3 min read

A Comprehensive Guide to Detecting and Rectifying Broken Links

A Comprehensive Guide to Detecting and Rectifying Broken Links

Broken links: the bane of a website's existence. They can undermine your website's credibility and nullify the hard work you've put into SEO efforts. Thankfully, it's not hard to identify and fix those troublesome links.

Today, we'll walk you through all things broken links. This includes what they are, how to find them, and how to resolve them.

Are you ready to mend those links? Let's do it

Understanding Broken Links

Broken links are links that need help navigating users to their intended destination. Whether they are backlinks, internal links, or external links, several common factors can cause links to break.

Common Causes of Link Breakage

Broken links are a prevalent issue, primarily due to various reasons. Here are a few.

Misspelled URL

A simple typo in the linked URL can render the link non-functional. It could result from a typo in the URL, the omission of "https://" or "http://," or the inclusion of extra spaces.

Updated URL

When a page's URL is altered to rectify errors or for other reasons without implementing redirects, links pointing to the outdated URL become broken.

Lost Pages

Some pages might get lost or renamed during website migrations or updates, leading to broken links.

Firewall or Geolocation Restrictions

Due to firewall or geolocation restrictions, certain links may be inaccessible to users in specific geographic locations.

Moved Content

Links may break if the linked content, such as videos or documents, is removed from the server or relocated.

Malfunctioning Plugins

Broken links can result from malfunctioning plugins on your site or HTML/JavaScript errors disrupting page elements.

Site Outages

If your site or the external site you are linking to experiences downtime, links can become temporarily or permanently broken.

Change in URL Structure

Altering your site's URL structure by implementing proper 301 redirects can prevent both internal and inbound links from breaking.

Types of Broken Links

When users encounter broken links, they often see a "404 Page Not Found" error, indicating that the page is currently unavailable but may return later. However, other HTTP status codes can signify broken links.

400 Bad Request

This error occurs when the host server cannot understand the URL due to syntax errors or an invalid request.

410 Gone

Similar to a 404 error, a 410 error indicates that the linked resource is permanently removed from the server.

All these error codes, especially 410s, negatively affect user experience and SEO, as discussed further.

The Consequences of Broken Links

Broken links pose several risks and consequences for your website.

User Experience Impact

Users clicking on broken links may be directed to error pages, leading to frustration and a poor user experience. This can result in visitors leaving your site and potentially harming your reputation.

SEO Consequences

Internal links play a crucial role in SEO, and broken internal links can disrupt site navigation and hinder search engine crawlers' ability to index your pages. This can negatively impact your rankings and visibility.

Crawl Budget Allocation

Google allocates a limited amount of time for crawling websites. Broken internal links impede Googlebot's ability to crawl and index important pages, potentially affecting your search rankings.

Bounce Rate Increase

Broken links contribute to a higher bounce rate, signaling to search engines that users are quickly leaving your site. This can raise concerns about the relevance and quality of your content.

Perception of Site Maintenance

Frequent 400 errors and broken links can convey poor website maintenance, potentially leading search engines to view your site less favorably.

Impact on Backlinks

Broken backlinks from other websites suggest outdated or unattended content, which can deter web admins from linking to your site in the future.

Given these repercussions, addressing broken links is essential for maintaining a user-friendly website and preserving your SEO efforts.

Detecting Broken Links

Before you can repair broken links, you must identify them. Fortunately, various tools can automate this process, making it more efficient. 

Google Analytics 4

In Google Analytics 4, navigate to "Reports," select "Engagement," and then "Pages and screens." Use the search bar to look for terms like "page not found" or "404" under "page title and screen class" to identify 404 error pages and associated links.

Google Search Console

In Google Search Console, access the "Overview" page, click "Pages" under "Indexing," and explore the "Not Found (404)" section to identify 404 errors and broken links within your domain.

Semrush's Site Audit

Utilize Semrush's Site Audit tool to detect broken internal and external links by checking the "Errors" and "Warnings" sections. Review the URLs associated with these issues.

Other Tools

Consider using tools like Screaming Frog's SEO Spider, SEO PowerSuite's Link Assistant, or the Broken Link Checker for comprehensive link checking.

Additionally, you can encourage user feedback by creating a custom 404 error page with a contact form or providing instructions on reporting broken links.

Fixing Broken Links

Once you've identified broken links, you can take corrective action. The approach varies depending on whether you deal with internal or external links.

For Internal and External Links

If a broken link resulted from a URL typo, update it with the correct URL. If the link is no longer relevant, remove it.

Use a 301 redirect if you've moved a page or have a relevant replacement page. Ensure that the redirect directs users to a contextually appropriate destination.

For Backlinks

If you find backlinks pointing to broken pages on your site, you can contact the web admins of the referring websites and request that they update the links to point to the correct URLs.

Promptly addressing broken links can enhance user experience, safeguard your SEO efforts, and maintain a reliable online presence.

Broken links can undermine the user experience and harm your SEO rankings, but you can mitigate these issues with proper detection and remediation. Regularly inspect your website for broken links using tools like Google Analytics, Google Search Console, or specialized SEO tools like Semrush's Site Audit. 

Proactively detecting and rectifying broken links can bolster your website's credibility and search engine visibility.

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