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Do you know how many links are broken on your site? Do you realize that these broken links could be hurting your SEO efforts and costing you money? This blog post will teach you what to do to find the broken links, how to fix them, and how this can improve your search engine rankings and user experience.
What are broken links?
A broken link (A.K.A. a dead link) is a hyperlink that no longer points to the correct URL, and instead, now points to an incorrect URL of a deleted page that no longer exists. We’ve all clicked on a broken link at some point, and it causes the user’s experience to diminish, but you also need to be aware that broken links harm where you appear in the search results. Think about it, Google’s main priority is to give their users a good experience, so why would they want to send people to a broken page when other websites have similar content on a page that they know works correctly.
Broken links can occur on internal links (links from your own website to other pages on your website) as well as external links (links from your own website to relevant content on another website).
A common reason for this is when web pages are deleted or moved, but sometimes it can happen because of technical errors such as typos in URLs. When a user clicks on these links they will often see an error message saying “page not found”.
What causes broken links?
The most common reason for broken links is website owners forgetting to update old content on their site. For example, you might have a link to your company’s home page and forget that over the years it has changed several times, resulting in outdated web addresses.
Other potential causes include:
- Website redesigns or updates without updating all the links leading back from pages not included in the new design/update.
- Content management system migration where some URLs were missed during this process.
- Manual changes were made by another person who deleted one internal link but forgot to add an updated version or implement a redirect
- Backlinking to an external web page that is no longer online.
What are the impacts of broken links?
Broken links can result in a bad user experience, lost revenue, and a drop in search engine rankings. This happens on smaller websites as well as incredibly large eCommerce websites.
Website owners want to avoid broken links because they can harm your SEO. Search engines like Google look at many factors when ranking websites, and the number of good inbound links is one such factor.
When a search engine crawls a website it follows all the hyperlinks found on that site. When it finds an inbound or outbound link that no longer points to where a user expects, this may be interpreted as “link spam” or undesirable linking practices by that site owner which would lead to lower rankings.
Every time a user clicks on a broken link, the web page they were expecting doesn’t load up correctly; this can lead to users clicking around until they find what they’re looking for or just leaving your site altogether.
According to some research conducted by HubSpot in 2015, 43% of consumers state that when their favorite websites don’t work properly, those sites will lose them as repeat customers! The good news is that there’s plenty we can do about our broken-link problem before it gets out of hand.
Luckily, in most cases, it is an easy fix to find and fix broken links that are pointing to a missing page and update to point to a new page that is relevant and will pass positive link equity (sometimes called link juice) to send visitors to a new URL and avoid losing and page views to your website.
How do I find broken links?
Luckily there are several different methods that can be used to find broken links on your website, many of which are free which is extremely helpful. We have listed below some of the best methods (and tools) that we recommend to help you find broken links on your website.
Find broken links with Google Analytics
A great method of fixing broken links is with Google Analytics, which is a free web analytics tool that tracks data about your website traffic and the social actions of visitors. You can use your Google Analytics account to find broken links on your site, what search terms are driving people to your site, which pages they’re viewing along with other insights you may need.
To find your broken links exist log into Google Analytics dashboard and click on the “Behavior” tab. Click “Site Content” then click on “All Pages“.
Click on “Page title” and type “not found” into the search filter., This will give you a list of all broken pages within your site. Even if you only find one page when you check for broken links on Google Analytics, you should resolve this 404 error on your site immediately to benefit your SEO efforts. You can also click on where it says ‘Page Not Found’ under ‘Page Title’ for a further drill-down of what URLs caused a 404 error.
Find broken links with Screaming Frog
Screaming Frog is an indispensable tool for any SEO who wants to make sure their site stays in prime shape. This web crawler can help you find broken links and other errors on your website, which are the bane of a good SEO ranking. Here’s a step by step guide of how:
Crawl Your Website
Open up Screaming Frog, type or copy in the website you wish to crawl, and hit ‘Start’, and the software will go through your entire site and find broken internal links as well as broken external links.
Click the Response Codes tab and then click on Client Error (4XX) to see what links are broken.
You can either wait for the crawl to finish and reach 100% or you could view the dead links now by navigating over to the ‘Response Codes’ tab. Using a filter of “Client Error 4XX,” you will be met with all your 404 errors while crawling!
