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 Google Instant went live on 9/9, read industry experts opinions on how this will affect SEO here, including contributions from White Hat SEO Marketing.  

broken - Whitehat SEO Marketing - Glossary

White Hat SEO Glossary Index

A broken link is a link that leads to a page either on your own site which doesn't exist. Unquestionably a bad thing, you should check your site for broken links after any update. Also check your site frequently to ensure any external links you have are still valid. The w3c link checker is free and highly recommended. It gives you an in depth report of all the links on your site. Xenu is also good. Broken links are a major enemy of good quick spidering and Google will very likely stop spidering your site if it finds them. Google webmaster tools and free tools like Xenu are available to make sure your links all work so there's no excuse for broken links. It is very important to get this part of SEO right.