If you have a website, you most likley have poured in a lot of time and effort into building it, making it look nice, even getting some solid traffic onto it. Over time you may notice your traffic start to drop, wondering what could be wrong. You may have no idea that your site has 29 broken links, and Google is starting to penalize you for it!
You might even have some goals; to increase your monthly visitors, to get $10,000 of sales in 1 month, to increase conversion etc. But when your links stop working on your website, it can derail all of your hard work. There are a couple reasons why broken links are bad for your site:
- They lead to a bad user experience – Users that click on links that result in dead-ends or 404 errors, typically leave the site and don’t return.
- They negatively impact / hurt your SEO – Broken links restrict the flow of link quality throughout your site, impacting your rankings negatively. Internal links has a pretty big impact on sites, so it’s important to pay attention to your links.
Monthly WordPress Maintenance. We offer a free guide to fixing broken links on your own, but if you find you don’t have the time to do these tasks on your own, visit our site, and contact us!
Most website owners and services do little with broken links, frustrating site visitors and hurting their SEO without their knowledge. But at Digitally Thrive, we actively check and fix our clients links, leading to better experiences for their users. To see what types of services we offer, visit our Services page.
Step 1: Find broken links
There are a number of tools that you can use to identify broken links, and there is no need to pay. We actually use a free broken link checker that we found after some trial and error.
Dead link checker gives users the ability to either search one page, or an entire website for free. This is the one we use most often, as it does not require you to set up any reports, and it will allow you to search multiple sites, and email you the results. It finds anything from links to images, and reports all the good/broken ones for you in an excel format.
To use this tool, go to the website https://www.deadlinkchecker.com/website-dead-link-checker.asp – In the URL box under the Title – Site Checker: Free Broken Link Tool, type in the URL of your website. Example: https://digitallythrive.com.
Click “Check whole website”, and then click the red button “Check” on the bottom right. Fill out the required Captcha and press “Check” again.
Step 2: Create a report and track your changes
This will create a report of all your links, working and not working, in .csv format. The report will state how many total links you have on your website, an how many of those links are broken links, with a percentage.
In our case, we had 1787 total links, out of which 1726 links were Ok, and 61 links were broken, or not working.
After identifying which links were no longer working, create an Excel spreadsheet to track link redirect processes. Name it something like “Broken Link Redirect Report”.
In Dead link checkers website, you can export the results into a CSV Format for Excel. You can do this 2 ways:
- Copy/paste all the data into your excel sheet, and then format the columns and rows to fit the data.
- Sign up for a free account, which lets you search more than 1 site at once, and email reports to yourself when finished. These reports are in CSV format, and you can open and edit them with Excel.
Step 3: Analyze data and decide which links to fix / which to redirect.
After doing all of this preparation, you come to the important stage of fixing the broken links. But before just redirecting the unreachable links, it’s worth analyzing the pages and reasons they may not be working properly.
Taking a look at our sheet, we quickly see the first several errors are all relate to back-end resources, and not actual links on our site.
For instance: https://fonts.google.com/api, https://use.fontawesome.com/, https://maps.gstatic.com/, https://fonts.gstatic.com/, https://apis.google.com/, https://api.pinterest.com/, etc.
In fact, the first 10 links are all Social Media calls, or api calls to fonts/icons we use. The reason these usually occur would be due to some sort of cache that may need to be cleared.
The point of analyzing is to visit your site, and see if you can actually DUPLICATE that broken link error. If you can, it must be fixed. Otherwise – I recommend asking Google if it is important to remove or not, but for the most part, you can skip those. We are diligent and we will clean up all of our errors, so it is really up to how much work you are willing to do.
Step 4: Redirect or Fix Links in WordPress
When we see some actual 404 errors that matter, like ones we can duplicate, it is time to fix them. For instance, the 404 on our website leading to /models/ coming from https://digitallythrive.com/raspberry-snes-part-1/, which is a page that used to exist, but does not anymore.
We can visit that page, and click on the link, resulting in a 404 error, so we know that we have a problem that we need to solve. In this case, we would simply remove the link from the text, and we would have no error anymore. We are not about to build a new page, just so the link can work again.
But if the page had simply just moved to a new location, we would have done either a redirect, or changed the link itself.
These can be simple, simply visit where you input the link in the first place, on the back-end, and change the old link for the new working link. This will show up as resolved next time you run the report.
Remember that this process is about the USERS EXPERIENCE, and not about you cleaning up all of the broken links on your site. If you think to yourself, “I should just redirect all broken links to my homepage with a plugin”, then you are not thinking about the users experience, and your website will be negatively impacted.
Simply redirecting all 404’s to the homepage can be confusing to users, and will end up hruting your SEO! Do not fall into this trap, or listen to others suggestions to do so!
Instead, it is suggested that you provide feedback to your users why a page they expected to see is not working or loading.