Causes of broken links
Broken links can be frustrating for website visitors and can negatively impact a website's search engine ranking. As website owners or managers, it's important to be aware of the different causes of broken links and how to prevent them.
In this article, we will explore the common causes of broken links and provide solutions to fix them. We will cover incorrect URL structure, moving or deleting pages or posts, changing permalinks without redirects, external websites changing or removing content, typos or errors in manual linking, CMS or plugin issues, website redesign or restructuring, broken image links or file paths, outdated or broken code on the website, and lack of maintenance and regular checks.
Fixing broken links not only benefits the website's performance but also enhances the user experience. Nothing is more frustrating for a website visitor than clicking on a link that doesn't work and leads to a dead end. Additionally, search engines like Google penalize websites that have a high number of broken links.
So, whether you are a website owner or a website manager, it is important to understand the causes of broken links and learn the best practices to avoid them. By keeping a regular check on your website's links, you can ensure a smooth user experience and maintain a high search engine ranking. In the following sections of this article, we will dive deeper into each cause of broken links and provide solutions for them.
Incorrect URL structure
Having the correct URL structure is vital for the success of your website's search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. If your URL structure is incorrect, it may lead to broken links and can negatively impact your rankings.
Some common mistakes in URL structure include using special characters, dates, and irrelevant words in the URL. For example, instead of using a URL like
www.example.com/buy-products/?id=123&product=beauty, use a shortened version with only relevant keywords like
According to a survey report, a website with a clear and concise URL structure ranks 25% higher on search engines than a website with a complicated URL structure. Furthermore, a URL with a high click-through-rate (CTR) can also result in more traffic to your website.
To fix incorrect URL structures, first, identify the pages or posts with incorrect URLs and update them. Use simple and relevant keywords in the URL and avoid using dates and irrelevant words. Secondly, consider setting up a 301 permanent redirect from the old URL to the new one to ensure that any external links are not broken and are still redirected to the correct page.
It is essential to ensure that your website's URL structure is optimized correctly to improve your website's search engine visibility. Implementing a correct URL structure can result in improved user experience and increased traffic to your website.
Here are some useful resources to further understand URL structure optimization:
Moving or Deleting Pages or Posts
Moving or deleting pages or posts are common actions taken when editing a website, but they can have unintended consequences if not done properly. According to a survey by Moz, 44% of website owners who experienced a drop in traffic discovered that it was due to moving or deleting pages without setting up proper redirects.
When pages or posts are moved or deleted, it can result in broken links and 404 error pages. This can lead to a poor user experience and negatively impact your website's search engine rankings. To avoid these issues, it's important to follow best practices when moving or deleting pages or posts.
Best Practices for Moving Pages or Posts
Use a 301 redirect: A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect that informs search engines and users that the page has moved to a new URL. This helps to ensure that any links to the old page will redirect to the new page, preserving your search engine rankings and providing a good user experience.
Update internal links: When you move a page, be sure to update any internal links that point to the old URL. This will help to avoid broken links and 404 errors.
Submit a sitemap to Google Search Console: A sitemap is a file that lists all of the pages on your website. Submitting a sitemap to Google Search Console can help Google discover the new location of your page and update their index accordingly.
Best Practices for Deleting Pages or Posts
Use a 410 status code: A 410 status code is a signal to search engines that the page has been permanently removed and should not be indexed. This can help to prevent the page from appearing in search results and causing confusion for users.
Remove internal links: When you delete a page, be sure to remove any internal links that point to the page. This helps to avoid broken links and 404 errors.
Submit a sitemap to Google Search Console: As with moving pages, submitting a sitemap to Google Search Console can help Google discover that the page has been removed and update their index accordingly.
By following these best practices, you can help to ensure that moving or deleting pages or posts on your website doesn't negatively impact your search engine rankings or user experience. For more information on best practices for website maintenance, check out the Google Search Console Help Center.
Changing Permalinks Without Redirects
Permalinks are the permanent URLs that direct users to your website's pages and posts. They play a crucial role in how search engines index your site, as they determine how easily users can navigate and find relevant content.
Changing permalinks without redirects can have a severe impact on your website's rankings and user experience. When you change permalinks, it breaks all existing links to the old URLs, resulting in 404 errors and broken links. These can decrease your website's search engine ranking and deter users from visiting your site.
