In the "Lost backlinks" report in Site Explorer, you will see a variety of tags that describe "link lost" reasons.
Generally, there are two groups of "link lost" reasons.
Those related to a linking page:
- 404 not found — the linking page was not accessible on our last re‐crawl, so we consider a link from it “lost” (but we will add it back if on the next re‐crawl that page will be live).
- Noindex — the linking page has a “noindex” attribute and therefore we don’t count links from it (that is an arguable decision, but that is what we decided to do for the time being);
- 301/302 redirect — the linking page is now redirected somewhere else. And in case the page it redirects to does have a link to your target, it will soon appear in your backlink profile;
- Not canonical — the linking page has a “rel canonical” tag to some other page, which means it is no longer a unique page, so we don’t count links from it.
- Dropped - these pages are removed from our index due to various reasons (for e.g. the domain doesn't exist anymore), and thus the links are also removed.
- Crawl errors - During the recrawl, the linking page returned an HTTP status code different from 200 (OK) to our crawler. (but we will add it back if it's live on our next scheduled recrawl).
And those related to the actual link:
- Link removed — the linking page is live, but it no longer has a link to your target;
- Broken redirect — both the linking page and the link are ok. However, that link was reaching your target via a few redirects and one of them no longer works, so the link is now kind of “disconnected” from the target.
Want to know more about each reason? We dive into deeper detail below.
'Link lost' reasons related to linking page
1. 404 Not Found
The linking page no longer exists, and therefore the link disappeared.
You should use Archive.org to find out what the page was originally. Then, reach out to the owner to add your link back if you suspect the page got deleted accidentally.
Some tell-tale signs of a accidental deletion:
- The page has a lot of inbound links pointing to it. Check the number of referring domains.
- The page is still being internally linked‐to. Analyse it in Site Explorer and check the Internal links report.
The linking page has a “noindex” attribute and therefore we don’t count links from it (this is debatable, but that is what we have decided to do for the time being).
To get this link back, check if the page was "noindexed" accidentally.
- Check if their homepage also has a “noindex” tag. Nobody would ever de‐index their homepage. So the presence of a noindex” tag on the homepage almost always indicates that they’ve added a sitewide noindex tag by accident. Double‐verify this by checking a few other pages, too;
- Look out for signs of SEO. Similarly, nobody would optimize a page they planned to “noindex”. So if the page shows any signs of optimization (e.g., targeting a high‐volume keyword, keyword present in meta tags, etc), the likeliness of an accidental “noindex” is high.
If you spot either of these, reach out and give them a heads up.
3. 301/302 redirect
The linking page is now redirected somewhere else. And in the specific case where the page it redirects to does have a link to your target, this link will soon appear in your backlink profile (read what a "lost" link due to 301 redirect means).
Much like canonicals, these are often nothing to worry about. Reasons include:
- Redirect from HTTP (to HTTPs);
- Redirect to standardized version of the URL (e.g., with/without trailing slash);
- Redirect to new location of page (e.g., blog.ahrefs.com/x to ahrefs.com/blog/x)
In each of these instances, the redirected URL will usually still link back to your site. So it’s not really lost.
However sometimes, the redirected page doesn't link back to you.
We recommend pursuing these links if:
- It is an unlinked mention. They mentioned your name but neglected to link back to you.
- There is a link opportunity. If a resource of yours can add value, reach out and suggest it.
4. Not canonical
The linking page has a “rel=canonical” tag to some other page, which means it is no longer a unique page, so we don’t count links from it.
Nine times out of 10, these are nothing to worry about. Typical reasons for canonicals include:
- Canonicalization to HTTPs (from HTTP);
- Canonicalization to a standardized version of the URL (e.g., with/without trailing slash);
- Self‐referential canonical.
Sometimes, it could be due to a mistake. Check the source code of the page to see if it is an accidental canonical (for e.g. a sitewide canonical). Google is usually smart enough to figure this out and ignore the canonical. In which case, this isn’t really anything to worry about. Your link still exists and the page is probably still indexed in Google.
But, it can be worth reaching out to the site owner to let them know.
These are links from pages that were removed from our index due to various reasons. They include:
- Page duplicates: We crawled a "better" page with the same content;
- Disallowed: The page was disallowed by robots.txt for at least 2 months;
- Unavailable: The page returned an error 3 times, and the last successful download was at least 1 month old;
- The domain does not exist anymore;
- The page has a low URL rating.
As such, even though the link itself may still exist on the page, we indicate it as Lost: dropped when we no longer index the page itself.
In general, we drop these links because they aren't valuable and don't count much towards strengthening the backlink profile of the page. Chances are, you don't have to claim back these links.
6. Crawl errors
During the recrawl, the linking page returned an HTTP status code different from 200 (OK) to our crawler.
If we find the referring page live on the next scheduled recrawl, the link from it will appear in the New Backlinks report.
'Link lost' reasons related to actual link
7. Link removed
This means that the linking page is live, but it no longer has a link to your target.
There are a few reasons:
- They refreshed their content. Sites update their articles all the time. Sometimes, they may remove some external links.
- They replaced your link with something better. If someone happens to create a better version of your page, they may be able to steal your link.
- They implemented a new external links policy. Misinformed webmasters may set up a blanket ban on linking out to low-DR sites.
To figure out the exact reason, hit the caret on the linking page, and click the link to archive.org:
Compare the archived version of the page with the current one. From there, you can figure out the real reason. See if you can reach out and get the link back.
8. Broken redirect
This happens if:
- The redirect chain is broken. If any of the pages in the redirect chain fails to respond, it gets reported as a Lost link.
- The redirect no longer exists (or is changed). Let’s say you had a link from Site A → Site B but the link was first redirected through one or more other URLs (e.g., Site A → Site C→ Site B). If the linking site was to swap this link out so it linked directly (rather than going through a redirect chain) it would be reported as a Lost link. Same goes if the final URL of the redirect is changed to redirect elsewhere.
NOTE: These lost links may be reported due to temporary issues with the redirects or pages.
The solution? Do this:
- Install the Link Redirect Trace Chrome extension;
- Visit each linking page;
- Locate the link (just search for the anchor or pre‐link text);
- Click it
If it takes you to your website, it means the link is still working. If not, it is worth reducing the length of the redirect chain. Try reaching out to the site owner and asking them to link to you directly instead.
Why does Ahrefs report a backlink as “Lost” if I still see it on a page?
This is due to a variety of reasons that we've covered in this article.
If you have any doubts, please contact support!