Lost backlinks are a concern when executing a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. To calculate your website’s organic rankings, search engines will look at its backlinks. Backlinks signify authority. If your website has a lot of backlinks from trustworthy and relevant sources, search engines will view it as an authority, in which case they may rank it higher.
Backlinks, however, will only help your website’s organic rankings if they are active. Whether you manually build them or acquire them through the use of inbound marketing tactics, your website may lose some of its backlinks. By understanding why your website keeps losing backlinks, you can take action to prevent it.
Changing Page Addresses
Your website may lose backlinks if you change the addresses of its pages. All backlinks have a destination address. The destination address is the place on your website where a backlink takes users when clicked. Changing a page’s address means that all backlinks pointing to the original address will no longer function. Users may be able to click them still, but they’ll typically experience a 404 error message.
To prevent the loss of backlinks, you can avoid changing your website’s page addresses. Alternatively, if you’ve already changed one or more page addresses, you can use a redirect. A redirect is a forwarding method that allows you to specify a new and different address for a page. When visitors try to access the page’s original address by clicking a link, they’ll be forwarded to the page’s new address.
You can implement a redirect using your website’s server configuration file, the .htaccess file. This file supports a variety of server-related directives, including redirects. Adding a 301 or 302 directive to the .htaccess will forward users from the page’s old address to its name address. The 301 directive is designed for use when a page’s address permanently changes, whereas the 302 directive is designed for use when a page’s address temporarily changes.
Deleting content may cost your website some of its backlinks. Backlinks are typically created to share one website’s content with another site’s audience. If a blogger comes across a relevant piece of content published on your website, he or she may reference it in a post. The blogger may mention information from your website’s content while also including a link to it. If you delete the content, though, the blogger may follow suit by removing the link to it.
Rather than deleting content on your website, consider updating it. If a piece of content is outdated, you might be able to update it with new information. For pages with thin or short-form content, you can simply add more content to them. You may have to delete some sections of text when updating content, but as long as your website retains most of its original content, it shouldn’t cause a loss of backlinks.
Buying Ad Space
Another common reason for lost backlinks is buying ad space. Most website ads contain a backlink. If you buy ad space on another website — either directly from the website or through a third-party advertising network — your website will likely earn a backlink. Paid ads, of course, aren’t permanent, nor are their backlinks permanent. Once a paid ad has stopped running, it will no longer offer a backlink for your website.
How do you prevent your website from losing backlinks when buying ad space? Well, you can continue to pay for the ad space. If you have the necessary funds, most websites and third-party advertising networks will continue to run your paid ads. With that said, a better idea is to ignore backlinks from paid ads.
Ad space purchased from legitimate websites and through legitimate third-party advertising networks contain nofollow backlinks. Therefore, they don’t have any effect on your website’s organic rankings. Whether your website loses a single backlink or hundreds of backlinks from paid ads, its organic rankings won’t be affected.
Spammy Link-Building Techniques
Using spammy link-building techniques can result in lost backlinks. With spammy link-building techniques, your website will be associated with spam. Backlinks created using any of these techniques will look artificial. When other bloggers or webmasters discover them, they may remove them because of their artificial and spammy nature.
Examples of spammy link-building techniques include:
• Excessive blog commenting
• Excessive website directory submissions
• Low-quality guest blogging
• Building keyword-rich, over-optimized backlinks
• Using spam software to mass-create backlinks
• Social bookmarking on low-quality social networks
Instead of spammy link-building techniques, focus on acquiring backlinks naturally through the use of content. If your website has share-worthy content, other webmasters will want to link to it. And if you’re going to manually build backlinks, make sure the backlinks are high quality and relevant to the websites on which you can build them.
If you recently disavowed any of your website’s backlinks, you may not be able to find them. Disavowing is a link-based SEO service offered by Google and Bing. It allows you to specify which backlinks search engines should filter when ranking your website.
To use this service, you’ll need to sign up for a Google Search Console (GSC) account and a Bing Webmaster Tools account. You can then access the service via the disavow tool from within your accounts. Disavowing a backlink will remove it from your account, so you won’t be able to see it when running a backlink report in GSC or Bing Webmaster Tools. Disavowed backlinks are technically still active, but they won’t have any effect on your website’s organic rankings.
You can use Google’s and Bing’s disavow service; just remember to only disavow backlinks that are explicitly spammy or malicious. Disavowing low-quality backlinks such as these may lead to higher organic rankings. Disavowing high-quality backlinks, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect.
Your website won’t retain all of its backlinks forever. Some of its backlinks will inevitably be lost and never recovered. Changing page addresses, deleting content, buying ad space, using spammy link-building techniques and disavowing are some of the most common reasons for lost backlinks.