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how to fix broken website links

How to Fix Broken Links on Your Website

So, you’re in the market for a blog post on how to fix broken links on your website? You’ve landed on just the right page of the internet.

We’ll take you through how to find, fix, and prevent them so they can never lead astray anymore of your visitors. Until the next one inevitably pops up, of course. But after that never again!

Yes, broken links are unfortunately a recurring issue. It doesn’t necessarily indicate negligence on anyone’s part. That’s because inserting a broken link or removing a page without adding a redirect can happen to the best of us.

Besides helping your user experience along, patching up these lying links will also give your SEO a neat little boost, according to Google. Alongside the user experience, bounce rate, and SEO-based reasons, getting rid of these falsehoods just makes your website (and the internet by extension) a cleaner place.

We all know there’re quite a few claims originating from the internet that are untrue. Mending broken links on our websites at least takes care of those untrue claims within our control. Obviously because you’re linking to what you say you are.

But how do you go about doing that? First, you have to find them.

Contents

  1. How to find broken links on your website
  2. How to fix broken links on your website
  3. Common causes of broken links
  4. Fixing broken backlinks
  5. What broken links mean for SEO

How to find broken links on your website

Mercifully, we won’t have to do this process manually because it would take weeks and be outdated by the time we finish.

A more time (and sanity) efficient way of finding broken links is to use software or tools that do the job for you. There’re quite a few options available to you, namely:

Some of these tools are less powerful renditions of the paid versions these companies offer. For instance, the Ahrefs Site Explorer focuses on external links only. Google’s Search Console only focuses on internal links. If you’re looking to keep this free, try using some of the tools in tandem. Two pairs of (robot) eyes are better than one, anyway.

For our link fixing escapades, we use SEMrush. Take a look.

A SEMrush site audit showing the state of our internal links
A SEMrush site audit showing the state of our internal links
Details of a SEMrush site audit telling us what issues we have with our links
Details of a SEMrush site audit telling us what issues we have with our links

A paid account with any of these vendors will usually include a site audit option which should do the trick. This’ll show you the broken internal and external links.

Reminder:

  • External links direct traffic to a different website
  • Internal links direct traffic to a different page on your website

So, what’s the fix?


How to fix broken links on your website

The fixes are pretty straight-forward. The issue is that they can take a fair amount of time if you’re dealing with a big website. Let’s say you’re checking out the links on your personal blog it could take you a couple of hours to knock ‘em all out.

A big ecommerce website, however, will draw lots of time, and of course will need to be checked regularly as new and old pages are added.

Here are your options:

Option 1

Simply replace the broken links with live links. So, if you had an internal link sending visitors to a product page that no longer exists, send them to a product page that does exist. You want to, of course, make sure that the new link is relevant to the content. After that, problem solved.

How to edit a link in WordPress
How to edit a link in WordPress

Click the edit button and insert the proper link in the text box

Where to insert the correct link in WordPress
Where to insert the correct link in WordPress

Option 2

Remove the links. This one takes less effort since you don’t have to find the relevant replacement for a broken link. You simply locate it and tell it to hit the road, metaphorically. Physically, you actually have to click to remove the link.

How to remove a link in WordPress
How to remove a link in WordPress

Common causes of broken links

If you’re to avoid becoming a broken link generator, there’s some things you might want to know, like what causes these (unintended) internet fibs.

  1. Typos – a common mistake that can catch even the most astute observers napping. Entering a wrong link you thought was right can play tricks on your mind. This is because everything can look to be in order upon inspection, but when you take a closer look, you might spot a casual ‘M’ instead of an ‘N’. Not a big mistake to make, but the result is the same: a link that doesn’t work. We suggest copying the link straight from the source as opposed to typing it.
  2. Deleting old or outdated pages on your website. Tidying up your website and rewriting content always gives that spring cleaning feeling. Just beware of removing documents or pages that have links directing visitors towards the removed pages. If you don’t patch it up with a redirect, you’ll end up with a broken link.
  3. Other websites moving furniture around. You’re not the only one who likes to keep things fresh and versatile. Other websites may make changes to their content and leave your external link grasping at the internet winds. You can’t keep tabs on every website you’ve ever linked to, this is why weekly site audits are important. They show you when a link has become unchained.

Other websites linking to pages that no longer exist can also pose a bit of a problem for would-be visitors (and yourself, of course). But how do you fix those, since they’re other people’s websites?

Well, first you’ll use one of the tools we mentioned above (or any other that works for you) to determine which non-existent page is hoarding 404s.

After that you’ll want to try these solutions, preferably in this order.

1.                  Contact the website that is linking to yours

A simple gesture that can save both you and said website-linker some link juice. If they fix it, move on to the next broken link, if not, move on to the next possible solution.

2.                  Use a redirect (301) to change the location of the page

You may have forgotten to implement a redirect when you were revamping your website. Not a problem. Just insert the new link as a redirect, and from this day forth we shall refer to your uncle as Bob.

3.                  Replace the missing content

This fix might take some time, but you could find what content the page held and recreate or replace it. This time, you’ll make it even better though.

4.                  Redirect to a different, relevant page

If recreating the page is not a viable option for you, redirect the broken page to something relevant or related on your website. For example, if you had a blog post showing the top 10 funniest cat videos, redirect to your newer top 20 funniest cat videos. It’s relevant, viable, and offers visitors an extra 10 videos of cats being silly.

5.                  Leave the page as a broken link

Also feasible, just ensure you have a hard 404 error code showing so visitors (and Google Search Console) know you have been there, seen it, and bought the t-shirt.

Our hard 404 page for HOSTAFRICA

What broken links mean for SEO

Well, 404s themselves don’t hurt your website directly, which is why solution five is feasible. According to Google, a few 404s won’t hurt your ranking in their search results, as long as they’re coded for a hard 404 or 410.

Google's answer to whether or not 404s hurt a website
Google’s answer to whether or not 404s hurt a website

Broken links that accumulate or go unchecked do give the impression, however, that the site is abandoned or neglected.

Also thinking about user experience, when a visitor tries to navigate your website and it’s riddled with broken links, they’ll leave with their question unanswered and Google will know this. So, while 404s don’t directly impact you negatively, they can make for a bitter user experience and high bounce rate.

Another important aspect to consider with user experience is redirecting to pages that are not relevant or to the homepage.

Consider this: You’re reading an article on mastering the banjo. The writer offers a link to a blog post that would help you understand the chords better, but instead takes you to a homepage. You’d feel lied to, betrayed even. You might even create a top 10 betrayal moments to supplement your cat blogs.


Conclusion

In closing, fixing broken links just allow for a cleaner, more pleasant user experience of your website. It won’t skyrocket your ranking or conversions, but will provide that feeling of an incense candle burning when you enter a shop: it just makes the experience pleasant. We dare say you can’t ask for more than that.


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