Google’s Surprising Take on Broken Backlinks: What Doctors Need to Know

In the realm of search engine optimization (SEO), fixing broken backlinks has long been considered a best practice. However, Google’s Gary Illyes recently shared some unconventional advice that challenges this notion.

For physicians who maintain their own websites, this insight is particularly valuable, offering a fresh perspective on how to manage broken backlinks.

Should Broken Backlinks Be Fixed?

During a recent Google SEO Office Hours podcast, Gary Illyes was asked whether fixing broken backlinks should be a priority for improving SEO. His response was surprising:

“You should fix the broken backlinks that you think would be helpful for your users. You can’t possibly fix all the links, especially once your site grew to the size of a mammoth.”

A New Perspective on Broken Backlinks

Illyes’ advice shifts the focus from traditional SEO metrics to user experience. Instead of obsessing over every broken backlink, the priority should be on those that enhance user experience. This approach may seem counterintuitive, as conventional SEO wisdom emphasizes the importance of link equity. However, it aligns with a more user-centric view of web optimization.

Why This Matters for Physicians

For physicians with their own websites, patient experience really does matter. Here’s how you can apply this unconventional advice:

  1. Prioritize Patient-Focused Links: Broken backlinks that lead to important patient resources, such as appointment booking pages or educational content, should be fixed promptly. These links directly impact patient satisfaction and accessibility.
  2. Evaluate the Relevance: If a broken link points to outdated information or services you no longer offer, it may not be worth fixing. Instead, consider creating a new resource or redirecting to a relevant page.

The Benefits of Fixing Broken Backlinks

While the benefits of fixing broken backlinks may be hard to measure, they contribute to a seamless user experience. Here are some reasons why you should still consider it:

  • Improved Patient Experience: Patients following broken links may get frustrated, which could lead them to seek care elsewhere. Ensuring all links on your website are functional helps maintain a professional and reliable online presence.
  • Quick SEO Wins: Fixing broken backlinks is often a straightforward task that can yield quick improvements in your site’s SEO performance.

Practical Steps to Identify and Fix Broken Backlinks

  1. Regularly Check for 404 Errors: Utilize tools like Google Search Console to identify 404 errors resulting from broken backlinks. This will help you pinpoint which links need attention.
  2. Use SEO Tools: Consider using SaaS tools that specialize in finding broken backlinks. While this may be time-consuming, it ensures you don’t miss any critical links.
  3. Implement Redirects: For broken links leading to misspelled URLs, set up redirects to guide users to the correct pages.
  4. Recreate Valuable Content: If a broken link points to a valuable resource that no longer exists, consider recreating the content or updating it to ensure it remains relevant.


Gary Illyes’ advice to prioritize user experience over exhaustive backlink fixes offers a pragmatic approach for physicians managing their own websites. By focusing on the most impactful links, you can enhance patient experience and maintain a robust online presence. Remember, the ultimate goal of your website is to serve your patients effectively, and ensuring they have a seamless experience is key to achieving this.

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