Broken Links: How to Fix Them & SEO Basics

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Updated 2/3/2024

Discover the impact of broken links on SEO and user experience. Learn how to identify them, and understand effective strategies to fix them.

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When you click a link, it should ideally lead you to a target webpage. A broken link, however, fails to do this. Instead, it leads you to a “404 Not Found” error page or another error message indicating that the desired webpage cannot be reached.

Broken links are bad for user experience and SEO. This quick guide will cover their fundamentals and how to fix common issues.

A broken link (also known as a dead link) refers to a hyperlink on a website that points to a web page or file that no longer exists or is unavailable.

Some common causes of broken links include:

  • The linked page has been deleted or moved. This can happen when website content gets changed or reorganized, but existing links are not updated.
  • There is a typing error in the URL. A character is missing or spelled wrong in the link address.
  • The domain hosting the content has expired. The website itself is no longer renewed or enabled.
  • There’s a temporary server error when clicking the link. The target server could be overloaded or down.
  • Incorrect linking code. The HTML anchor tag is not formatted properly.

Fixing broken links helps ensure site content remains intact and accessible to users.

Having too many broken links on a site provides a poor user experience. Site visitors can lose confidence and trust in the site. Here’s how it affects important aspects:

User Experience

Users expect links to take them to relevant content. When a link leads to an error page instead, it disrupts the browsing experience and can frustrate the user. This may lead to decreased time spent on the website, increased bounce rates, and potentially negative perceptions of the brand or organization.

SEO

Search engines like Google crawl through websites using links to discover and index new web pages. When they encounter a broken link, it can disrupt this crawling process. Too many broken links might signal to search engines that the site is poorly maintained and hurt your SEO.

It’s important to regularly check your website for broken links to maintain a positive user experience and good SEO. Here are a few tools and techniques to help you do this:

  1. Manual Checking: You can check links manually by clicking them and seeing where they lead. This method is time-consuming and may not be practical for large websites.
  2. Online Tools: Many online tools, like Google Search Console or Ahrefs, can crawl your website and report any broken links. These tools are more efficient than manual checking, especially for larger websites.
  3. Browser Extensions: Some browser extensions can check for broken links. For example, Check My Links for Chrome can be very handy.
  4. Desktop Applications: Screaming Frog is one of the most popular crawlers out there. The free version can crawl up to 500 pages, discovering broken links and other critical SEO issues.

Once you’ve identified the bad links on your website, the next step is to fix them. There are several ways to do this, depending on the reason:

  1. Correct the Link: If the link is broken because the URL was entered incorrectly, you can simply correct the URL.
  2. Remove or Replace the Link: If the target webpage has been deleted or moved and you can’t find a new URL, you may need to remove the link or replace it with a link to a different relevant page.
  3. Create a Redirect: If a webpage has been moved and its URL has changed, you can create a redirect from the old URL to the new one. This way, any old links that point to the webpage will automatically be redirected to the new URL.
  4. Restore the Page: If a webpage was deleted but there are still many links pointing to it, it might be worthwhile to restore the page, if possible.

Here are some ways to prevent them from occurring in the first place:

  1. Careful Link Creation: When creating links, enter the correct URL. Double-check your work to prevent typos or errors.
  2. Regular Maintenance: Regularly update and maintain your website. If pages need to be moved or deleted, update any links pointing to those pages.
  3. Use Reliable Sources: Consider the site’s reliability when linking to external websites. Websites that frequently move or delete pages might lead to more broken links on your site.
  4. Link Management Tools: Some tools can help manage and check the links on your website. These can automate the process of checking for bad links and can help prevent them from appearing.

Bottom Line

Broken links are a common issue in the online world that can negatively impact user experience and SEO. It’s crucial for website owners to regularly check for and fix any on their sites. By understanding broken links, their impact, and how to address them, you can ensure your website provides a smooth and satisfying user experience. ?

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