What are Broken Links? How to Find & Fix Them [Ultimate Guide]

broken link

What is a broken link? A broken link, also known as a dead link or link rot, is a link on a web page that is no longer accessible or that a user can’t find. Broken links on your website might be of two types:

Internal links

Internal links are those that connect pages on your website. These are the links over which you have the most authority on your website. Users will be taken to the same website but a different page by clicking on these internal links.

As a result, anytime you update or make changes to your website, double-check your internal links to ensure they are still functional.

External links

Outbound links, also known as external links, are links that lead to another website. For example, using a case study, I’m referring to Neil Patel’s blog post on how he increased his sales by 185%. Because this link goes to another website, it will be an external link.

External links necessitate additional time spent verifying because we cannot control when they change. As a result, you’ll need to check it periodically to determine if the connection is still active. Manually, of course. Assume I linked to a website, but the website owner removed the link a few months later.

As a result, Google Spiders will interpret that link to the other website as a dead end when they crawl my site. Furthermore, when Google Spiders discover an excessive number of 404 error pages, the value of your website is reduced in the eyes of the search engines. So, if you assume that broken links on your website won’t hurt it, you’re mistaken. Of course, search engines could hurt you, but there are a few other factors to consider.

Broken links can be the result of a variety of factors. However, the server always returns an error message when a user tries to access a dead link. The following are some examples of web server error codes:

  • 400 Bad Request: The URL on your website isn’t recognized by the host server.
  • 404 Page Not Found:  The page doesn’t exist on the server; hence, the page isn’t available.
  • Bad code: The server answer is invalid and violates the HTTP specification.
  • Bad host: The server with that name doesn’t exist or can’t be reached.
  • Bad URL:  URL is incorrect such as a missing bracket, extra slashes, wrong protocol, etc.
  • Empty: The host server responds with “empty” responses with no data and no response code.
  • Connections are dropped when the host server is reset. Either it’s set up incorrectly, or it’s too crowded.
  • Timeout: During the link inspection, HTTP requests always timed out.

Causes of broken links

  • Broken links can occur for a variety of reasons.
  • A firewall or geographical restriction bars outside access.
  • HTML, Javascript, CSS, or CMS plugins interfere with the page’s elements.
  • The URL was input incorrectly by the website owner. For instance, typos, misspellings, and other errors.
  • The site’s URL structure has changed recently. Error 404 is returned if this occurs without a redirect.
  • Links to content that has been relocated or removed like Google Docs, PDFs, videos, etc.
  • For instance, the link to the external site has expired when you’re permanently relocated or offline.

Effects of broken links

broken links

The 404 error page not only irritates search engines and users but also impacts your business. Here are some of the factors broken links can affect:

Your earnings

In the conversion process, broken links represent a bottleneck. Your SEO efforts will be wasted if customers can’t access the conversion page, no matter how much time you spend getting them to your site. So you’re not only losing money, but you’re also losing consumers.

This is because if one consumer is dissatisfied, they will tell their friends about it, and you will lose several customers. KISSmetrics researched this and discovered that 44% would tell others about a terrible internet experience.

Your visitors will spread the word if you don’t provide an excellent user experience and lose more consumers. After all, you don’t want to spend time and money constructing your website only to have unsatisfied visitors, do you? Consider how frustrating it is to click on a link in search of further information, only to be redirected to a 404 error page stating that the answer does not exist.

Bounce Rate 

The bounce rate is calculated based on the number of times visitors spend on your page; if they don’t stay for a given amount of time, they are regarded to have “bounced” from your page. Likewise, when visitors are dissatisfied with your site, they will all quit, resulting in a greater bounce rate.

When search engines see a high bounce rate on your page, they will raise a red signal, and your entire site will appear irrelevant. As a result, it’s critical to keep visitors pleased with your site by offering a positive user experience. Never lead them to broken links.

Google rank

As I previously stated, a high bounce rate can result in a poorer ranking in Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). When Google notices that visitors leave your page seconds after arriving, it assumes that they didn’t discover what they were looking for. Because the page has been identified as less reputable and reliable, Google will rank it lower in the SERPs. Not having your page indexed is another aspect that will influence your Google ranking.

Is it true that broken links affect SEO?

