12 Days of Data, Day 11: SEO Link Decay Statistics for 2019


Welcome to the 12 Days of Data, our look back at the data that made marketing in 2019. We’re looking at the year that was from an analytics perspective to see what insights we can take into the next year and decade. Sit up, get your coffee ready, and let’s celebrate some data.

On Day 11, we dig deeper into SEO with a look at link decay. How fast do links decay on the web, meaning that articles (which may have valuable links to your website) stop working?

12 Days of Data, Day 11: SEO Link Decay Statistics for 2019

From the headline numbers, we see:

  • In aggregate, 8.68% of links are broken within the calendar year
  • August 2019’s content has had the most expired/broken links
  • The median number of words for articles with broken links is 272, a substantially smaller amount than the 623 words in working articles
  • Broken articles have a median of 7 social shares
  • The sites that have broken links are lower in domain rating (median of 75) than working articles, but still quite high overall
  • Pages about education (the topic overall) have the most broken links, 7.22%

When we look over time, we see the decay rate increase linearly from today until August, when it reaches a sustained level:

12 Days of Data, Day 11: SEO Link Decay Statistics for 2019

In terms of topic areas that decay most or least:

12 Days of Data, Day 11: SEO Link Decay Statistics for 2019

Education, professional services, and logistics have the highest decay rates as topics, while financial services, forestry, and solar energy have the lowest decay rates.

Key Takeaways

Decaying links are an opportunity for us as marketers and content publishers in three ways:

  • First, if a link to your website goes bad, you’ll want to reach out to the website, blogger, influencer, or news outlet that linked to you and let them know that either the link is wrong, or ask them to put the link back if appropriate. This should be done monthly.
  • Second, if a link to a competitor’s website goes bad, that’s an opportunity for you to reach out and say, “Hey, we noticed you linked to X in the past – would you be interested in creating some content together that might be of more value to you?”. This should be done quarterly, as we see decay rates ramp up substantially after four months, and marketers tend to forget about activities and data that’s more than one quarter in the rear view mirror.
  • Third, and most important, if a page on our own websites goes bad, we need to repair it or redirect it as quickly as possible. We see that broken pages have substantially lower content performance metrics than working pages.

The key takeaway here is that we should all be checking our website’s links – and our competitors’ links – to find opportunities to protect what we have and capture share in our market. Use this data in your next internal SEO team meeting to show just how fast links decay, and how frequently we need to be checking to defend our links and take advantage of opportunities against competitors.


Trust Insights used the AHREFS crawling engine to examine 117 million web pages published in English in calendar year 2019. For topics, we used a starting keyword list based on NAICS codes, then augmented with indsutry classification from the semi-annual CMO Survey. For analyzing the contents of broken pages, we sampled 116,259 unique broken pages from the 2019 index. The criteria for selection was the top 10,000 articles per month by organic traffic. The dataset was merged, then de-duplicated by article URL. Articles were limited to the English language. The measure of centrality used for this study was the median. The period of the study is January 1, 2019 – December 18, 2019. The date of data extraction is December 20, 2019. Trust Insights is the sole sponsor of the study and neither gave nor received compensation for data used, beyond applicable service fees to software vendors.


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