When it comes to improving a website’s ranking on search engines like Google and Bing, fixing broken links is one of the most important but time-consuming tasks on the list.
But what is the best way to identify and fix broken links on a website?
What is a Broken Link on a Website?
Starting with the simple answer first, a broken link is a link to a webpage that no longer works.
If visitors to your website click on a broken link, they will receive an error message or be directed to a 404 page.
What Causes Them?
The most common cause for them is that a page you linked to in the past has moved, is offline, or no longer exists.
Broken links often happen with PDFs, videos, or other documents.
It also happens if you move the website to a new domain name.
Another reason, though not as common, is that the link has a typo.
Why are Broken Links Bad?
A broken link is bad from a user standpoint because it’s frustrating. The last thing you want to do is frustrate visitors to your website by sending them to a page that no longer exists or gives them an error.
They won’t want to come back.
How Do They Affect SEO
There’s also an SEO component to them.
Search algorithms like Google and Bing do not like broken links. So much so that they will downgrade a website if there are too many of them. That means your website may show up on the second, third, or lower search engine results page.
Ultimately, broken links hurt your website’s organic traffic.
How to Find Broken Links
If you are already using a website analytics tool like SEMRush, ahrefs, or something similar, then you likely have a broken link detector at your fingertips.
Most website analytics tools offer a way to analyze your website for broken links as part of your subscription.
However, if you don’t have a website analytics tool at your fingertips, there are a few free tools you can use to identify yours.
Broken Links Tool
Google Analytics is possibly the best free tool on the market. Log into your Google Analytics account and allow the tool access to your website if you haven’t already.
WordStream has a great walkthrough (with pictures) to show you how to use the Google Analytics tool to identify broken links on your website. You can find it here.
How to Fix Broken Links in WordPress
If your website is a WordPress website, then there is a plugin that you can use to find broken links.
Broken Link Checker will scan your website for internal and external 404 errors and give you a list.
However, as WPBeginner reports, the plugin isn’t ideal. It takes a lot of loading power and will slow down your website for visitors. WPBeginner suggests using the plugin, fixing the broken links quickly, and then deactivating the plugin to improve your overall website performance.
How to Fix a Broken Link
Even after you identify yours, there is no magic fix. You will need to manually go into each page with a broken link and fix the problematic link.
There are several ways you can fix a link.
- If a typo in the link is the problem, then all you need to do is fix the typo to fix the link.
- If the link connects to a page that doesn’t exist anymore, either redirect the page visitor to a new page or find a different page that serves the same purpose.
- If all else fails, delete the broken link. It’s better to have no link at all than a broken one.
While the time it will take to fix the broken links on your website may be daunting, remember, it’s worth it if you’re able to increase your organic traffic at the end of it all.
Checking for broken links is just one of the ways to improve the health of your website, for more ways to improve your website’s performance, check out this previous post.
Written by Erika Towne