How to detect broken links
Broken links are one of the most common issues that website owners face. They affect the overall user experience, damage the credibility of your website, and can negatively impact your search engine rankings. In this article, we will explore the importance of detecting broken links, the different types of broken links, and the tools and manual methods to identify them. We'll also provide best practices for fixing broken links.
Importance of detecting broken links
It's essential to detect and fix broken links on your website for several reasons. Firstly, broken links impair user experience, as they disrupt the flow of navigation and lead to dead-end pages. Users are more likely to exit your site if they encounter several broken links, causing a high bounce rate and lost conversions.
Secondly, broken links damage the credibility of your website and represent an unprofessional image. Visitors will perceive your website as outdated, not regularly maintained, or unreliable if they encounter multiple broken links during their user journey.
Lastly, search engine bots identify broken links on your website, and these negatively impact your website's search engine ranking. Google's algorithm favors websites that deliver top-notch user experience and fulfill their navigation seamlessly. Therefore, you must keep your website free of broken links to optimize search engine rankings.
Different types of broken links
Before we discuss the tools and manual methods to identify broken links, let's take a look at the different types of broken links.
Internal broken links – These are links on your website that point to pages that no longer exist or have moved to another URL.
External broken links – These are links on your website that lead to external websites that no longer exist or have moved to another URL.
Orphaned pages – These are pages on your website that are not linked to any other pages and are inaccessible to users unless accessed directly through the URL.
Redirect loops – These are circular redirects that occur when two or more URLs point to each other, creating an endless loop and disrupting the user experience.
To detect these broken links, you must use the appropriate tools or manual methods that are efficient and user-friendly. Let's explore the options below.
Importance of detecting broken links
Broken links are links on a website that are no longer active or that lead to dead pages, making it impossible for users to access the intended content. The importance of detecting broken links cannot be overstated. Not only does it affect the user experience, but it also has implications for your website's search engine optimization (SEO).
Imagine clicking on a link to an interesting article or product, only to find that it leads to an error page. It can be frustrating and annoying for users. Broken links can lead to a poor user experience, which ultimately drives users away from your website.
In fact, according to a survey conducted by Freshworks, poor website experience can result in a potential loss of up to 60% of visitors. These visitors are less likely to refer others to your site or return to your site, which can ultimately impact your website's revenue and reputation.
Search engines like Google are focused on providing users with the most relevant and valuable search results. Broken links can negatively impact your website's SEO as search engines interpret them as a signal of low-quality content or a poorly-maintained website. Google has stated that broken links can affect how their algorithms crawl and index your website's content, potentially affecting your website's rankings.
Cost of broken links on a website
A single broken link may not seem like a big deal, but the cost of broken links can quickly add up. As your website grows and changes over time, old links may become outdated, meaning that your website is prone to a higher frequency of broken links. The cost of broken links depends on various factors, including the size of your website and the severity of the broken link. Broken links can impact conversion rates and hurt sales, increase customer support costs, and harm brand reputation.
In conclusion, detecting broken links is essential for a pleasant and satisfying experience on your website. It not only affects website visitors but has significant implications for SEO and business success. In the following sections, we will discuss the different types of broken links and available tools for detecting them.
Different types of broken links
Broken links can be classified into several categories based on the type of error:
404 Error: This is the most common type of broken link that occurs when a page or resource is no longer available on the server. It happens when the server cannot find the requested page or resource.
Timeout Error: This occurs when the server takes too long to respond to the request for a particular resource. It is possible that the server is down or overloaded.
Connection Error: This type of broken link occurs when the server fails to connect with the client or the client fails to connect with the server. It happens if the network is not configured correctly or if there is a problem with the internet connection.
Redirect Error: This type of broken link occurs when a redirect page is not configured correctly, making the link point to a non-existent page.
Protocol Error: This occurs when the protocol used to access the page or resource is not supported or recognized.
In addition to the above-mentioned errors, there are other types of broken links such as empty links and anchor links. Empty links are links that contain no URL address, whereas anchor links point to specific sections on a page.
According to a study by Ahrefs, over 2.2 million websites have broken backlinks. Broken backlinks can have a severe impact on SEO and user experience. Broken links not only affect SEO but also impact user experience as visitors who click on a broken link become frustrated, resulting in a high bounce rate.
Webmasters and website owners should prioritize fixing broken links to avoid negative effects on their website. In the next section, we will discuss the tools available for detecting broken links.
Tools for detecting broken links
Broken links can severely damage your website's SEO score and reputation. However, detecting them can be a daunting task, especially for larger websites with hundreds or thousands of pages. Fortunately, there are several tools available that can make this process much easier.
1. Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a free tool provided by Google that allows you to monitor your website's health and detect any issues that may affect its ranking. One of its features is the ability to detect broken links, which are labeled as "crawl errors." By monitoring these errors, you can quickly identify broken links and fix them before they harm your website's reputation.
Ahrefs is a popular SEO tool that allows you to analyze your website's backlinks, keywords, and content. It also includes a broken link checker, which enables you to find broken links, get the source URL, and even see the anchor text used for the broken links. Ahrefs is a powerful tool that can help you identify problematic areas of your website, including broken links, and take corrective actions.
