(Back)Link Checkup: How To Find & Fix Broken Links

8min.

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(Back)Link Checkup: How To Find & Fix Broken Links
28 June 2023
Broken links don’t help you provide an enjoyable browsing experience for your visitors. Actually, they can be detrimental not only to user satisfaction but also to your website's credibility and even your search engine rankings. Let me show you how to find and fix broken links - both internal and external - to keep the link justice flowing and ensure your site remains a reliable resource for your audience.

8min.

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Table of contents

Imagine visiting a beautifully designed website, full of amazing content and promising online resources. You’re excited to explore a particular topic further, so you’re hovering over a link that is supposed to take you to the article you want to read.

You click on the link. You see the new page loading. You are greeted by the dreaded error message: “404 Page Not Found.”

Frustrating, right?

This is exactly how your visitors feel as well.

The sad truth is, no matter how good you are at following the latest link building strategies and statistics, organizing your content around relevant topics, and earning valuable mentions, all your efforts can go down the drain if you ignore the moment when your working links slowly turn into dead, useless links.

Sometimes, a webpage gets deleted or moved to a different location, making an internal link point to a non-existent page. Other times, the website that was linking back to you might have changed its URL or no longer exists. These are just a few examples where the once-flowing link juice dries up, taking with it the precious referral traffic you were counting on.

Each broken link is a missed chance to engage, convert, or build a loyal audience. 

No worries, though!

In this blog post, I’m going to show you how to find and fix broken links. By the time you finish reading this guide, you will have uncovered actionable strategies to detect and repair these digital roadblocks. Whether you run a large e-commerce store or focus on local link building, the tips I’m about to share are applicable to every website.

Follow me along!

Broken links are no good. That’s why it’s so important to fix every single dead link the moment it adds no value to your SEO and backlink-building efforts.

Whether the broken links are internal (found within your own website) or external (leading traffic from other websites to your pages), you should consider it a priority to identify and replace them with working URLs. If you neglect to do that, you risk:

  • harming your UX, thus losing user trust and engagement
  • losing a few points in search engine rankings
  • not taking advantage of the precious and authority-boosing referral traffic

You want none of the above, do you? So, to prevent links from breaking or becoming unusable, you need to know…

There are a few reasons why links break.

The most common one is when somebody changes a page or webpage’s address without setting up a redirect.

Sometimes it’s due to human error. We all make mistakes, and that includes typos when adding a link to a website. It’s like dialing the wrong phone number, and ending up hearing “The number you’re trying to reach is unavailable.”

Other times, the owners of websites that link back to you decide to change their addresses or go offline completely, without informing you about this.

Yes, dead links have a negative impact on your SEO. Here’s why.

Search engines strive to provide users with the most relevant and high-quality content. When the crawlers encounter broken links on your website or find broken links pointing to your website from external sources, it’s more than likely that your rankings will get hurt.

Also, some external links that you acquired due to effective link building outreach strategies pass the link juice to your pages, making them more authoritative and trustworthy for Google bots and internet users. Once such a backlink is broken, the juice stops flowing and your website starts sliding down on the ranking list.

Simply put, search engines interpret broken links as a sign of poor website maintenance, outdated content, or low-quality user experience. Consequently, your website’s visibility in search results may decrease, leading to reduced organic traffic and missed opportunities to reach a wider audience.

effective link building with strong links

For an internet user coming across a dead link is like for a car driver hitting a roadblock or a dead end.

When visitors encounter broken links while navigating a website, it disrupts their flow and leaves them frustrated – they can neither access desired information nor explore further.

If users repeatedly encounter broken links on your website, they are likely to leave and seek alternatives, which – let’s be honest – equals landing on your competitors’ websites. Broken links are also one of the reasons for the high bounce rate.

Now that you know how much is at stake, let me show you how you can find broken links, and how you can fix broken links. First, let’s take care of the internal links that seem to be dead.

Basically, to find broken internal links you need to crawl your website.

