You have probably come across links on various websites that do not work properly, and instead of the desired page, you have seen a “Not found” error. Such broken links have definitely affected your browsing experience – from a simple inconvenience to the inability to find important information or order a much-wanted product.
What if the same thing happens on your own website? It is possible that there may be broken links on it as well, so its visitors may not be able to reach some of your content. In this article, we will look at the reasons for such a thing happening and at the possible solutions. Many website owners often ignore such problems. As you will see below, you should fix any broken links on your site as soon as you find them, and you should check for them regularly.
- What exactly are broken links?
- Why do you need to fix broken links?
- How to find broken links?
- Google Analytics
- Google search console
- Ahrefs Broken Link Checker
- Semrush Backlink Audit
- Xenu’s Link Sleuth
- How to fix the broken links?
What exactly are broken links?
In simple terms, these are links that lead to non-existing pages. They may open an error page or nothing at all – what matters is that they do not open the content they are supposed to. Broken links include links within your website, incoming links from other websites, or external links to third-party resources.
There are different reasons for broken links to appear. A misspelled URL is a common reason, for example. Many people type URLs manually, so it is easy to add or miss a letter or a slash in the web address. An updated URL or a deleted page can also lead to a broken link. If search engines have already indexed a page on your website, for example, and you decide to update its URL after that, the link in the search engine results will be a broken one for a while.
Why do you need to fix broken links?
If you discover a broken link, you should fix it right away. Keeping broken links can affect your website in a negative way. The same is valid for links on other websites leading to your own website, but we will discuss them later. Here are a few reasons why you want to fix any broken links you discover in a timely manner:
- Broken links are bad for SEO. Search engines crawl and index your website. If there is a link on one of the pages that should lead to another page, but that link is broken, search engines will not be able to reach and index the second page. They will also not be able to follow any of the links on any page they cannot reach. If they come across a few broken links in a row, they will likely stop crawling the site. As a result, your site will be indexed only partially.
- Broken links bring bad user experience. Remember the last time you came across a broken link. Seeing an error page instead of the content you expect can be disappointing. A few broken links can easily make visitors leave your site as they won’t be able to reach the pages they want to. Alternatively, they will have to try to find an alternative way to reach the content they need (sitemap, search box), but their user experience will already be bad, and they will most probably not return to your site in the future.
- Broken links affect reputation. A high-quality brand will have a well-maintained website, without broken links or typos. Visitors are less likely to trust you or to see you as an authority if you have broken links on your own website. Any such links or typos can make people see your brand as a cheap one that is not worth using, regardless of the actual quality of your goods/services.
- Broken links make you lose customers/sales. If one or a few links to product pages do not work, you can lose sales directly as potential customers will simply not be able to order. Even if all important pages work fine, but customers come across broken links to non-essential pages, they may have doubts if they should order from a website that seems to be partially broken.
How to find broken links?
You should not wait for visitors to tell you that one or a few links on your website are broken. You should be proactive and find them promptly. There are different tools you can use for that, and we have listed a few of them below.
This is one of the best options to find out if people have come across any broken links on your site. We assume that you have added your website to Google Analytics 4. If not, you can check our article on how to do that:
After you log in to your Analytics account, go to Life cycles -> Engagement, and click on the Pages and Screens link. Select Page path and screen class, then Page title and screen name.
Add a filter Page not found, and a secondary dimension Landing page + query string. You will see a list of the broken links tracked by Google Analytics. These are links that have been clicked by visitors, so you should fix them as soon as possible.
Google search console
You can use the Google Search Console to see if any broken links have been indexed by the search engine. To do that, log in to the Search Console and click on Pages. You will see a list of reasons why pages have not been indexed by the search engine, and along with other reasons such as redirections or “nofollow” tag, you will see “404 Not Found”. These links discovered by Google do not lead to a working page. You will see a list of all such links the search engine has found on your website.
Ahrefs Broken Link Checker
Ahrefs Broken Link Checker is a free online tool that scans your website and lists broken inbound and outbound links. You can select whether to check only an exact URL, only the main domain, a specific path with all subfolders, or all URLs that use the domain, including subdomains. Along with the exact links, the results will show you what exactly the error is - “404 Page not found”, “Can’t resolve host”, etc. This way, you can quickly see if and how you can fix the links. If you decide to use their paid plan, you will have access to more detailed information and additional filters.
Semrush Backlink Audit
Semrush Backlink Audit allows you to find broken links from other websites to your own website. Such information is useful as these broken links decrease the organic traffic to your site. Some of the tool functions are available only in the premium version, but even with a free account you can see a list of the websites that have links to your site, and the exact web addresses that do not open actual pages on the site. You will find out what you can do about these links if you continue reading.
Xenu’s Link Sleuth
We list this software as a desktop alternative to the online tools above. Some people prefer not to use online scanners as they worry about the data that such tools collect, or simply prefer to use a desktop application. Xenu’s Link Sleuth will scan your website and all internal/external links on the pages and will list the ones that cannot be reached. The application is slower than similar online tools, but it allows you to scan several layers deep, so you can find missing pages or images with ease. You can download Xenu’s Link Sleuth here: https://xenus-link-sleuth.en.softonic.com/
How to fix the broken links?
Now that you have found the broken links on (or to) your website, it is time to fix them. There are different steps you can take depending on where the links are and what result you want to achieve after fixing them.
If you want to fix broken links to internal pages within the site, you just have to edit them to make sure they point to the correct page. You can do this manually, but if you have created them using a point-and-click action in your web design software, you can go through the same steps to make sure that all links are set up properly.
If you use WordPress, you will find a number of plugins such as All in One SEO, Redirection, or Broken Link Checker, which will help you with this task. These plugins search for broken links, and most of them allow you to set up redirections to make sure that even if a page is missing, visitors will be redirected to a working page. This is often the site homepage, but you can also set up a dedicated page for all “Not found” redirections.
For links leading to external websites, there are different options. If there is a typo in the link or you know what the correct page should be, you can edit the link on your site directly. If you are not sure where a certain page is located on the third-party website, you can contact the site owner or you can simply replace the link with one to another online resource.
If there are broken links from other websites that lead to non-existing pages on your site, you should do what it takes to fix them as they affect the direct traffic to your website. The only option in this case is to contact the person/company that maintains the website. You can use the contact options listed on the website, but in case a different company maintains the site, you can also check the Terms of service of the website or the WHOIS details of the domain name for an alternative contact.
Broken links are often neglected by website owners, but they can affect the user experience on your website. The problems that such links can cause range from a minor inconvenience to a serious disruption of the order process on the site, depending on when exactly during the order flow a link is not working properly. In turn, you can lose potential customers, and your website can lose precious traffic, resulting in lower positions in search engine results. This is why you have to check regularly for any broken links on your website or backlinks from other websites using any of the tools we have listed above and take measures as soon as possible.