Even the best websites are never completely insured against having broken links. However, the best websites make a regular practice of finding and fixing them. Broken links are those little “troublemakers” that have to be caught before they lead to big consequences. And this is a very important part of website improvement. So, in today’s blog post, we will see what broken links are, what causes them, what impact they may have on your site and business, and, of course, how to find and fix them.
What are broken links?
Broken links are hyperlinks on your website that lead to non-existent web pages. There are internal (aka inbound) or external (aka outbound) links. They lead to pages within or outside your website, respectively. When a broken link is clicked, users are confronted with a disappointing error message — most commonly, a “404 error.”
The impact of broken links on your website and business
Broken links and usability
Easily getting what is expected is a golden rule of usability. And this rule is broken with broken links!
When users stumble upon a 404 page and get frustrated, it is harder for them to achieve their intended goals on your website. This creates a negative overall impression about the site and often results in them immediately bouncing from your site.
Broken links and SEO
Many website administrators fight with broken links “in the name of Google” because they are afraid of certain sanctions.
However, according to Google Webmaster Central Blog, 404 pages do not affect the performance of your other URLs in search results. In addition, there is a famous quote by Google’s John Mueller that the web changes and content gets outdated, so Googlebot will not lose sleep over broken links.
The impact of broken links on SEO is a little different and much deeper. Broken links increase bounce rates, decrease session duration, and drop conversions, which is reflected in search rankings.
Broken links and business success
Broken links literally mean lost business opportunities. Potential customers may go away and choose your competitors’ websites. Abandoned buying processes, and in addition, broken links, like every other technical problem on websites undermine your business reputation.
Main reasons for broken links
There are plenty of reasons for broken links, among which we can distinguish a few of the most frequent ones:
- web pages moved to new URLs
- web pages totally removed
- typos in the URL creation (e.g. examle.com, while users type example.com)
- typos or other mistakes in the process of entering the URL
- pages removed by third-party resources
- third-party websites that no longer exist
In some of these cases, broken links can be avoided — for example, when an internal page is moved, an attentive website administrator will remember to change the links to it.
However, it is not always possible to avoid broken links, especially when it comes to external links. That’s why regular checks for broken links are important.
How to find broken links
While small websites could do fine with manual checks, bigger websites need a more technical approach. There are many useful tools, both free and paid, that will help you find broken links.
They include Google Analytics, Xenu, Netpeak Spider, Screaming Frog SEO Spider, Dead Link Checker, Ahrefs, Dead Link Checker, Broken Link Checker, SEMrush, Dr. Link Check, Online Broken Link Checker, Chrome extensions like “Check my links” or Domain Hunter Plus, and many more.
If your website is built with a CMS, there also are special add-on tools for finding and fixing broken links (modules for Drupal, plugins for WordPress, and so on).
When working with links, it is necessary to track your changes in a report. Many of these tools let you export the data in handy reports.
Ways to fix broken links
Here are some options for fixing your broken links:
- For a moved internal page: update all links leading to it. For a deleted internal page: delete all links leading to it from your content, or find something similar worth linking to.
- In cases of moved or deleted pages, there is also the issue of external links possibly leading to them. This can be found with backlink analysing tools. If these backlinks exist, a 301 redirect is also recommended.
- For a misspelled internal URL: create a 301 redirect.
- For a link added with typos or other mistakes: make corrections.
- In any case, make your 404 pages attractive and useful (with a nice design and content suggestions).
- For a removed third-party page: delete the URL from your content and make sure it looks natural without the link. Alternatively, try to find where the page has moved on the third-party website and update the link. If this is impossible, but you really need that link, you could find similar content elsewhere on the internet instead.
To comprehensively find and fix broken links, apply to website support professionals. Drudesk team deals with website improvement every day, and knows the right approaches to it.
Contact us for fixing broken links — your website and your business will do better without them!