In the "Lost backlinks" report in Site Explorer,  you might see a variety of tags that describe "link lost" reasons. 

Let's discuss what each of them means.

"Link Lost" Reasons

1. Link removed

This means that the linking page is live, but it no longer has a link to your target. 

Why?

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. 

2. 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:

  1. Install the Link Redirect Trace Chrome extension;
  2. Visit each linking page;
  3. Locate the link (just search for the anchor or pre‐link text);
  4. 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. 

3. 404 not found

The linking page no longer exists, and therefore the link disappeared.

Similarly, 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. 

4. Noindex

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. 

Two methods:

  1. 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;
  2. 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. 

5. 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. 

6.  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. 

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! 

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