Scout the web for long enough, and you’ll inevitably click on a broken link that leads nowhere. From media juggernauts’ pages to your own, whether it’s your first website or your tenth, broken links are relatively common. But, just how harmful are they, and, most importantly, how can you fix broken links on your website? Let’s find out.
What Are Broken Links?
The basic definition of broken links is simple enough; they’re links that lead to 404 pages. There are two distinct types of broken links, however:
- Broken internal links
- Broken external links
This distinction is crucial because each of these will require a different approach to handle. Nonetheless, broken links may occur for a plethora of reasons, such as:
- The linked page has been removed
- The website’s structure has changed, invalidating the link’s URL
- The URL has been mistyped
In any case, fixing broken links is crucial, as they affect both Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and User Experience (UX). You may already assume the reasons why that’s the case, but the issue does warrant some investigation.
How do Broken Links Affect SEO and UX?
In brief, broken links on your website affect SEO differently, depending on their type.
Broken internal links prevent the flow of link equity, or “link juice”, throughout your website. Thus, they don’t allow for Page Authority (PA) transfers. Moreover, broken internal links can prevent Google’s crawlers from indexing your pages properly and in a timely manner.
One of the reasons outbound links matter is that they add authority to your site. But, broken external links make your website appear less authoritative and trustworthy. In turn, your site may not outrank your competitors if search engines determine their sites are more authoritative for queries related to your business.
Similarly, both types of broken links hamper UX. If visitors encounter broken links, they may bounce from your website out of frustration. In turn, that will decrease conversion rates, affecting your final revenue. This is why regularly monitoring your site and fixing broken links are a classic staple in any SEO best practices guide.
How to Identify Broken Links on Your Website
Now, having established how impactful broken links on your website can be, you can address the problem. Fortunately, there are many ways to monitor this, from standalone to CMS-specific solutions.
1. Google Search Console
Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) is an excellent starting point. Here, there are a few different ways to check for broken links, but the two main ones are:
- In Search Console, navigate to Index > Coverage > Excluded Links. Here you may identify which pages are being excluded due to 404s.
- In Google Analytics, you may set up a custom filter for your 404 Error page. Through it, you may track which of your pages funnel traffic to it.
There are two downsides to this approach, however. For one, it won’t help you identify or fix external broken links on your website. Second, fixes will need to be applied manually, which can be difficult and time-consuming for large quantities of links.
2. Link Checker Tools
Another option to consider is a link checker tool. These tools will vary quite significantly, both in terms of their capabilities and exact use. However, most of them will typically provide ways to both identify and fix broken external links.
There are a ton of different tools available. Here are a few of the most notable ones:
A very notable name in digital marketing, Ahrefs offers a handy link checker tool. In its dashboard, it will categorize backlinks (under “Backlink profile”) as:
You may thus specifically monitor new backlinks to gauge your link-building strategies, or note lost backlinks to investigate. But, in the context of this article, you’ll also find broken links on your website to address accordingly.
Another notable name, SEMrush also offers an excellent platform to consider. Their Site Audit tool is included with all paid subscriptions and will categorize site errors as:
- Errors: broken links, duplicate content, etc.
- Warnings: page issues like H1 headings, metadata issues, etc.
- Notifications: internal or external NoFollow links, etc.
For this article’s purposes, the “errors” tab should suffice to identify broken links on your website. Conversely, you may use the platform’s dashboard (Domain Analytics > Backlink Analytics) to get a clear overview of your backlinks.
3. Dr. Link Check
Finally, you may consider Dr. Link Checker for another handy option. As the name implies, this tool focuses on link status, categorizing link issues in its dashboard as:
The tool also features scheduled checks and optional status reports via email. Scan reports can be filtered in many ways as well as exported to .CSV for further analysis and processing.
3. CMS-Specific Plugins and Solutions
Finally, there are usually other options to explore depending on your website’s CMS.
Here, exact processes will vary depending on which option you choose, so make sure to follow each tool provider’s instructions.
How to Fix Broken Links on Your Website
Now, how can you fix the broken links you’ve identified and improve the User Experience? There are a few different options here, depending on their type and the tools you use.
With internal links, you do get more leeway with solutions. You may:
- Fix potential typos. This problem is quite common, and simply fixing URL typos will solve it.
- Redirect to a new URL. 301 redirects are Google’s recommended way of handling broken links; simply redirect to a new, relevant page.
- Remove the link. Finally, you may simply remove the link entirely if it no longer offers value to your page.
Ideally, you should avoid removing links unless it is a last resort or is the best solution for the specific scenario. Removing links can devalue your content, so you do want to be careful. In the case of internal links, it also stops link equity transfers.
With external links, your options are a bit more limited. You may:
- Replace the link with a new, relevant link.
- Remove it. Conversely, you may simply remove the link entirely.
As regards the former, external websites may also reach out to you and offer to do so on your behalf. That is, they will offer their own pages for you to redirect your links to. This may benefit both sides and open up professional opportunities, so it’s also a circumstantial option to consider.
For a relevant example of this, SEOpressor had a link to KISSmetrics in this article, linking to loading time metrics. The link’s URL reflects this, but it now redirects to a related page by Neil Patel. This allows the former’s readers to still be informed without additional effort, while also generating traffic for the latter.
To summarize, broken links on your website can harm your SEO and UX alike. Fortunately, you may use various Google tools, third-party standalone tools, and CMS-specific tools to identify them. You may then modify, replace, or delete them accordingly, depending on your needs and your tools’ functionalities to fix broken links on your website, improve your user experience, and more.