Dead links have a significant impact on your Google search results but not on your total SEO. However, this does not imply that you have become irresponsible and ceased repairing any broken links. If you don’t fix them, it could signal that your site has been abandoned or ignored. When you’re focused on building your business, you don’t want your website to appear neglected or abandoned.

Remember that Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines use dead links to judge the quality of a website. So, if you care about the quality of your website, fix any broken links as soon as you see them. The good news is that Google will notify you if any faults are discovered.

Customer experience

The user experience has an impact on SEO. If you have a lot of dead links, your user experience will suffer, and your SEO efforts will suffer as a result. Although search engines may recognize that there are broken links, your actual users may not.

Bounce rate

Fixing broken links can help you reduce your bounce rate significantly. When visitors to your site cannot find the information they seek, they will immediately move on to other websites where they can find it. You don’t want a simple operation like removing broken links to stifle your company’s growth.

Bounce rate reduction helps SEO and drives users down your funnel, resulting in more engagement and conversions. However, while optimizing bounce rate is always a good idea, repairing broken links is low-hanging fruit.

How to check your website for broken links

SEMRush

SEMRush (Disclaimer: affiliate link)is one of the most powerful SEO tools available. It makes it simple to keep track of your website’s SEO rankings and overall status. It also comes with a robust site audit tool that crawls your site for common issues and generates a comprehensive report for you.

You’ll need to create a SEMRush account first. Although it is a commercial service, they have a limited free account that allows you to crawl up to 100 pages on a single domain. Limits on paid plans start at 100,000 pages per month. Once logged in, go to the left menu and pick the ‘Site Audit’ link. You’ll be taken to the Site Audit page. Then, to add your website, go to the top of the page and select the ‘New Site Audit’ option.

You’ll be prompted to type in your domain name. After that, you’ll be prompted to set up site auditing options. For example, you can specify how many sites to crawl and which crawl provider to use.

To proceed, click the start crawling button. For the site assessment, SEMRush will immediately begin crawling your website. Depending on how many pages you picked for the crawl, this could take a few minutes. After you’ve finished, go to the Site Audit area and click on your domain to get your report.

To see the broken links on your site, go to the report summary and click the ‘Broken’ option.

Broken links report in SEMRush

You can now download your crawl report by clicking the Export icon in the top right corner of the screen. When it comes to restoring broken links on your website, you’ll need it.

Ahrefs

Ahrefs is a fantastic all-in-one SEO solution for marketers, businesses, and SEO experts. It provides in-depth SEO analysis of your website and any of your competitors. Keyword research, competition analysis, organic and paid keyword ideas, and site health monitoring, including broken links, are all possible.

You’ll need to create an Ahrefs account first. It is a paid service, with monthly subscriptions starting at $99 per month. For $7, they also offer a full-featured 7-day trial. Once you’ve logged into your Ahref dashboard, go to the Site Explorer tool and type in your domain name.

The Site Explorer tool will now crawl your website to generate reports. Depending on how much material you have on your website, this could take some time. You’ll see a summary of your site explorer results when you’re done. From here, select Pages » Best by Links from the drop-down menu, then sort your report by 404 status.

To fix broken links on your WordPress site, you may now export your report in CSV format.

You can also go to Site Audit>>Links and see both Internal and External broken links.

Google Analytics 

Google Analytics is a fantastic free tool for tracking website performance and quickly identifying broken links. Go to your Google Analytics account and select the Behavior tab to get started. Then choose “Site Content,” followed by “All Pages.”

Make sure the evaluation period corresponds to the amount of time you intend to spend looking at it. Set the period for the month since your last check if you check for broken links monthly.

You’ll see viewing options if you scroll down. It will most likely be set to “Page,” but change it to “Page Title.”

A page title filter can now be created. As shown below, select the “advanced” option:

Set your filtering to Include > Page Title> Containing> “Your 404 Page Title” once you’re in the “advanced” panel, as seen here:

After clicking “Apply,” you’ll be shown one or more page titles that include that name. Unfortunately, we only have one because this was only a one-month period.

When you click on the page title, you’ll get a list of broken links that lead to the 404 page:

In the full-screen view, we can see that the 404 error has occurred 2,071 times, and if we scroll down, we can see that it has occurred on 964 pages:

If you know all the areas where the links appear on your website, you may convert the report into a spreadsheet and update the links or set up redirects to route to the proper page. Various nonexistent or broken links trigger the 404 error page.

