Check Broken Links on Your Website: A Comprehensive Guide

Experienced E-commerce Agency for Magento/ Adobe Commerce/ Shopify/ Shopware Development

Let’s imagine you stumble upon a well-designed website, brimming with valuable content and promising resources. Excitedly, you click on a link, eager to explore further, but only to be greeted with an error page. And that’s a dead end in your digital journey!

As a website owner, you may understand the importance of seamless navigation and a positive user experience. After all, your website is your brand’s reflection, and broken links can quickly damage your online reputation.

But fear not!

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll reveal the mysteries of broken links and equip you with the knowledge to find and fix them. Let’s start!

Table of Contents

Broken links (dead links or dead hyperlinks) are links on a website that no longer function as intended. They no longer work or lead to a page that no longer exists. When visitors click on a broken link, they’re met with an error page or a “404 Not Found” message instead of being directed to the desired destination page.

What are broken links?

Broken links can disrupt the user experience, leading to frustration and a negative feeling about your website. They can hinder navigation, limit access to valuable information, and result in high bounce rates as visitors exit your website.

In addition, broken links can harm your website’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization) efforts, as search engine crawlers view them as indicators of poor website maintenance and relevance (We’ll explain this in detail later!)

Here are 3 common types of broken links that might happen on your website or pages.

Types of broken links

Broken internal links are links within your website that no longer function properly. These links may point to pages that have been moved, renamed, or deleted or have incorrect URL paths or typographical errors. Users who click on a broken internal link are directed to an error page instead of the intended content.

Broken internal links can occur for various reasons, such as website restructuring, content updates, or human error during link creation. Identifying and fixing broken internal links is essential as they can negatively impact user experience, hinder website navigation, and lead to higher bounce rates.

Moreover, search engines may perceive a website with many broken internal links as poorly maintained or lacking quality, potentially affecting its rankings.

Broken external links are links on your website that point to pages on other websites that no longer exist or have been moved. Users who click on a broken external link are directed to an error page or a website’s homepage instead of the intended destination.

Broken external links can occur due to changes in the linked website’s URL structure, content removal, or the entire website being taken down. These factors are beyond the website owner’s control, but it is crucial to regularly monitor and update external links to provide a seamless browsing experience for users.

Backlink broken links refer to external links from other websites that point to your website but are no longer functional. These broken links can occur when the linked website removes or changes the content that was being linked to or when the linked page on your website is deleted or moved.

Backlink broken links affect the user experience of visitors coming from external websites and your website’s SEO. Search engines often consider backlinks as a signal of a website’s credibility and relevance.

If there are many broken backlinks pointing to your website, search engines may perceive it as a sign of outdated or poorly maintained content, potentially affecting your search rankings.

Here are some examples of broken links:

  • 404 Page Not Found: the requested page or resource doesn’t exist on the server.
  • 404 Bad Request: the server cannot understand or process the request made by the user.
  • Bad Host: the server cannot establish a connection with the host or domain specified in the URL.
  • Bad URL: the URL itself is malformed or improperly formatted. It could be missing essential components, contain special characters that are not allowed, or have incorrect syntax.
  • Bad Code: there is an issue with the code or programming of the page or resource being accessed.
  • Empty: the server returns an empty or blank response instead of the expected content. It typically indicates a problem with the server or the requested resource, where no valid data or content is available to fulfill the request.
  • Timeout: the server takes too long to respond to the user’s request.
  • Reset: the server terminates the connection before completing the request.

Broken links can happen for a variety of reasons. Here are some common reasons why broken links occur: Renaming or deleting pages: If you rename or delete a page on your website, any links pointing to that page will become broken. Changing URL structure: If you change the URL structure of your website, any links pointing to the old URLs will become broken. Moving to a new website domain: If you move your website to a new domain, any links pointing to your old domain will become broken. External website changes: If an external website you have linked to changes its URL structure or removes content, any links pointing to that website will become broken.

Do broken links hurt your SEO?

Yes, broken links can hurt your SEO.

When website visitors click on a broken link, they’ll be directed to an error page, which is a poor user experience. This can result in high bounce rates, which can negatively affect your search engine rankings.

In addition, broken links can also negatively impact your website’s authority. When search engines crawl your site and detect broken links, they may assume that your website is not well-maintained, which can result in lower search engine rankings.

Now you understand basic information about broken links, you’ll likely want to find them. Here are several methods to identify and locate broken links on your website:

1. Check them manually

This method involves systematically visiting each page of your website and clicking on every link to check if they lead to the intended destination.

Look for any error messages or inconsistencies that indicate broken links, such as “404 Page Not Found” or blank pages. While this method can be time-consuming, especially for larger websites, it thoroughly examines your links.

