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How to Fix Broken Links: Steps You Should Take

How to Fix Broken Links: Steps You Should Take

Nobody wants to deal with a broken link. It is frustrating for users and it can hurt your search engine optimization efforts. If someone clicks a link and they don’t get the information they want and expect, they may simply leave your site.

There are lots of technical details surrounding broken links. However, a broken link is simply a link that doesn’t work. If someone types in the URL or clicks on the link, they either get an error message or are redirected to a 404 page.

page with 404 error on the Direct Line Development site

Broken links can occur because a URL has been typed incorrectly, the URL has changed, the page is no longer online, or access has been restricted by a password or firewall. If you own a website, you need to know how to fix broken links. You may be asking “how do I find broken links so I can fix them? That’s exactly what we’ll discuss in this article. 

While fixing broken links isn’t necessarily difficult, it can be tedious. That’s why many website owners keep putting it off. By taking the time to learn how to fix broken links on your website, you’ll be able to outperform at least some of your competitors.

Types of Broken Website Links

There may be two types of broken links on your site: internal links and external links. Internal links lead from one page of your site to another while external links point to another website. You may also have broken backlinks. These are links on other websites that point back to your site. You have the most control over internal links but you can still find and fix broken external links and backlinks.

web page with arrows leading to different types of broken links 

Any time you update your website or make other changes, you should check your internal links to make sure they're working. However, you’ll need to check external links from time to time since you don’t know when they will change. As you’ll soon see, you don’t necessarily have to do this manually.

The Impact of Broken Links

You may be wondering why it's so important that you learn how to fix broken links. The reality is that broken links aren't just annoying to visitors. They can harm your website and your business. Let's look at some of the specifics.

Google May Not be Able to Index Your Page

Google’s crawlers need to be able to move around your site, gather information from each page, and then index each page. If the crawler encounters a broken link, it won’t be able to move to the next page. This can bring the indexing process to a stop. Indexing is what allows web pages to appear on the search engine results pages so you shouldn't ignore it. By taking this seriously and learning how to fix broken links, you can increase the likelihood of Google successfully crawling your site.

You Can Lose Revenue

Non-functioning links can actually cause you to lose out on revenue. If you succeed in bringing potential customers to your site but a broken link prevents them from requesting a consultation, booking a service, or ordering a product, you'll lose them. 

Few people are willing to support a business that makes things difficult for them. They may not look around for a contact form or another link. Furthermore, an unhappy customer or potential customer will tell their friends about their experience or leave a negative review online, making it even harder for your online efforts to succeed. It’s a waste of time to drive visitors to your website if the experience won’t be user-friendly when they get there. When you know how to fix broken links, this will be less of a problem. 

Your Bounce Rate May Increase

Google and other search engines calculate your bounce rate based on the length of time that visitors spend on your page. Per Google, a bounce is a single-page session. If lots of people visit your site and only view one page, your bounce rate will be high. There are many reasons for high bounce rates including links that aren't working. Search engines can interpret a high bounce rate as a sign that your site isn't providing users with the information they need. Since search engines only want to drive traffic to websites that are relevant and reliable, your website may slip in the rankings. This is yet another reason why you need to know how to fix broken links on your website.

How To Check For Broken Links on Your Site and Fix Them

You¬†may be¬†asking, ‚Äúhow¬†do I¬†remove broken links from my¬†website?‚ÄĚ. We'll discuss that shortly but¬†first, you¬†need to¬†know how¬†to find those links. If¬†you have a¬†small site with only internal links, you‚Äôll only need to¬†check for¬†dead links when you¬†make changes. However, if¬†you have a¬†few external links, you¬†should look for¬†broken links at¬†least once every month.¬†

infographic with advice on how to prevent broken links

Things are different if you run a bigger site since it's likely that you'll have more broken links. You should check your site every week to ensure all the links are functioning. If you monitor your website on an ongoing basis, you'll be able to pick up the signs that you have links that aren't working. These include changes in traffic, conversion rates, and your bounce rate.

It is difficult to manually check for broken links on a large site. Fortunately, there's a lot of software out there that can help make the process easier such as Semrush, Google Webmaster, Ahrefs Site Audit, Sitechecker, and Broken Link Checker. 

screenshot of AHREFS with the broken link checker tool open

Addressing Broken Links

Fixing dead links can be tedious especially if you've never tried to do it before and the site is large. However, it’s quite simple to do. Once you’ve identified the links that aren’t working, you can either remove them entirely or replace them with live links. If you can’t figure out where the link once pointed to, you can use Wayback Machine and then look for an updated link. Otherwise, you can just find a new relevant, high-authority page to link to. 

How to Find and Address Broken Backlinks

If you recall, backlinks are inbound links to your website from other sites. Broken backlinks can occur because you moved or deleted a page or because the linking site made a mistake with the URL. You can use tools from Ahrefs and SEMrush to find the URLs that return a 404 code on your site. 

As we noted earlier, you don’t have complete control over what other site owners do. However, you aren’t completely helpless. Some of the things you can do include:

  • Contacting the¬†owner of¬†the linking website and¬†asking them to¬†fix the¬†link. This can¬†be helpful if¬†the link was¬†mistyped or¬†poorly formatted. There are¬†no guarantees but¬†the owner may¬†agree to¬†fix the¬†link.
  • Redirecting the¬†broken page to¬†the new¬†URL. This is¬†applicable if¬†you changed the¬†URL of¬†a page but¬†never created a¬†redirect from the¬†old URL.
  • Determining what used to¬†be on¬†the broken page and¬†replacing it¬†or creating fresh content that‚Äôs similar. If¬†someone linked to¬†the page, they clearly found it¬†useful.
  • Redirect the¬†broken page to¬†another location on¬†your site that contains similar content. For¬†example, if¬†the broken page was¬†entitled ‚ÄúChoosing the¬†Best Plumber in¬†Texas‚ÄĚ, you¬†can redirect it¬†to a¬†functioning page called ‚ÄúSteps to¬†Take Before Hiring a¬†Plumber‚ÄĚ.

Improve Your Site by Fixing Broken Links

You¬†no longer have to¬†ask ‚Äúhow¬†do I¬†remove broken links from my¬†website?‚ÄĚ. You¬†now know how¬†to find these links wherever they occur and¬†how to¬†fix them. Broken links contribute to¬†a poor user experience and¬†also a¬†low search engine ranking. If¬†you don‚Äôt want to¬†lose customers or¬†clients, you¬†should put¬†some effort into locating and¬†fixing non-functioning links and¬†backlinks. You¬†may also need to¬†invest some money into the¬†process so¬†you can¬†hire temporary help, get¬†the necessary software or¬†hire a¬†web professional.

It’s important to note that locating and fixing dead links must be an ongoing process that forms part of your regular SEO audit. It’s not something you can do only one time. If you need help with auditing and improving your website, the team at Direct Line Development can help. Contact us to schedule a consultation.

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