According to a study by Moz, broken links can result in a loss of up to 59% of organic traffic. In addition, Google takes into account 404 errors and broken links when ranking websites, penalizing those with a high number of them.
To avoid these issues, it is essential to redirect old URLs to the new ones using 301 redirects. This tells search engines that the old URL has been permanently moved to the new one, and all links and traffic should be transferred accordingly.
To set up a 301 redirect, there are various methods, including using .htaccess file or WordPress plugins. If you are not familiar with setting up redirects, it is advisable to consult an experienced web developer or SEO specialist for assistance.
In addition to setting up 301 redirects, it is also crucial to update internal links throughout your website. This ensures that users can continue to navigate your site without encountering broken links or dead ends.
In conclusion, changing permalinks without redirects can have a severe impact on your website's search engine rankings and user experience. To avoid these issues, it is vital to set up 301 redirects and update internal links. By doing so, you can maintain your website's reputation and ensure a positive user experience.
External Websites Changing or Removing Content
One of the frustrating challenges of website maintenance is dealing with external websites changing or removing content that you have linked to on your site. This can cause broken links on your site, which can negatively impact user experience and your site's SEO.
According to a study conducted by Moz, broken links can cause search engines to lower your page ranking, reducing your visibility and ultimately hurting your traffic. Additionally, broken links can deter users from staying on your site, potentially leading to a higher bounce rate and lower conversion rates.
So what can you do about external websites changing or removing content? Here are a few tips:
Regularly check your site for broken links: There are tools available to help you quickly and easily check your site for broken links, such as the Broken Link Checker plugin for WordPress. By regularly checking for broken links, you can identify and fix them quickly before they negatively impact your site's SEO and user experience.
Use a link checker: Before linking to external websites, consider using a link checker such as Check My Links to ensure the website is active and does not contain any broken links. While this does not guarantee the content will always remain available, it can help reduce the likelihood of broken links on your site.
Implement 301 redirects: If you come across a broken link on your site due to external website changes or removals, consider implementing a 301 redirect to a new, relevant page. This will help redirect users and search engines to the new page and maintain your site's SEO and user experience.
By being proactive and regularly checking for broken links and implementing 301 redirects when necessary, you can help maintain your site's functionality, user experience, and SEO despite external website changes or removals.
Typos or errors in manual linking
One common mistake that can impact a website's SEO is typos or errors in manual linking. This is when the anchor text, or clickable text of a link, contains a misspelling or incorrect URL.
According to a study by Moz, having incorrect anchor text can result in a drop in search engine rankings and less traffic to the linked page. In addition, having broken links on a website can harm the overall user experience and credibility of the site.
To avoid typos or errors in manual linking, it's important to double-check all anchor text and URLs before publishing any content. If an error is found after publishing, it's important to correct the link as soon as possible.
Many content management systems, such as WordPress, have plugins or built-in tools to help check for broken links and easily correct them. It's also a good practice to periodically scan the website for broken links using a tool like Screaming Frog or Google Search Console.
In summary, typos or errors in manual linking can negatively impact a website's SEO and user experience. To avoid these mistakes, it's important to double-check all anchor text and URLs, correct any errors as soon as possible, and regularly scan the website for broken links.
- WordPress SEO by Yoast Plugin: https://yoast.com/wordpress/plugins/seo/
- Screaming Frog broken link checker: https://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/broken-link-checker/
- Google Search Console: https://search.google.com/search-console/about
CMS or Plugin Issues
Content Management Systems (CMS) and plugins can add great functionality to a website but also contribute to broken links. CMS or plugin issues can result from updates or issues with the plugin developer's code. In some instances, conflicts can arise not only from issues with the plugin but from the CMS itself.
A survey conducted by W3Techs found that WordPress powers around 38.3% of websites in the world; however, with great popularity comes great responsibility. If plugins and CMS are not updated regularly, links can break. Updating plugins and ensuring that they are compatible with your website CMS version can help keep links active.
One of the most significant issues with CMS and plugins arises from the addition of new features. For instance, when adding a slider to a website that was not initially part of the content structure, broken links may result. Additionally, a plugin may have a dead link within it that is causing an issue within the website.
An excellent way to combat these issues is by performing regular checks, ensuring that the CMS and plugins are up to date with the most recent versions, and monitoring plugin and site interactions. For example, back up the website before and after adding new functionality, especially for one that could break the website.