🛠️ You’ll need

A crawler of your choice – I’m going to use Screaming Frog. You may also have a go at some CMS plugins or addons designed for link monitoring – I’ll walk you through using LinkWhisper, but there are more similar tools so pick your favorite.

Instructions for finding and fixing broken links with Screaming Frog

STEP 0 Download for free (allows you to crawl up to 500 URLs) or buy access to Screaming Frog. Here’s the link to both options.

STEP 1 Open Screaming Frog. Enter your website’s URL into the top search bar and click the Start button.

how to find broken links - screaming frog

Source: https://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/broken-link-checker/

The crawl may take a while so be patient. Once it’s done, you can move to Step 2.

STEP 2 Below the search bar, you can find multiple tabs. Find and click Response Codes. Then use the Client Error (4xx) filter – you can find it on the left, right below the row of tabs.

How to find broken internal links - response codes 404 errors

Source: https://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/broken-link-checker/

STEP 3 This is when you see the list of links that are broken + their status code.

How to find broken internal links - 404 errors ovierview

Source: https://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/broken-link-checker/

STEP 4 Now you need to find out which pages the dead links are on. To do so, click on a given result and go to the bottom to find the Inlinks tab.

How to find broken internal links - check broken internal links

Source: https://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/broken-link-checker/

Note:

  • the From column shows you the page where your broken 404 links can be found
  • the To column shows you the very broken links you’ve just found

STEP 5* This one is optional. However, if you prefer to view the data in a spreadsheet, Screaming Frog gives you the possibility to export the URLs and broken links. To do so click on Bulk Export Response CodesClient Error (4xx) Inlinks.

STEP 6 Now you can fix the broken links by swapping them with working URLs.

How to find broken internal links - bulk export

Source: https://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/broken-link-checker/

Instructions for finding and fixing broken links with LinkWhisper

STEP 0 Get yourself LinkWhisper.

how to find broken links - linkwhisper dashboard

This plugin shows you some basic information on your linking status.

STEP 1 To find broken internal links, click on Error Report which you can find on the top left.

find and fix broken links with LinkWhisper

STEP 2 You may now want to separate the internal from external links. To do so, click on the Type filter.

If you want to, you may also filter the results by the Status Code.

STEP 3 Now you can click on a post title to go to the page featuring a broken link and swap it with a functioning URL.

🛠️ You’ll need

A link building tool of your choice – I’m going to use Ahrefs but you can use any other SEO tool that monitors links, such as Majestic or Moz. Let me show you a list of the best link building tools in case you’d like to see which tools have this broken-link-finder feature.

Instructions for finding broken external links with Ahrefs

STEP 1 Open Ahrefs or go to Site Explorer.

STEP 2 When you’re in Site Explorer, enter your website’s URL into the search bar and click the magnifying glass icon.

STEP 3 From the left sidebar, click Backlink Profile → Broken BackLinks.

Find broken links - ahrefs

STEP 4 Do you see the red “404 not found” labels? These URLs used to refer traffic to your website but they don’t do this any longer.

How to fix broken links with Ahrefs

You shouldn’t have any problems fixing broken internal links. After all, you’re the website owner so you have total control over your content and internal linking.

So, when you finally localize all broken links, you have two ways to repair them. You can either replace every broken link with an updated URL or simply remove the broken link.

When it comes to replacing, you may think about writing or updating the content that the broken links are pointing to. What’s worth realizing, when you craft a new piece of content that serves as an alternative, you not only fix the broken links but also provide your audience with new, updated information. In other words, you stay super relevant to your audience.

Now, let’s touch on broken link removal. Take a closer look at the broken links and assess their relevance. If the content they are leading to is no longer important, I think it may be better to delete those links entirely. By doing so, you simply declutter your website.

How can you tell a link is irrelevant? For example, imagine you used to provide a service or product that isn’t available in your offer any longer. In such a case, keeping the broken links that direct the users to unavailable products or services is pretty pointless, right?

Replace or remove – that sounds easy, right? The issue gets a bit more complicated when it comes to fixing broken backlinks. Complicated but doable.

