Broken links or dead links are web pages that are no longer functional. There are various causes for broken links that could lead to those dreadful 404 errors.
Imagine your prospects clicking on a link or a blog post to know more about a product or a service, and as they are getting closer to a purchase, they get deterred by a broken link.
In affiliate marketing, as of 2019, link rot (or links pointing to pages that no longer earn money for the publishers) cost nearly 3.3 million pounds of commission each month. Broken links are a large contributor to link rot issues.
Broken links can also affect your search engine rankings by stopping crawlers from various search engines such as Google and Bing. Let us look at some of the steps to fix broken links on your website.
1. Find broken links using tools
The most important step in fixing broken links is to find all the broken links on your website. Broken links can be internal and external. Internal links are links pointing to pages on your website. External links point to pages on other websites.
It can be cumbersome to manually audit all the links on your website and check whether they are functional. Fortunately, various tools can find out all the broken links on your website instantly.
SEMRush is a popular SEO tool that does a comprehensive site audit and helps generate a report on the broken links on a website. A free account of SEMrush allows crawling up to 100 pages on a single domain name.
You can also find broken links using Google Analytics and Google Search Console. You can get detailed reports of pages with 404 errors using these Gooogle tools. Other tools for finding broken links include Ahrefs and Screaming Frog.
2. Analyze data & determine pages to be redirected
Once you have a detailed report on the broken links, you should analyze the causes of broken links, both internal and external.
The common causes of broken links include:
- Renaming or moving a webpage but not updating the internal links.
- Links to content such as documents or videos that have been moved.
- Links to external pages, which may have been moved by their site owners.
Not all broken links are caused by technical errors. Some broken links could also be caused by human errors, such as mistyped URLs.
You should sort the data by pageviews to broken links. Whether it is due to a technical error or manual errors, the broken links with most page views should be prioritized.
Before redirecting broken links, you should update the data in a spreadsheet. For all broken links, you should identify the correct URL and update the information in the spreadsheet.
For your redirection project, you can create a special landing page where you can redirect all your broken links. You can create a website on new domain extensions such as .tech, .online, or .space, one that suits your business best, and create a specially themed landing page that is both attractive and interactive. For certain links, you can also redirect users to the homepage.
At the end of this exercise, you will have all the information about the broken links with their page views and the new links where you will redirect the users. Once you have identified the broken links, you can move to the important step of fixing them.
3. Fixing external broken links
If the broken link is on another website, you have two options:
- Redirect users to a functional link (either on your website or an external website).
- Remove the link such that the word or the phrase shows up as plain text.
For example, if the link to an external video or blog post does not exist anymore, you can redirect users to another relevant external video or post. In other cases, you can simply remove the link to that video or the article.
4. Fixing internal broken links
When a broken link is getting many page views, but it has been removed, you need to consider recreating or restoring the page.
This is particularly helpful if the page has a lot of backlinks. Otherwise, the solutions are the same as fixing external links, i.e. you either redirect users to a working link or you remove the link.
For example, if too many users are getting an error due to a common misspelling, you should create a redirect from that misspelled link and point it to the correct link.
5. Redirect the broken links in your CMS
In WordPress, you can set up redirects using the Redirection plugin. If you do not have the Redirection plugin, you need to install it. Once you have the plugin installed, you can go back to your spreadsheet, which has the broken links and their updated links.
Using the Redirection tool, you can update the broken link in the “Source URL” field and the correct link in the “Target URL” field. You can save your changes by clicking on the “Add redirect” button. Once you have saved the changes, you need to test every broken link to see if it is functional.
If you are using Drupal CMS, you can replace broken links via Administration >> Site building >> URL redirects. Under the “Add redirect” option, you can enter your broken links under the “From” path and the new links under the “To” path.
6. Fixing broken backlinks
At times, users may get a 404 error if a website has entered one of the backlink URLs incorrectly. Users clicking on the link through that page come across a broken link.
Since the link is on someone else’s website, you do not have any control over it. You can, however, try contacting the site owner to replace the URL with the correct one.
7. Fixing broken links on WordPress using a broken link plugin
If you are using WordPress, you can find broken links using the broken link checker plugin. The plugin helps detect broken links. It also allows taking actions to fix broken links from the plugin’s interface without manually editing each page.
You can simply hover over the URL and choose whether to edit the URL or to remove it. As an optional feature, the plugin can prevent search engines from following broken links.
You can also set automatic reminders for checking every link at a particular frequency (for example every 72 hours). You also have the option of getting notifications of broken links over email. You can also choose the option of sending notifications to the authors of blog posts directly.
One drawback of this plugin is that it can slow down your website. To avoid slowing down your server, you should activate the plugin only when you want to perform an audit. Once you have the report and you are done fixing the broken links, you should deactivate the plugin.
If you have a dedicated web development team, you can ask them to review and fix broken links periodically. You can also take the help of freelancers on sites like Upwork or Fiverr, who can help you with this task.
It is always worth spending time on fixing broken links as they can improve user experience considerably.
It has been established that broken links cause a great deal of harm to your website. They not only negatively impact your website ranking but are also inconvenient for your website visitors.
It is, therefore, best to keep a close eye on broken links using the aforementioned tools and fixing them as soon as possible.