3. Broken link checker
Broken link checker is a web-based tool designed to help website owners detect broken links. It can crawl your website and identify any broken links, missing images, and redirects that may affect your website's performance. Additionally, it provides page-level analysis, highlighting the exact location and the type of link that is broken. Broken link checker is free to use, but you can also purchase a premium version for additional features.
4. Screaming Frog
Screaming Frog is a desktop-based tool that can crawl your website like a search engine and detect broken links, bad redirects, and other technical SEO issues. It provides a detailed report that includes the URL, HTTP status code, and response time of each URL. Screaming Frog is available in both free and premium versions, with the latter offering additional features such as customized reports and plugins.
Using one of these tools can significantly reduce the time and effort required to detect broken links and other SEO issues on your website. However, it's essential to use them in conjunction with manual checks, as they may not be able to find all types of broken links. Furthermore, it's crucial to have a strategy in place for fixing these links, as simply identifying them will not improve your website's SEO score.
Manual methods for detecting broken links
Although there are plenty of tools that can help you detect broken links, there are also some manual methods you can use to make sure your website is free of them.
1. Check your sitemap
Your sitemap will have a comprehensive list of all the pages on your website. By going through it, you can make sure that all your links are working correctly. You can do this by clicking on each link on your sitemap and checking if it leads to the intended page. If it doesn't, you will need to fix the link.
2. Perform a site-wide search
You could also perform a site-wide search by using tools such as Google or Bing. Start by using a site-specific search. For instance, if your website is example.com, you can type "site:example.com" into the search bar. This will bring up a list of all web pages in your domain. Go through the pages one-by-one and click on all the links to make sure they work.
3. Use browser plugins
Some browser extensions like Check My Links can help you find broken links quickly. This Google Chrome extension scans your web pages and identifies broken links within your content. Once the scan is complete, it lists all the 404 links for you to fix.
4. Use a website crawler
A website crawler is a bot that browses through your website like a search engine would, identifying all the pages and links on your website. Using a tool like Screaming Frog, you can get a comprehensive report of all internal and external links on your website. Once you have the report, go through each link and verify if it works. If any link is broken, you will need to fix or remove it.
Using these manual methods may seem time-consuming but can bring out issues that automated tools might overlook. By regularly inspecting your website for broken links, you can fix them before they cause problems for your site visitors.
Best Practices for Fixing Broken Links
Detecting broken links is only half the battle, fixing them is where the real work begins. Not only do broken links hurt the user experience on your website, but they can also negatively impact your website's search engine ranking. Here are some best practices for fixing broken links:
Prioritize Pages with High Traffic
Start by fixing broken links on pages that receive high traffic. This will ensure that the majority of your users aren't experiencing a negative user experience on your website. Additionally, pages with high traffic often hold more weight in search engine ranking, so fixing broken links on these pages will have a greater impact on your website's overall SEO.
Use 301 Redirects
When fixing broken links, it's best practice to use a 301 redirect instead of a 302 redirect or meta refresh. A 301 redirect tells search engines that the page has permanently moved to a new URL, while a 302 redirect or meta refresh sends a temporary signal. Using a 301 redirect will preserve any backlinks or social media shares pointing to the old URL and pass the link equity to the new URL.
Update Internal Links
After fixing broken links, it's important to review and update any internal links that were pointing to the now-fixed broken link. This will help avoid future broken links and maintain a positive user experience on your website.
Reach Out for External Links
If you find that external links are pointing to broken links on your website, reach out to the website owner and ask them to update the link. This will benefit both your website and the external website's users by providing them with accurate and useful information.
Monitor for Future Broken Links
Broken links can happen at any time, so it's important to monitor your website regularly to ensure that new broken links are detected and fixed promptly. Consider using a broken link checker tool to automate this process.
By following these best practices for fixing broken links, you can maintain a positive user experience on your website and improve your website's search engine ranking. Remember to prioritize pages with high traffic, use 301 redirects, update internal links, reach out for external links, and monitor for future broken links.
In conclusion, detecting and fixing broken links on your website is essential for improving user experience and search engine optimization. Broken links not only frustrate your visitors, they also harm your website's credibility and search rankings.
There are several types of broken links, including internal, external, and unreachable links, and detecting them can be done through various tools and manual methods. These tools and methods can help pinpoint the broken links and offer insight into where they may be located on your website. Once you know where the broken links are, best practices for fixing them include updating or replacing the link, creating a custom 404 page, and using redirects.
To ensure your website is always free of broken links, it's important to regularly check for them using tools like Google Search Console or a broken link checker. Additionally, maintaining good website hygiene, such as regularly checking for outdated content, archiving old pages, and updating links, can also help prevent broken links from occurring.
By following these best practices and techniques, you can improve your website's user experience and boost your search rankings. It's important to keep in mind that fixing broken links is an ongoing process and should be done regularly to maintain your website's health. So, take the time to regularly check for broken links and keep your website well-maintained. Your visitors and search engines will thank you for it.