Broken links are a common problem for most websites. The causes of this problem vary. For example, you may have linked to a page that has been removed; the page URL has been updated but no redirect is set up, or there is a typo.
Broken links are not lovely. They fail to show the visitors what they are looking for, and instead, leading to annoying 404 errors. Broken links can make negative impacts on your site, such as delivering a bad user experience, harming your site’s credibility, and potentially influencing the search engine rankings.
Considering these facts, you have to check your entire site for broken links periodically and try to fix them as soon as possible. This post tells you how to accomplish the two tasks easily.
Find the Broken Links on Your Site
There are many easy-to-use tools available for helping you pick out all the broken links on your website. Google Webmaster Tools is among the best ones. So in below, we will take this tool as an example to explain the entire process.
But before you can use Google Webmaster Tools, make sure that you have opened an account and got your website verified. If you have not, follow this tutorial to get these jobs done.
When you land in the Search Console dashboard of the domain for which you’d like to check the broken links, look at the left sidebar, expand the “Crawl” menu and click on Crawl Errors.
Now you get a page displaying all the site errors and URL errors found on your domain. The URL errors are well categorized in normal not found errors, server errors, and soft 404 errors, so you can view the details of each category quickly and easily.
Under the “Not Found” tab, you can get a detailed list of every single 404 error. From the list you can see that some of the errors are caused by linking to a non-existent page, while others are genuine errors caused by misspelling or other mistakes. The list is downloadable.
You can click on each single error to get the details about it. If the same broken link has been found on multiple pages, you will see a “Linked from” tab which lists all the pages containing the link. This helps you make fixes later.
If you want some other choices for checking the broken links on your site, the tools and services listed below are totally free and great to use. Just give them a try.
- iWebTool Web Tools – It offers multiple web tools including a broken link checker. You only need to fill your domain in the “Check URL” box on iWebTool website, and the accurate results will be returned to you in detail. It is one of the most reputed options.
- Online Broken Link Checker – It is the same easy-to-use as iWebTools. For the free version, this tool scans a maximum of 3000 pages, but there is no limit on the number of links on the pages.
- Broken Link Checker – This is a plugin option exclusive to WordPress users. It is powerful, which can automate the scans, send email notifications when new broken links are found, and apply formatting for the broken links.
Fix Broken Links
This requires some time (even hours) because you need to take different actions to the broken links with different causes. Generally speaking, there are three solutions among which you should choose one based on the real condition of the individual link.
- Repair the link. In the case that the link includes some obvious mistakes like misspelling or the lack of “http://”, you can simply correct the mistakes. Also, for the links that are clicked very often, which you can see in the stats in Google Analytics, you have to make them right. If the linked pages are moved, you will need to take some time investigating the new locations.
- Remove the link. For those links to some pages that no longer exist or not very relevant to your content, you can choose to remove them. The removal of useless things will not affect the user experience. But you should remember to remove all the content related to the link, for example, some words explaining what the link is about.
- Replace the link with better resources. You can consider doing so when the link is useful but the resource has been removed or it is too outdated. You want to offer valuable information to readers, so you have to search around for another source.
If it is your first time checking and fixing the broken links on your site, you may have suffered much. To prevent this pain in the future, you should be more careful when inserting links, and perform scans on your site regularly.
Also, we have the following suggestions to help you get a reduced number of broken links and maintain a good experience for readers.
- When your website is restructured, or some articles are updated with a new URL, create 301 redirects to direct the traffic of the old links to the new locations. This prevents the old URLs from becoming invalid.
- Carefully make a custom 404 error page for your website. Such a page can help readers navigate easily on your site and look for the content they need when they click a broken link.