Although most websites contain a simple message, providing the visitor with a call to action is great practice. For example, you can link to your home page, your blog’s home page, or your contact page.

Google Analytics allows you to set up email alerts to receive these broken link reports regularly and export broken links’ data. It’s important to remember that redirecting and resolving broken links is a continuous activity. Once a month is an appropriate cadence for the average website.

Google Search Console

After the bots have inspected your website, Google Search Console can help you find any issues, including broken links. It’s worth noting that the console only displays URLs on your site, not external ones.

Go to “Coverage” then “Details” on your Google Search Console to detect issues.

Google Search Console

Keep in mind that Crawl Errors are given priority. If your URLs aren’t important, they won’t impact the search results. The following is a list of current pages that are returning errors. The importance of fixing broken links is revealed in this report. These pages will impact the current search results unless they are fixed. Avoid letting Google alert you to broken links, and make it a habit to wipe them out regularly.

How to fix broken links in WordPress 

We’ve demonstrated four alternative ways to locate broken links in WordPress. Next, let’s discuss how to quickly and easily fix broken links in WordPress.

Redirecting a broken link to another page is the best fix. For example, if you changed an article’s contents to a new location, you’d need to redirect it to the newer article.

Similarly, if an article is no longer available, viewers should be sent to a comparable page closely linked to the content of the previous item. Set up 301 redirects to accomplish this.

The Redirection plugin must first be installed and activated.

To set up redirects, go to Tools » Redirection page after activation. Then, enter the old broken link in the ‘Source URL’ column, and in the ‘Target URL’ field, enter the new URL.

The Redirection plugin

Then, click the ‘Add redirect’ button to save your changes. You may now test this by going to the previously broken link, which will take you to the updated page. Next, replace all broken links on your website with the same procedure.

How can I fix broken links?

Here are some best practices for dealing with all situations involving dead links:

Deep links on the website should only be used if essential.

While deep links, also known as anchor text or internal linking, are important, they should only be used when necessary. If you must use them, have a plan to unearth the dead ones regularly.

Check errors in Google Crawling.

As we’ve seen, Google Search Console can assist you in locating dead links on your website. In addition, the search console aids in detecting both relevant (404 errors) and irrelevant (not found) issues.

Use techniques for redirecting.

When users encounter dead links, this method redirects them to a new source of information. Visit: meta HTTP-equiv=”refresh” content=”0; URL=’http://new-website.com'” /> to redirect (301) the dead page to the new destination.

Here are some more suggestions for redirecting:

  • Redirect (301) the broken page to another relevant page on your site. 
  • Find a relevant piece of content on your site and link to it from the dead page.

External links should be fixed.

If an external link is broken, contact the linked website and request that it be fixed. The same goes for you. You must also update any dead links on your end that lead to other websites.

Replace the broken URL’s content with new content.

Replace or reconstruct the broken page by determining what it used to be.

Leave as a 404

Consider displaying the 404 page if the relevant page is no longer available. We propose displaying a “hard” 404 rather than a “soft” 404.

What can you do to avoid broken links?

The simplest method is to always copy the URL rather than typing it in. Despite this being a no-brainer, some people still enter the URL! Here are a few more methods for avoiding broken links:

  • When adding a link to your website, be sure the URL is valid and that you use the full URL rather than starting with www.  You can copy and paste the URL from your browser’s address bar if you’re worried about inputting it correctly. Then don’t even consider making a typing error.
  • If you use a content management system (CMS), such as WordPress, publish the post or page before copying the URL. The real URL will not be live if the post or page is in draft mode, so that you may see something like this: Instead of https://example.com/name-of-the-post, you’ll see https://example.com/?p=2857&preview=true.
  • Always examine the site for a source’s reputation if you’re citing it. It’s one thing to find a source by searching online, but before adding an external link, make sure the site has been there for a few years.
  • You may also check if the site is safe to connect to before adding any external links to your site. It’s possible that a malicious bot would crawl their site and then move on to yours, causing server problems.

How can I determine whether or not a URL is safe?

You can use various services to check a link to see if it’s safe to post on your site. Safe Browsing on Google is a fantastic place to start.

Copy and paste the following URL into your browser: http://google.com/safebrowsing/diagnostic?site= After that, type in the address of the site you want to inspect, such as google.com or an IP address. It will tell you if it has been infected with malware in the last 90 days.

google transparency report

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