The challenge of fixing broken backlinks lies in the fact that you may not always have the ability to tackle it single-handedly. For example when you try to contact the publisher and…

Reach out to the website owner or a publisher that has the broken backlink and kindly request them to update or fix it. This can be done by sending a polite email explaining the issue and providing the correct URL. Sadly, this method rarely works, yet it’s definitely worth trying. If you don’t receive a response, you may try another solution, which is…

Use Redirect 301

Setting up 301 redirects can be a lifesaver when it comes to replacing broken backlinks. A 301 redirect is a way to automatically send visitors from the broken URL to a new and functioning page on your website. 

Let me give the steps to set up a 301 redirect to replace a broken backlink:

STEP 1 Identify the broken backlink – you’ve just learned how to do it.

STEP 2 Choose the new page on your website you want the referral traffic to be redirected. Make sure the page is as relevant to the content of the original backlink as only possible.

STEP 3 Access your website’s server or CSM.

STEP 4 Find the .htaccess file and add the redirect rule. In other words, add a line of code that specifies the 301 redirects. In most cases it looks like this:

Redirect 301 /old-page-url.html http://www.yourwebsite.com/new-page-url.html

STEP 5 Save the changes and check if the redirect works. Open a web browser and enter the broken backlink URL. You should be automatically redirected to the new destination page.

If neither solution sounds okay to you, you may simply try to…

Create a Page on a Broken URL

This one is the most labor-intensive, at least in my opinion. By creating a new page on the broken URL, you provide visitors with an alternative path to access the desired content, helping the link juice flow to your website. This approach allows you to retain the traffic and potential SEO value associated with the original link.

Here’s how you can do this:

STEP 1 Identify the broken backlink.

STEP 2 Determine the type of content that was originally linked to and create a new page that offers similar or related information.

STEP 3 Create the new page on your website, using an appropriate URL that matches the broken URL.

STEP 4 If there were internal links pointing to the broken URL within your website, update them to point to the newly created page.

STEP 5 Keep an eye on analytics to track the performance of the new page. Ensure the new page is effectively replacing the broken backlink.

No doubt, finding and fixing broken links is crucial for maintaining high website rankings for several reasons.

Firstly, search engines view broken links as a negative signal, which can lower your website’s visibility and rankings. Secondly, broken links create a poor user experience, leading to decreased engagement and potential conversions.

Additionally, fixing broken backlinks preserves your website’s credibility and maintains positive relationships with other websites. It also ensures effective crawlability by search engine bots, enabling proper indexing of your content.

If I may, please remember these 3 KEY TAKEAWAYS ON HOW TO FIND & FIX BROKEN LINKS:

🧠 Every time a user encounters a broken link, they may abandon your website, annoyed and disappointed. That’s why broken links can harm your website’s SEO and frustrate your visitors, leading to lost opportunities.

🧠 Regularly check for broken internal and external links, both on your own pages and on other websites linking back to you.

🧠 By actively addressing broken links, you enhance your website’s overall quality, user experience, and search engine performance, ultimately contributing to higher rankings in search results.

My final piece of advice is as follows: Don’t let broken links hinder your online success. Repair the road that leads to nowhere. After all, now you know how to find broken links and how to fix broken links, no matter if internal or external.

In case you lack the SEO tools or simply don’t have time to deal with the dead links, you may have a go at our link building services. Delante’s experienced team is here to help you find and fix broken links, ensuring a smooth user experience and improved search engine rankings.

Let the link juice flow!

Author
Author
Wojciech Urban

SEO R&D Specialist

R&D specialist in SEO and web analytics. He feels most comfortable in the area of technical SEO, and his main task is to ensure that websites are optimized for search engines and achieve high rankings in search results.

Author
Author
Wojciech Urban

SEO R&D Specialist

R&D specialist in SEO and web analytics. He feels most comfortable in the area of technical SEO, and his main task is to ensure that websites are optimized for search engines and achieve high rankings in search results.

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