Broken Links: What are They and How to Find and Fix Them?

We’ve all experienced this nightmare scenario at least once: You’ve been browsing endlessly for a particular product or information, and just when you think you have found what you are looking for, you end up on a 404 error page.

Broken links are not only annoying to users, but can also hurt your SEO efforts as well. That’s right! Search engines hate broken links too. If you have a website, you’ve probably put a lot of effort and long hours into making it a valuable resource for your visitors. Don’t let broken links derail all of your hard work!

Use our SEO tips and tricks to maximize your online presence, including finding and resolving links that are on the loose.

Link Building 101: What are Broken Links?

Simply put, broken links are links that don’t work and send visitors to a webpage that no longer exists. It’s a hyperlink linked to an empty or non-existent external webpage. Broken links are also sometimes referred to as “broken hyperlinks”, “dead links” or “link rots”.

When a user clicks on a broken link, they will see a 404-page error or a similar error message explaining why the webpage is not available. Ugh.

What Causes Broken Links?

Links may be broken for a variety of reasons, including the URL being mistyped, the webpage no longer being active, the page’s URL having changed without a redirect being added, or the linked page having restricted access (such as by being behind a password or firewall).

Broken Links and SEO: Why are Dead Links a Problem?

Is your website performing sub-optimally and reducing your online results? You might be dealing with broken links. Broken links disadvantage your website in several ways:

1.       Broken Links Ruin User Experience (and Your Reputation)

Firstly, the user experience is completely ruined when clickable links are not available, and disgruntled users will probably be left disappointed, exiting your website without engaging fully or completing any transactions. This can undermine your site’s trustworthiness and authority, seriously damage your reputation and chase your visitors away.

2.       Broken Links Devalue Your SEO Efforts

Not only do broken links leave your visitors unhappy, but they also affect your search engine rankings and how you pass link juice. The less time visitors spend on your site – the higher the bounce rate. Google and other search engines don’t like broken links (well, nobody does), so the more broken links you have, the more your website will be pushed down the search rankings. 

3.       Broken Links Affect Your Revenue

Broken links are literal roadblocks in the conversion process. No matter how much time you’ve spent in getting customers to your site – if they can’t get to the conversion page or end up confused, all of your SEO efforts will be for nothing. Other than losing revenues, you are losing potential customers as well.

Yikes! Right? Now that you know just how hurtful broken links can be to your online presence, it’s up to you to make sure it doesn’t happen.

How to Find Broken Links on Your Website?

Even if you’re taking all the necessary precautions, regularly checking for broken links is always a smart move, since you might be linking to third-parties that don’t have the same good practices you have. As they potentially lead to bad impressions, bad user experience, and ultimately flanking your rankings, broken links need to be detected and tackled immediately.

To avoid these potential pitfalls, you should periodically check for broken links on your entire website. There are a number of tools you can use to identify broken links, many of them free. For example, Google Analytics is a great free tool for tracking website performance, and it’s also helpful for easily finding broken links. You can also use a WordPress plugin, or other online tools.

Whatever you opt for, make sure to set the evaluation period for the amount of time you want to look at, advisably since your last check.

Best Practices: How to Resolve Broken Links

The natural tendency for links to eventually break is called “link rot”, and it’s a widespread issue. Both websites and active links aren’t active forever, so regularly fixing broken links is a good practice. By now, you know that broken links are terrible for quality assurance and you’ve found these imposters.

But, how do you go about fixing broken links? Lucky for you, we’ve done this before and documented everything in this easy-to-follow guide, which we hope you’ll find helpful.

So, here’s a few ways to fix broken links across your website, after you’ve found them:

1.       Fixing External Links

Broken external links tells users that you aren’t trustworthy and also sends signals to search engines that your website is outdated. Luckily, fixing broken external links is fairly easy. You can remove the link completely or just replace it with a valid link. Reach out to the author or webmaster and request an update to the incorrect URL.

Even though you don’t have full control over broken external links, you still have complete control over the maintenance of your own website and fixing dead links.

2.       Fixing Internal Links

Finding broken internal links on your website is major trouble. But, unlike with external links, you have complete control over the internal ones. One common cause of broken internal links? Typos. Problem solved? If not, using 301 redirects is another method that Google recommends for fixing broken internal links.

Just redirect the broken page to another relevant page on your website. It does take a bit of time, but it will keep the link juice flowing and get you more page views, which is good for your SEO. You can always delete broken internal links, but you’ll lose the opportunity to increase user engagement and pass link juice, so make it a last resort.

Don’t Let Your Links Rot: How to Prevent Broken Links?

Prevention really is the best medicine. So, finding and fixing broken links isn’t a one-time task, but rather an ongoing process – a part of your websites’ regular SEO Audits. Don’t risk giving your visitors and search engines the perception your website is neglected or low quality. 

Here’s a few simple practices you can adopt to limit and prevent broken links:

  • Check and test your links when you move things around on your website
  • Use short, simple, easy-to-read and easy-to-type URLs
  • Avoid deep links unless necessary
  • Make a habit out of regularly checking for broken links

Turn Your SEO Mistakes Into Success

Mission accomplished! Now, all of your links work, making both users and the search engines happy. Cleaning up broken links can add context to your website, improve user experience, and make content within your website easier for visitors and search engines to discover.

 It’s a win-win in our books!

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