No matter whether your blog has been hit by Panda, Penguin or other pets from Google, link maintenance and related reputation management is critical to SEO (Search Engine Optimization) of your blog. A lot of bloggers and webmasters, dedicate a good amount of their online time for link building activities while they forget (or struggle) to maintain the links on a periodic basis.
When it comes to proper link maintenance, the management of all link types – and not just backlinks – is important:
- Outbound links or links from your pages that point to external sites
- Internal links or links that originate from and ends with own pages
- Backlinks or links to your pages from external sites
This post is the outcome of the periodic exercise that I am doing with respect to my own link maintenance – especially after getting hit by some of those Google algorithm updates. And here, I will be talking about ONLY on-site optimization and not managing offsite link issues.
Link Maintenance Frequency and Methodology
Link maintenance is an activity that could be done a couple of times an year. It would be great if you can do it more often but then it’s a time consuming activity. After all, once every six months is not a bad idea if you have long term plan with your website.
Tools you need
In order to maintain and fix your links, first you need a couple of free tools to analyze your links. I use the following free tools.
1. Fixing Outbound Links
The first step is to understand your broken outbound links. If you were into blogging for some time, there are a number of ways in which you would have generated links that are dead links or bad outbound links now.
For example, the following are some typical linking out mechanisms in blogs:
- Link love posts that included many links to various sites (but those sites don’t exist anymore)
- Link juice supplying plugins such as commentluv
- Trackbacks that came to your posts
- Website link in comments posted by your visitors
Whatever be the case, our Xenu Link checker tool is there to your rescue. Once you install and run the tool with your blog’s URL, you will getting a link report like the one in the screenshot below:
Tip: Exclude outbound links beginning with 0.gravatar.com, 1.gravatar.com, cdn.yoursite.com etc using the Xenu options so that the report produced by Xenu is short and fast
In order to fix these outbound links, you have to first sort the Xenu output by the ‘Error’ column.
Now, the difficult part – for each of those domain names or links reported as ‘no such host’, you have to search in your posts and comments in your WordPress dashboard and remove those links totally.
It is worth spending this effort (though tedious if you had those famous link juice plugins) some of those blog visitors from the past would have even converted their sites to some por*n or rated sites (which I discovered to my shock). Removing such links will only make you a relevant in the good book of Google.
After fixing the ‘no such host’ errors which are for non-existing websites, you have to move to fixing the ‘not found’ links. These are the links that do not exist anymore but their main domain still exists. Based on the current nature of those domains now, you may take a call on totally removing the referring links from your blog or fixing them accordingly.
2. Fixing Internal Links
For fixing your broken internal links, you can either use Xenu or your Webmaster tools report. Since, I didn’t have any significant broken internal links, I couldn’t give you a Xenu screenshot for the same but let’s move over to the third step where one can fix both internal and ‘page not found’ issues on your site via your Webmaster tool report.
3. Fixing backlinks errors
Bad backlinks can be fixed in several ways:
- Using Disavow tool to discard such links
- Via manual link removal requests which can be irritating for the other party (Read this post by Mitch)
- Via redirecting broken links to the right pages
Since, I have already taken care of the Disavow option recently and second method is way too cumbersome and irritating for the parties involved, I thought of going with the third method this time using the Webmaster tools.
When I browsed my Webmaster tools, crawl errors section, it reported several ‘Not found’ errors for both internal and external links.
The step involved in fixing those errors, include:
- Redirecting the bad formed URLs to the right ones using a redirect plugin. I use this good old redirection logic that works like a charm even now
- Marking issues as fixed after redirecting them
The above steps make sure that you have taken care of maintaining your backlinks, outbound links and internal links in a way that doesn’t hurt your SEO. Having done the above, it’s not only the links that you have to take care of – having good content is the most important thing!