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Would Linking To 404 Internal URLs Cause a Drop In Google?

     
12:40 pm on Jul 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Hi,

We have recently been dropped kicked in G, on doing some deep site analysis we have found a couple of probs that could be the cause. We have fixed all of these but still no movement.

Today looking a WMT we spotted that we were linking to 1000's of 404 pages from our main pages that have been dropped. Could this be the reason for a penalty?

We are removing the links to the 404's, has anybody else had this problem and did removing the 404's improve the G serp positions.
2:59 pm on July 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

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It could be a reason for bad rankings. That's not necessarily a penalty, but it sure is something worth fixing. You don't want 1,000s of 404 links within your own site.
11:40 am on July 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Hi tedster,

I think it is more of a bad ranking issue, we have gradually slid as more and more 404 pages have been discovered not slapped back to -50 -30.

The issue seems to have been magnified by the MayDay changes.
2:07 pm on July 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

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c41lum what really baffeles me is how can a site link to 1000's of bad urls. Does anybody there ever check the site or run a link scan to check for these type of issues.

Were the outgoing links to other sites?
3:51 pm on July 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

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bwnbwn we normally run a link checker (xenu) but some genius (for genius read idiot) we had do some work at our office messed with the settings so it wasn't going deep enough to spot the internal broken links (404's).

We made the pages 404 because they were real weak pages with very little content and no inbound links.

For the last 6 months it looks like we have been linking to lots of these broken links.
3:58 pm on July 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Could this be the reason for a penalty?


Maybe not exactly a penalty, but too many 404 links would certainly cost you points in the scoring for "signals of quality".

Do what it takes to either fix the dud links or remove them.
4:16 pm on July 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I think that it has caused us a "quality" drop in Googles eyes not a all out penalty like what you see from duplicate content. We haven't jumped back -50 we have gently slid from page 1 to page 2 and in some cases to page 3. This happened over a 6 month period.

Maybe a case of as G found more and more 404's it pushed us further back down the SERPS.

Anybody else had a similar problem?
4:32 pm on July 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

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all out penalty like what you see from duplicate content.

and even that is not a true penalty most of the time - unless the site is a crazy scraper. See Duplicate Content Demystified [webmasterworld.com]
2:06 pm on July 28, 2010 (gmt 0)

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We removed 404 broken links... ill keep you posted with and changes.

Whats a goo link checker that can handle big site xenu keeps crashing?
3:07 pm on July 28, 2010 (gmt 0)

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*good
4:20 pm on July 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Its been 3 days no change as of yet? still got high hopes though?

Is linking to a 301 redirect bad?
6:27 pm on July 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Would Linking to a URL that 301's to another internal page be bad.

Iv just spotted that one of my main links it actually a 301 that points to the lower case URL. Has anyone seen a drop because of this.

Any ideas?
6:32 pm on July 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

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It's not ideal - better to link directly - but it's VERY unlikely to cause any ranking drop. One 301 to correct for case variation is a very miniscule thing, and it's a lot better than letting both variations get into the index.
8:17 pm on July 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

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@c41lum:
Today looking a WMT we spotted that we were linking to 1000's of 404 pages from our main pages that have been dropped.
I am curious about what percentage of the total URLs on the site those 1000s of non-existing URLs were?

I have a somewhat similar case where I'm seeing hundreds (although not thousands ) of 404 errors reported in WMT that are result of bad data in a very large DB and therefore are VERY difficult to completely get rid of. Basically, the only way to repair this would be to manually review and edit/delete several hundreds of bad records (which need to be identified first - a task in itself).

There is approx. 110,000 of legitimate URLs on the site now so, as a percentage, the number of those bad links is not too high. Still, the absolute number is high enough and looks really bad in WMT when compared to other sites.

I am also seeing a slow but steady degradation of ranks in Google and yes, I think you are correct in your observation that Mayday might have actually increased the rate of that degradation.

So, if a large number of INTERNAL bad links is known to have a negative effect on rankings, I'll have to bite the bullet, allocate a few days of my time and clean all that data. There is also a large amount (also in hundreds) of EXTERNAL bad links pointing to my site due to sloppy scrapers using my RSS but I cannot do anything about that and I sincerely hope that in this case Google would uphold their promise that other people's links cannot damage my site.