2. Use browser extensions

Several browser extensions, such as Check My Links (for Google Chrome) and LinkChecker (for Firefox), can scan your website’s pages for broken links.

Install the chosen extension and activate it while browsing your website. The extension will highlight any broken links on the page, allowing you to identify and fix them.

Online broken link checkers are valuable tools that can save time and effort when identifying broken links on your website. These tools use web crawlers to systematically scan your website’s pages and provide a detailed report of any broken links found.

One popular online broken link checker is the W3C Link Checker. It is a free tool provided by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) , the organization that develops web standards. The W3C Link Checker allows you to enter your website’s URL and initiate a scan. It then examines each page, following links to external resources, and checks for any broken links.

Another widely used online broken link checker is Dead Link Checker, which scans your website for broken links, checking internal and external links. It generates a report highlighting the broken links, allowing you to take the necessary steps to fix or remove them. The tool also provides information on the anchor text associated with each broken link, helping you pinpoint the context in which the link appears on your website.

Or you can try Screaming Frog SEO Spider - a comprehensive SEO tool that includes a broken link checker among its features. It scans your website, identifies broken links, and generates a detailed report that includes information on the broken links, their status codes, and the pages where they are located.

Utilize online broken link checkers

However, these tools can only identify broken links within the scope of the scan. If your website contains dynamic content or pages that require user interaction to generate, these tools may not be able to access and scan those pages.

Additionally, online broken link checkers may have limitations on the number of pages they can scan or the frequency at which they can be used, depending on whether they offer free or paid plans.

4. Use Google Search Console

Leveraging Google Search Console can be advantageous as well. This tool provides insights into your website’s performance in Google search results and alerts you to any crawl errors encountered by Google while indexing your site.

Head to your Google Search Console account > Crawl > Crawl Errors.

Please note that Crawl errors are prioritized, meaning if the URLs aren’t important, you can rest assured the errors won’t affect your search results.

5. Implement quality assurance testing

You should add a stage for quality assurance whenever adding new pages, moving domains, combining old pages, or restructuring your website.

Check all links and ensure that they aren’t broken. If they are, plan to redirect or change the link to avoid errors when the pages go live.

Fixing broken links on your website is essential for maintaining a smooth user experience, enhancing SEO, and ensuring visitors can access the desired content. Here are several methods you can use to fix broken links in detail:

1. Update the URL

One approach is to update the link URL. If a broken link is due to a URL change or a typographical error, the simplest solution is to edit the link and replace the outdated or incorrect URL with the correct one.

Access your website’s content management system (CMS) or HTML editor, locate the page or post containing the broken link, and make the necessary edits. After saving the changes, verify that the link now functions correctly.

2. Create a redirect

If a page has been permanently moved or deleted, setting up a redirect automatically sends users from the old URL to the new or relevant page.

Identify the page or resource that the broken link was intended to direct users to and determine the new URL or alternative page where the content now resides. Depending on your website’s platform, you can implement redirects using plugins, CMS settings, or .htaccess files. Use a 301 redirect for permanent moves or a 302 redirect for temporary moves.

3. Restore or recreate the content

In cases where the broken link leads to content that has been removed or deleted entirely, consider restoring the content or creating new content to replace it.

Restore or recreate the content to fix broken links

If possible, review your backups or archives to retrieve the missing content. If the content no longer exists, rewrite it based on your knowledge or available resources. Once the content is available, update the broken link to point to the newly restored or created content.

4. Reach out to external websites

For broken links originating from external websites, reaching out to the website owner or administrator can be an effective approach. Contact them to inform them about the broken link, providing the specific URL where the broken link is located on your website.

Request that they update or remove the broken link. Maintaining a polite and professional tone while clearly explaining the issue and emphasizing the mutual benefit of maintaining functional links for both websites is vital.

To prevent future broken links, implement a proactive approach by regularly monitoring your website for broken links. Set up automated checks using online tools or plugins to periodically scan your website and identify any broken links.

Additionally, whenever you make changes to your website, such as updating content or restructuring pages, ensure that all internal links are updated accordingly.

Broken links can negatively impact user experience and SEO. By regularly checking for broken links on your website and promptly fixing them, you can ensure your website visitors have a seamless browsing experience and improve your search engine rankings.

Remember to use tools or manual checks to identify broken links, and then take the necessary steps to redirect, update, or remove those links. By making broken link maintenance a regular part of your website management routine, you’ll keep your website running smoothly and maintain a positive online presence.

Take the time to fix broken links on your website today and reap the benefits of improved user experience and search engine visibility.

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Vinh Jacker
Hello, I'm the Chief Technology Officer of Mageplaza, and I am thrilled to share my story with you. My deep love and passion for technology have fueled my journey as a professional coder and an ultra-marathon runner. Over the past decade, I have accumulated extensive experience and honed my expertise in PHP development.
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