Broken Links – How to Find and Fix Them on your Site

05 Nov, 2019 Technical

As your website grows with pages, blogs, FAQ’s, or informational content, there is the increasing likelihood that an internal or external link will break along the way. Manually checking every link on every page can help, but this strategy becomes increasingly difficult and time-consuming as a website grows.

Broken links can be bad for visitors to your site in addition to the bots used by search engines like Google. A broken link can hurt the relationship you have with people who visit your site, and it could also contribute to your page not ranking well. By being proactive or using broken-link tools, however, you can ensure your website is in working order.

What Does it Mean for a Link to Break?

Essentially, a broken link is one that does not work, and this can occur for various reasons. A webmaster may type the wrong URL, the page may no longer be available, the code may be incorrect, or the content within the link may have moved. If you change the URL structure of your site and do not create a redirect for that page, it will appear as a ‘404 error,’ or a broken link.

How do you Find a Broken Link?

For small websites, you may only need to check your website for broken links after major changes or updates. However, as the number of links on your website increases, and the more internal pages and external resources you are linking to, the higher the likelihood that one of them will break. For larger sites, it could be beneficial to get into the habit of using tools to check your site every week.

There are many free tools available that can help you check your site’s links and identify errors. We like to utilize the following tools:

  • Screaming Frog – We primarily use this tool before we launch a website and after a successful launch. This tool is particularly helpful because it acts like a Google Bot and crawls your entire site. After the site crawl is complete, Screaming Frog returns a list of errors that could impact your website’s usability.
  • Ahrefs – Once a website is live, we use this tool to do periodic checks. Ahrefs helps us keep an eye on our links and tell us when links break and require action.
  • Google Search Console – This is a final tool that we use monthly to check in on site health and verify external links. This tool monitors the links within a website and reports any issues or broken links that should be fixed. While it does not actively search every single link, it is a good tool to use once a month to ensure everything is in working order. Additionally, this tool can tell you if a bot runs into crawl errors or issues.

These are just a few of the tools at your disposal, but we find them especially helpful after major structural changes. Effective tool use can also help webmasters be proactive instead of reactive in link building projects.

How do you Fix or Resolve a Broken Link?

Once you find a broken link, it is important to act quickly and fix the problem before it affects potential visitors. We recommend the following methods to fix or resolve your broken links:

  • Fix the URL – Maybe a link is broken due to a simple typo in the URL. In this case, it is easy enough to fix that component in the backend of your website and move along.
  • Redirect the User – Sometimes the page no longer exists, yet the broken link is somewhere that you cannot change. Simply redirect the broken page to a new location with the appropriate information using a 301 or 302 redirect.
  • Recreate and Replace the Broken URL – If you cannot fix the URL, or if the content on the page is no longer available, you may want to recreate the content. You can create a similar URL and combine the two.
  • Leave as a 404 – This is a viable option if the page no longer serves a purpose or if the information is being updated and may take a while. By turning the broken link from a ‘soft’ 404 into a ‘hard’ 404, users can be more informed that the page they are visiting is actually down. This also tells bots that the page doesn’t exist anymore.

Why is it Important to Fix Broken Links?

While a broken link may not ruin your website or consumer base, it does irritate individuals who visit your site. It can also make it seem like you do not regularly audit your pages or content, which may give a potential client an unfair impression of your services.

Broken links can also impact your search engine optimization (SEO). If a page on your site is broken, does not have any content, or isn’t what the Google bot expects, it could hurt that page in search engine results. Too many dings to your domain and you could see yourself decrease in search rankings.

With the wide array of tools at your disposal to check and fix broken links, starting the habit of regularly auditing your website can help you prevent issues. By learning how to find and fix your broken links, you could ensure that your website stays in its best condition.