Click the "Inlinks" tab to see where all of your broken links are coming from.
It’s important for you to know the source of any broken links discovered, so they can be fixed. To do this, simply click on a URL in the top window panel and then click on the ‘Inlinks’ tab at the bottom to populate the lower pane with which URLs are linking back to these errors.
Screaming Frog is really handy for finding broken links as it will discover your broken internal links as well as your broken external links. It will also tell you what the anchor text is that your website has used that now contains a broken link. If you have a small website (under 500 URLs) you can actually use Screaming Frog for free in order to discover broken outgoing links and internal links that are harming your online business and potentially preventing it from appearing higher in search results.
Find broken links with Ahrefs Webmaster Tools and Site Explorer
Ahrefs is a popular SEO tool that also has a free broken link checker. You just need to enter your website URL and in seconds it will let you know if any links are not working properly or have been removed from the site, so you can fix them before rankings suffer.
Ahrefs have a free version of their webmaster tools which you can set to automatically check for broken links on a frequent basis.
Ahrefs also allows us to identify broken links that external pages have got for your website. This is a major part of fixing your broken links SEO that many people don’t think about. If you have backlinks pointing to a page on your website that no longer works, or for whatever reason has been removed or the URL structure has been updated to have the page in a new location, then that broken link will prevent link juice from flowing to your website and may result in an issue with your SEO rankings.
With the Site Explorer on ahrefs you can easily use the backlinks (or referring domains) results to quickly discover where sites may have broken external links that are trying to send traffic your way. This is obviously something that search engines don’t like to see, which is why this tool is incredibly helpful for finding and resolving this in a timely manner.
How do you fix broken links?
There are several ways to fix broken links on your website, and we have the answers for you! Here’s how:
Recreate the page: The best way to fix a broken page is by finding out what it used to be and recreate that page, If you don’t have an old backup of that specific webpage, then check The Wayback Machine for help.
Remove the broken links: This can be a time-consuming and boring task, but it’s not difficult, All you need to do in order to remove a link within your blog is locate it and then just delete it.
(301) Redirect the broken link to a relevant page: Make it easy on your site visitors and redirect broken pages to similar content. If someone is looking for “How to do SEO for local business” you might want to point them in the direction of a similarly titled page, like “Our Google My Business Optimization Guide”.
Broken links on your website can be a nuisance. If you’re not careful, broken links could become costlier as time goes on and the number of clicks they receive increases due to their ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs). As mentioned at the beginning of this article, nobody likes to be met with a broken link (be it humans or search engines) as it results in a bad user experience.
You should make it part of your routine and ongoing process to find and fix broken links on your site, even if you only discover one new external link that is broken. We use that example as most broken links can be caused when your site has broken links pointing to a page that now has an error.
Remember also that if you are trying to increase your Off-Page SEO by doing some link building that you should regularly check to make sure that the website did not use an incorrect URL and have placed a broken external link to your website. You want to keep the link juice flowing as much as possible. We have a complete guide on how to build more backlink, which includes methods such as broken link building.
Luckily, finding them is relatively simple with many tools available online that will allow you to thoroughly inspect your site for any potentially problematic links. You want to fix these quickly before customers start leaving your business or getting angry messages about how it doesn’t work anymore when they click on something from search engines.
The best way to avoid this problem altogether? Prevention! It sounds like common sense but if you’re able to keep up on checking internal and external links periodically throughout the year by regularly updating every piece of content with new information. We also highly recommend checking your website at least once per month for any new broken links that may have occurred. It can happen more often than you think.
FAQs about broken links
When you click a broken link you are usually met with the following message: “Error 404 – Page Not Found”.
Broken links create a bad user experience for the visitors on your website, they have a wall put up to them on a page that should be easily accessible to them when browsing your website. Search engines also don’t like to find broken links, which can affect your technical SEO.
Links commonly break on a website as the URL of a page has been updated and anywhere that the old URL was previously linked, is now leading to an old and outdated page. You should always check that you have replaced each instance of the old URL on your website with the new URL, or at the very least implement a 301 redirect.
Broken link building is a method of finding who has linked to your competitors but have used what is now a broken link. You then have the opportunity to reach out to that website and let them know they have a broken link and offer a replacement to them, which would then be a link to your own website with similar content.