Broken links, also known as dead links, are hyperlinks on your website that for some reason no longer direct to their intended destination. Broken links are a problem for two main reasons:
• They tarnish UX: The quality of your content is a reflection of your online persona. When a user clicks on a link in your site and gets a 404-error page, they might get frustrated and never come back.
• They undermine Optimization: Broken links affect the way link equity flows through your website. This, in turn, can negatively affect your rankings.
When your site encounters a broken link, it usually is caused by one of these reasons:
– The wrong link was entered when you created the link.
– The destination site removed the page being linked to.
– The destination site’s URL structure changed.
– The destination site no longer exists or has permanently moved to a new address without properly redirecting.
– The user has some software (like a firewall) that’s blocking his access to the linked site.
– The link is pointed to a site behind a firewall which prevents unauthorized outside access (such as an Intranet.)
It is a good practice to run periodical checks for broken links on your entire site, which might sound more complicated than it really is.
How to fix broken links on your site
Here’s a simple checklist you can apply whenever it’s time to diagnose your site’s broken link situation and deal with it:
Step 1 – Find All the Broken Links
Even though this sounds like the hardest part, it’s actually not. There are plenty of useful, free tools you can use to help you pinpoint any broken link on your website. For example, Google Analytics.
Log into your account, set the evaluation period according to your needs – Specifically, since the last time you ran this check. Then go to Content – Content by Title on the dashboard, and load the page. At the bottom, create a filter by typing the title of your 404-error page in the box after “Filter page title: Containing” and then click Go. Once you click on the page title, you’ll see the details of how many times that page was visited and via what pages.
Step 2 – Create a Report
Now that you have identified the broken links create a list (like an Excel spreadsheet) to track your redirect process. If you are following along, Google Analytics lets you export the results of your search.
Once you know where the issues are, you can go about solving them!
Step 3 – Figure out problems and Prioritize
You know which links have issues, but not all links are equal! Some error links might come from human error (users mistyping a URL), while others will be pages with a lot of visits. Give more important pages’ priority and figure out why they are broken. Figure out the correct address they should be directing to, and you are almost there.
Step 4 – Apply fixes
Grab your content management system and start redirecting the broken links to their rightful URLs. Done!
Remember that repairing broken links is an important (and ongoing!) optimization task. Don’t leave it unattended for too long.