There are several resources available to prevent CMS and plugin issues, including WordPress' Official Plugin Directory, which has guidelines to help ensure plugin functionality and stability. WordPress also has an extensive knowledge base that includes articles on plugin best practices.
Whether your website experiences constant issues or is relatively stable, it is essential to be aware of issues with CMS and plugins, as they can lead to lost traffic and revenue. Be proactive by updating the CMS regularly, monitoring plugins, and performing regular maintenance checks. This approach can prevent plugins or CMS issues from ruining the website's structure and leading to broken links.
Website Redesign or Restructuring
Redesigning or restructuring a website comes with several challenges. Such changes can affect the URL structure, permalinks, content organization, and even lead to broken links. According to a survey, around 30% of website owners reported a significant drop in traffic after website redesigning.
While website redesigning can be beneficial, if not done correctly, it can damage website performance and SEO. One of the main reasons website redesigning can lead to issues is because often times, website owners fail to consider the impact of these changes on their SEO.
Therefore, when going through a website redesign, it is important to take SEO into account. Here are a few tips for minimizing the negative impacts of a website redesign or restructuring project:
1. Conduct SEO Audit
Before initiating the website redesign process, perform an SEO audit to determine the most SEO-critical pages on the website. This audit will help determine the most linked-to pages and which pages are already ranking well in search engines. With this information, you can create a comprehensive plan that prioritizes these pages during the redesign process.
2. Preserve URLs and Content
Keeping the URLs and content unchanged when redesigning a website reduces the impact on the SEO. Modifying URLs and content can disturb internal link structure, which negatively affects the website's SEO score. Consistency is critical for preserving the website's web page ranking.
3. Use Page Redirects
Page redirects will manage the redirection of old URLs to their updated or replaced pages. When updates are made to a website, redirecting old URLs to new pages can ensure a seamless transition. Proper redirection will ensure that users are not penalized by broken links, which can harm the website's SEO.
4. Update Internal Link Structure
When redesigning a website, updating the internal link structure is critical. Organizing the website's content into related categories, and creating a hierarchical structure helps the website users navigate the content more effectively. The updated structure can further impact the overall website ranking in search engines.
5. Optimize for Page Speed
One of the significant impacts of website redesign on SEO is page speed. Slow-loading websites negatively affect user interface and experience, resulting in decreased user engagement. Google estimates that a website should load within 2 to 3 seconds for optimal performance. Ensure the updated website design is optimized for page speed.
Redesigning or restructuring a website can be extremely challenging, and if not done correctly, can significantly damage the website's SEO and user experience. Proper planning, implementation, and coordination can avoid these negative impacts, ensuring the website's continued growth and performance. By performing an SEO audit, preserving URLs and content, using page redirects, updating internal link structure, and optimizing page speed, website owners can effectively manage the website redesigning process.
Broken Image Links or File Paths
Broken image links or file paths occur when images that were previously linked to a website are removed or relocated. Users may encounter a "404 error" message when attempting to access image files that are no longer available on the original URL.
This issue can be caused by various reasons such as:
- The image files were deleted from the server
- The files were renamed or moved to a different directory
- The website was migrated to a different platform or server
- The image links were copied incorrectly
- The server is overloaded and cannot load the images properly
According to a study conducted by Search Engine Journal, broken images are one of the top five errors found on websites. Furthermore, 65% of visitors are visual learners, indicating that images are crucial for website engagement and user experience. Therefore, it is important to fix broken image links or file paths as soon as possible.
To resolve this issue, website owners can take the following steps:
- Use a broken link checker tool such as Broken Link Checker or Ahrefs to identify broken image links or file paths.
- Reupload the images to the correct directory and update the links or file paths accordingly.
- If the images were deleted, try to recover them from backups or contact the website owner where the images were originally hosted.
- If the images cannot be recovered, consider replacing them with similar images or removing them altogether.
In addition, using descriptive and relevant file names for images can help prevent broken image links or file paths in the future. Also, regularly conducting website audits and checks can catch any broken image links or file paths before they become a problem for website visitors.
Overall, fixing broken image links or file paths is crucial for website user experience and SEO. By regularly monitoring and maintaining image files, website owners can ensure that their images add value to the website rather than detracting from it.
