As a father to two young children, I am no stranger to juice spillage.

This is also something I encounter regularly in the SEO world – not literally (we are mostly house trained), but with regard to websites and link juice wastage. Allow me to explain.

As defined by Woorank.com, link juice is a colloquial term in the SEO world that refers to the power or equity passed to a site via links from external or internal sources. This power is interpreted as a vote of recommendation toward your site and is one of the most important factors in determining your site’s search ranking.

link-juice-flow

Link juice in action, via Woocommerce.com

The diagram above is a super simplified demonstration of how link juice is passed from site to site, but in reality, it is much more complex than this. The link value (juice) that is passed from one site to another differs massively depending on how authoritative that site is – the better the site, the sweeter the link juice.

Conversely, nofollowed links (such as the majority of links from social media sites, forums etc.), most paid links (ads), and links from pages that are not indexed pass no link juice. In summary, all links are not created equal.

The other point to consider here is that acquiring links of even moderate quality is no easy task, particularly in today’s day and age, when it is very difficult to achieve SEO success without a robust content and PR strategy. This considered, site owners not only need to be thinking about how to acquire more links, they also need to preserve what they already have.

404 error: link juice not found

A 404 (page not found) error occurs when a page does not exist on the URL that has been entered. A 404 error can occur when a page is removed by the site owner, or when a user enters a URL incorrectly.

Whilst 404 errors are for the most part an unavoidable part of website ownership, failing to keep on top of them can have negative consequences. Google doesn’t index 404 pages, so any links pointing to them are essentially worthless, regardless of how authoritative the referring page is.

spilling-juice

The good news is that this is easily rectified.

Mopping up the juice

The first step to recovering lost link juice is to identify all 404 pages which have links pointing to them. There are a number of ways of doing this, but here are two methods I use most commonly.

  1. The free but potentially time-consuming option: Fire up Google Search Console’s Crawl Errors report and manually review each page’s Linked From data. Depending on the severity of the issue, it may be easier to export the data and record everything in a spreadsheet.

search-console-link-not-found

2. The fast but probably not free option: Fire up your link analysis tool of choice and run some back link reports for all of your 404 pages. Here at Browser Media, we use Link Research Tools, which has a super-handy Link Juice Recovery report for automatically identifying any dead pages on your domain that have links pointing to them.

There’s no right or wrong way of doing this, but for the majority of people who don’t have the luxury of a paid-for link analysis tool, Google Search Console will likely be the best option.

Having identified which 404 pages have links, the next step is to 301 redirect those URLs to the most relevant live page on your site, to ensure any previously wasted link juice is put back into the metaphorical beaker.

404 pages only really become a problem when they exist within a site’s navigation or have external links pointing to them. I would urge everyone who owns or manages a website to review their 404 pages on a regular basis to ensure no link juice is being wasted.

Got a question or thought on this topic? Please feel free to leave a comment below.


Also published on Medium.