HostingGreen web hosting packages
TutorialsBeginners guides to SEO & hosting
WIGHT HAT BLOG
How to stop losing visitors to your website
Adam Provis, May 26, 2011
The chances are that you’re losing visitors to your website- but don’t worry, you can fix this pretty easily and maybe even steal visitors from your competitors!
When people link to your website from another website, blog or news article they sometimes make mistakes. If is very easy to put the wrong URL into a link and when this is done the link invariably goes nowhere. This can also occur if you have ever deleted a page on your website or changed the names of the files, as the URL that was originally linked may no longer exist.
Not only does this cause a problem for people clicking these links, it also causes a problem for search engines. If people cannot follow the link then neither can search engines, so you do not get the inbound link benefit so critical to.
How to find where the broken links are
The easiest way to find these broken links is to sign up for Google Webmaster. This free tool enables you to do a number of different things but today we will discuss the ‘Crawler errors’ section of this tool. Once you have signed up, add your site and verify that you are the owner of the site by either uploading a file to the home directory or adding a CNAME reference into the for your .
Once verified you will be able to see the dashboard (pictured). On the left hand menu there is an option for ‘Diagnostics’ and then a sub option for ‘Crawl errors’. Click this and you will be given a list of broken links from both within your site and from external pages along with the problem URL. For any internal broken links you should go to the page and correct it immediately. For broken links from external sites you have two options:
- Contact the administrator of the other website: This is the best option, especially if you have a relationship with that website. Having the original link fixed solves any visitor and problems together. Give them the exact URL(s) that contain the broken links along with the faulty URL and the position on the page- the more help you give people here the more likely they will bother fixing your link.
- Create a 301 redirect of the broken URL: This option has the advantage of not relying on anyone else to fix the problem. 301 is the code used for a ‘permanent redirect’ telling web browsers and search engines that the URL does not exist and that the content should now be found at the new URL. This isn’t quite as good as the first option in terms of search engine optimisation, but it is certainly better than leaving the link broken. To create a 301 redirect on an Apache web server (the most common web server in the world) you should do the following:
- Create a .htaccess file in the document root directory (the document root is where your home page is found; it is often called html, htmldocs or httpdocs)
- For each redirect, write a line in this file with the following format: Redirect 301 /oldfile.html http://www.yourdomain.com/newfile.html
- Save the .htaccess file and test the redirect by putting the old URL into your browser
If your browser redirects to the new page then all is well. If it does not redirect then either the .htaccess redirect is incorrectly written or yourdoes not support use of the .htaccess file. In the latter case you will need to contact your company and ask them if they can switch this feature on for you.
A poor substitute to creating 301 redirects is creating custom 404 error pages. The 404 error is the ‘document not found’ error that is shown when a URL does not have a corresponding document behind it. Many web hosts allow you to create a custom page for this error that looks like one of your web pages and offers the user somewhere else to go on your site. While this is a good solution for human visitors it is not adequate for search engine spiders which will recognise it as a 404 error and not bother reading the page. There is no harm adding these pages as a ‘catch all’ for humans typing the wrong address but it shouldn’t be relied upon as a strategy for dealing with broken links.
Stealing links from competitors: One last little trick that you might consider is to search for broken links to your competitors websites. Once you have found one you can contact the administrator of the website and not only point out that the link is broken but suggest your own link to replace it with. In this case you must have a page which has very similar content to the original link and it should be a page that provides information to the visitor rather than a general product or service link. For example, suppose you had a catering site and found a broken link on a page going to http://www.someoneelse.com/making-tea.html. While you cannot see the page that is it going to (as the link is broken) you can be pretty sure that it is a link about making tea. Now find or create a similar page on your site about making tea (e.g. http://www.yoursite.com/tea-making.html), tell the webmaster of the broken link on their site and suggest your page as an alternative. If the admin of the other site is a busy person (as most are) there is a good chance that they will have a quick look at your page, verify that it is about making tea and substitute the link rather than hunt around on the original site for where that page has gone. By doing this you not only get a link to your site but you take one away from your competitor.
In the next post I will go into how to find these broken links to competitors sites and turn them to your advantage.
If you have broken inbound links you are unnecessarily losing visitors and search engine ranking. If you have trouble following the steps that I have outlined in this post, please post us a comment in the box below or contact us by email or phone and we will try to help.
Previous post: 6 types of email con