So, needless to say, I am very much interested in the outcome of this discussion and any relevant observations about the "quality score" and what factors may be used for its calculation that other people can post here.
8:40 pm on July 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I'd say clean up the internal bad links - and don't worry about the externals. If your technology is creating bad links, you really do want to pull the plug on that problem.
9:50 pm on July 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

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It will be the internal linked nofollows that G wont like.

I fixed all my internal 404s, no movement still.

Im still looking at other scenarios.
9:57 pm on July 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Yes, if you're looking for the cause of a recent ranking drop, internal 404s are not a very likely suspect. Good to fix it before it runs amok - your users sure don't want to click on a 404 link - but I wouldn't expect an immediate rankings improvement in most cases.

You might see some improvement over time from the 404 fix (especially if there were 1,000s of 404 links) because you are repairing the PR circulation within the site by making those links work correctly.

[edited by: tedster at 11:15 pm (utc) on Jul 30, 2010]

11:00 pm on July 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Whats a good link checker that can handle big site xenu keeps crashing?


Have you tried turning off the Site Map ? [options >> Pref]
4:25 pm on July 31, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Ok so we have fixed the 404 and 301 issue. Still no movement.

What I have noticed when I trawl throught the server logs is that the sever seems to lock (switches) everyday for 8 mins at 5.18 GMT. Could this result in a drop in G.
5:04 pm on July 31, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I have also noticed that my main pages have dropped to the back of the results when I do a 'site:' command search. Is this significant? and what does it mean?
5:41 pm on July 31, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I have personally experienced a degradation in rankings due to a 404 mishap. The site has approximately 1,000 documents. After launching a new application, we discovered a bug in the rewrite that caused Googlebot to index 1,000+ documents that were returning a 404. Unfortunately we did not catch this in a timely manner and sure enough, not long after, we started to lose organic traffic.

Since we are in a very controlled environment, we were able to determine that the loss in organic traffic was a direct result of the 404 issues. After correcting the rewrite, traffic returned to normal within 30 days and actually improved a little thereafter.

Note: These were internal links returning a 404.
6:04 pm on July 31, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Hi pageoneresults,

Ours was a internal link 404 problem, not seen any movement yet but its only been 5 days.

Did you notice that your main pages were showing up lower when you did a site: command search? or is this another problem.
6:29 pm on July 31, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Did you notice that your main pages were showing up lower when you did a site: command search?


Funny you should bring that up, yes, there was an overall ranking degradation across the board. Crawl activity also took a hit during this time frame.
5:39 pm on Aug 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

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c41lum try linkscan www.elsop.com/ they are a good one to find the bad links with the page the bad link is on. Not free but well worth the money to purchase as it has done me much good over the years I have used it.
6:57 pm on Aug 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

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What about if someone else repeatedly links to pages that 404 on your site?

There's a high profile local site that every year helps itself to some of my content without attribution, and every year I have to make a loud noise about it and threaten to post side by site screenshots. They always back down, and add links back to my site as the source. It's this weird game we play.

This year they've linked back in several places with links that 404 on my site until I find them and add a redirect to my .htaccess. This has happened so often and so obviously, I wonder if they aren't doing it on purpose. Stuff like linking to index.htm for the home page, or even Default.aspx (as if!) or .org instead of .com. Is this some nasty strategy on their part, or are they just more clueless than I thought? There's not a lot of these links, but they're from high profile / high PR pages.

They're a news organization, and they've been quite vocal for years about the fact that they believe they deserve to rank higher than I do in Google - because they're a news organization.
7:28 pm on Aug 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

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cool info
8:38 pm on Aug 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

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In my personal experience, link fixes have resulted in better rankings, but took a month or two to show up. By fixing my problems I overtook an authority site on their keywords-- until they fixed their broken links, that is. This was before G changed to caffeine though, and the response and timing could be different now.

For a large site, you might give Maxamine a shot...works great.
1:22 am on Aug 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

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What about if someone else repeatedly links to pages that 404 on your site?

Does not hurt you. In fact, Google's Jonathan Simon just reconfirmed it [google.com].
1:44 am on Aug 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Cool; thanks.

Still annoying tho.
7:38 am on Aug 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

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my site also suffering degradation in rankings from page 1 to page 3 or 4, i have not made any big change , only normal update of pages , don't know how to recover the position ?
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