Outdated or broken code on the website
One of the most common issues that can cause problems on a website is outdated or broken code. When a website's code becomes outdated, it can lead to errors and slow loading times, affecting user experience and even SEO rankings.
According to a survey conducted by W3Techs, as of February 2021, 33.2% of all websites still use outdated versions of PHP, a server-side scripting language that powers most WordPress websites. Using outdated PHP versions can make a website more vulnerable to security breaches, as these versions may contain vulnerabilities that have already been patched in newer versions.
Broken code can also cause issues on a website. A common example is when a website relies on external scripts or resources, which can become unavailable or outdated over time. This can cause broken links or missing media on a website, leading to a poor user experience.
Keeping all code, including plugins and themes, up-to-date is essential to ensure a website runs smoothly and securely. In addition to updating website code, it's also essential to keep all software installed on the website's server, including operating systems and databases, up to date.
To update PHP, website owners can refer to their hosting provider's documentation to see if they offer a one-click upgrade option or manually upgrade PHP to the latest version. WordPress website owners can also use a plugin like WP Engine's PHP Compatibility Checker to identify any code that may not work with the latest PHP version.
Regularly scanning a website for broken links or outdated scripts can also identify areas where updates are needed. Tools like Broken Link Checker or Screaming Frog SEO Spider can identify broken links, while services like GTmetrix and Pingdom can alert website owners if external resources fail to load.
When updating website code, it's essential to take a backup of the website beforehand, in case anything goes wrong during the update. Once updates are complete, website owners should thoroughly test the website to ensure everything works as expected.
By regularly updating website code and keeping all software up-to-date, website owners can help ensure their website runs smoothly and securely, providing a great user experience for visitors.
Lack of maintenance and regular checks
One of the most common reasons why websites experience broken links is because they are not routinely maintained or checked for errors. According to a study, at least 23% of links on websites are broken. This not only affects user experience but also hinders search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.
Lack of maintenance can lead to a myriad of issues that can pile up over time. Broken links and missing images can make a website look unreliable and outdated, discouraging visitors from returning. Not updating plugins, core software, or themes can increase the risk of security breaches, making the site more susceptible to malware or hacking attempts.
Regularly checking a website for errors ensures that it is running smoothly, responds to search engine algorithms, and frees up space that unnecessarily consumes server resources. This also helps keep the website fresh and relevant, vital to attract and retain visitors. Investing time and effort towards website maintenance not only helps avoid potential issues, but it can also enhance the overall user experience and provide opportunities for improved conversion rates.
Regular maintenance tasks that a website owner can perform include:
- Regularly checking for broken links and 404 errors via a tool such as Screaming Frog or Google Search Console
- Updating content as regularly as possible
- Regularly backing up the site to a different location
- Keeping plugins, themes, and core software up to date
- Checking for website speed via Google PageSpeed Insights
- Monitoring user feedback, comments, and inquiries via a tool such as Userback
In summary, neglecting website maintenance leads to errors that impede user experience and hinder SEO efforts. Regular checks and timely updates can benefit the website's performance, security, and overall credibility. Maintaining a website does not require a complete overhaul and can be accomplished through ongoing efforts and making use of available resources.
In conclusion, broken links can be a nuisance for both website owners and visitors. However, they are a common problem that can be easily fixed once identified. In this article, we have covered various causes of broken links, including incorrect URL structure, moving or deleting pages or posts, changing permalinks without redirects, external websites changing or removing content, typos or errors in manual linking, CMS or plugin issues, website redesign or restructuring, broken image links or file paths, outdated or broken code on the website, and lack of maintenance and regular checks.
To prevent broken links from negatively impacting your website, it is crucial to regularly check for broken links using a reliable tool such as Google Search Console or broken link checker. Additionally, when making changes to your website's structure, it is important to use proper redirects to ensure that users are directed to appropriate pages and to avoid losing backlinks and traffic.
It is also important to keep your content and website up to date, regularly check for errors and typos in links, and invest in and maintain reliable CMS and plugins. Lastly, it is essential to keep track of changes made by external websites and take necessary actions to update or remove links as needed.
By following these recommendations, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of experiencing broken links on your website and enhance user experience. We hope this article has provided useful insights on how to prevent and address broken links and encourage you to take action to keep your website functional and up-to-date.