll just need to get well informed about above-mentioned remedies so your backlink profile can stay strong and whole.