Can you guess what Afternic, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, and A2 Web Hosting all have in common?
All three are members of the Better Business Bureau, and all three have a “broken” member badge on their website.
Instead of the badge going to their BBB profile, the link leads to a 404 Page Not Found, and so does the badge of tens of thousands of other websites around the United states!
- Afternic broken profile page
- Blue Cross of Michigan broken profile page
- A2 web hosting broken profile page
Last week on a regularly scheduled client site audit, a website showed a new 404 error.
Checking the link for their BBB profile manually, I found that it was indeed a 404, and then I looked at my own badge, and found it was a 404 also.
Then I checked the rest of my client sites, and only one of them had a working badge!
I didn’t want to wait for everyone to get back to me to find their logins and send me their corrected BBB code, so I just fixed my client badges manually, by looking up their “real” URL and editing the code.
That’s not the best idea, since I suppose the URL could change again, but I wanted the errors fixed, and besides, that didn’t help this time.
It took me about 45 minutes to fix them all, then I started wondering just how widespread this problem was. I mean, if it took me an hour, how many thousands of hours collectively will it take BBB members to fix this?
Using a combination of Majestic and this bulk server response checker, I was able to find a bunch inbound links, determine which ones came from embedded wbsite badges, and then identify which ones were a 404.
Because I could only check 100 URLs at a time, I only did a few hundred, but the results were staggering. My best estimate is that as many as 20% of BBB customers badges are broken!
Then I started wondering how long this had been going on, so I started checking some of the profile URLs in the Wayback Machine
I was able to see that all of the 404 pages used to have 301 redirects, and some of them started disappearing in May. Others were still in place as recently November 1st, just two weeks ago. Now the same URL as the picture has no redirect.
This is bad for two reasons…
First, because it seems a bit unfair to make tens of thousands of paying members of the BBB have to go change their code. Many are small businesses with no recall of how to even log into their BBB profiles, not to mention having the capability of editing their websites.
It places an undue burden on members, when the redirects were already in place, and there was no problem.
Second, when you remove the 301 redirects that maintain functionality your inbound links, you can hurt your SEO. Google places a high ranking value on inbound links, and when you remove the 301 you’re effectively removing links. When those links are no longer valid, you lose all the link equity that Google would otherwise pass along to your site.
Did it hurt anything?
Do you think that removing huge amount of inbound links might hurt organinc search traffic? I thought it might, so took a quick glance at the bbb.org domain at SEMrush. They show that since May of this year, they have dropped by an estimated 4.5 million visitors per month, going from just over 19 million visitors per month down to 14.7 million per month. That’s nearly 25% of their organic search traffic!
I’m not getting paid by the BBB – in fact I pay them – but if I were recommending a way for them to reclaim some lost organic traffic, that might be it, huh?
How to Fix Your Badge
If your badge is broken, you’re going to have to get the “new code” to put on your site. In theory, the code should never have to be changed again, but that’s up to the BBB. Visit the BBB website and click this link for “Log in”, and then you should be taken to the BBB organization login that corresponds to your geographic area.
Then click BBB Accredited Business Seals on the left, and select from one of the first four options. After that you’ll be able to choose the style and color, and you’ll be given the code to use on your website.
Will the BBB fix it?
I posted about this in the Facebook “BBB Trust Network” group last week but for some reason they didn’t approve my post… I sent another inquiry just now, but my guess is the’re not going to even answer, because it makes them look bad.
Fixing your own badge only takes a couple of minutes, but I still think that removing the 301 redirects is doing a disservice to paying members, and I also believe it’s hurting their organic traffic… What do you think?