Broken links and how to fix them
If you have a website, you’ve spent a lot of time and effort in building it, cleaning it up, and getting traffic to it.
We learned that searching for broken links and fixing them, at least once a month:
will greatly improve your websites SEO, or at least prevent your website from losing its ranking.
So if you have some website goals;
- to increase your monthly visitors,
- to get $10,000 of sales in 1 month,
- to increase conversion etc.
If you don’t fix broken links on your site once a month, it can derail all of your hard work. So don’t just waste your money on marketing, and promotions, and ignore your SEO.
Take the 20 minutes per month, and protect your hard work, and increase your websites traffic.
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.
We created a step-by-step, comprehensive guide to search for and resolve broken links across your website.
Step 1: Find broken links
In order to improve website traffic, we must first find any broken links and fix them.
There are a number of tools to identify broken links. And you can use them for free!
We currently use a free broken link checker called ‘Dead 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.
It finds anything from links to images, and reports all the good/broken ones for you in an easy to read 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.
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
When you run this report, it creates a listt of all your links, working and not working, in .csv format.
The report will state how many total links you have on your website, and how many of those are broken.
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.
Before we fix the broken 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,
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 visit it, and it displays an error, 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.
This is an example of a broken link that needs to be fixed. (If you cannot duplicate the error, Google just has not updated and the error will usually fall off within a few weeks).
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, the page had moved to another url.
There are 2 ways to fix this:
1) Change the link to the new URL. This is easy if that page still exists.
2) For pages that do not exist anymore, simply remove the link from the text. Go to the paragraph, and physically click on the word or words linked to the 404 error, and remove the link itself. This will resolve the broken link.
This will show up as resolved next time you run the report.
Why it's important to fix broken links on your website.
Remember that this process is about the USERS EXPERIENCE, and not about you finding the easiest way of 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 hurting 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.