Broken Links: Types, Errors, Causes, Fixes and Solutions
Last Updated on 25th December 2022 by Ajmer Singh
The owner of websites has to take a lot of pains to increase the ranking of a website and make it a valuable resource for visitors.
Therefore, they must be aware of the fact that if there are broken links on the website, the hard work done to increase the ranking will be of no use.
A broken link will usually appear in any one of the following ways:
a.) No matter how many times you click on it, the link leads to a 404 Error page.
You can check this by right-clicking on the link and seeing where it leads.
If it doesn’t go anywhere or take you somewhere other than where it promised to take you, chances are that there’s something wrong with that specific link.
404 Error is terrible for SEO.
b.) An image appears instead of text when you click on your desired destination.
This means that not only is your chosen text anchor incorrect, but so might the URL listed in its HTML code.
c.) The link leads you to a completely different page.
Even if it’s not an error page or somewhere else on the web, chances are that the site has been hacked and moved its content elsewhere.
In this case, you should contact the owner of the website.
The most common cause for broken links is that the owner of a website either does not keep their site up to date,
or someone else has altered the files and URL structure so much that it no longer works.
Other potential reasons for broken links include:
a.) A website could be “taken down” if its content was too controversial or slanderous.
This would be the result of an owner deleting all instances of that website on their servers.
b.) The URL listed in the Anchor text could be wrong, causing it to lead nowhere once clicked.
This would mean someone either accidentally typed in the incorrect web address,
or update their site without actually checking whether or not all anchor texts were updated appropriately.
c.) A website could be hacked. If this happens, webmasters should check Google’s list of “Hacked Sites” and see where their website is listed.
If it’s there and not working properly, chances are that someone has altered the code to redirect user traffic elsewhere.
d.) Finally, websites often have a “fallback page” that they display in the event that a user has reached a dead end.
For example, if you click on a link and come up with a 404 error page,
or you click on an image to go somewhere else and text doesn’t appear,
this would be the result of any one of the above options going into effect.
What Are Broken Links And How To Fix Them?
Broken links are links that lead visitors to a page or content that no longer exists, has moved, or was renamed.
They can create the following problems for the websites.
-User experience will not be good, as when they will click a link, they will receive 404 errors.
This frustration will never let those users visit the website again.
-The SEO efforts will be of no use as broken links restrict the flow of visiting various pages of websites.
Such a thing will have a negative impact on the ranking of the website.
In order to avoid all these issues, the owner needs to check the website regularly for any broken links.
There are three major types of broken links that exist and they include:
- Internal links
- Outbound links
- Inbound links
Let’s study them briefly.
These are links from your one page to other related pages within your website.
They are links from your site to another website.
These are links from other websites to yours.
Having said all that, let’s take a look at the causes of broken links.
There are several reasons why you get a ‘404 error’ response when you click on a link or page, I have provided a few of such reasons below:
- If you link to a website that has gone offline.
- Linking to orphaned links, that is, forgetting to change the internal links of a page or content you renamed.
- Misspelt or incorrect URL.
- Linking to content that has been deleted or moved.
There are many tools, which people can use to check broken links.
Some of them are free while others are paid. Here is a description of some of these tools.
1. Semrush or Ahrefs
You can use any of the popular SEO tools like Semrush or Ahrefs to find broken links.
- Start site audit
- Check broken links
- Remove/replace them
2. Google Analytics
This is a free tool, which users can use to track the performance of the website.
The tool can also be used to find broken links.
In order to use the tool, users have to use their credentials to log in to the tool.
After this, an evaluation time has to be set.
People can set the period to monthly to check the broken links and other problems related to the website.
This is another free tool to find broken links.
Users need to install the software on their computer and launch it.
There is a File menu where users can click Check URL.
Users need to enter the URL of their website and select options, then click OK.
The software will run the analysis and provide results.
Users should be patient with the results if they are using the software for the first time.
4. Online Free Websites
Just put the URL of your website and wait for a few seconds.
These free online tools will provide you with the basic results and mainly they will show you the broken links,
if not then cross-check with other tools.
5. WordPress Plugin
Yes, there is a free plugin also available for WordPress users. It’s powerful and very useful.
You can use this plugin to detect broken links and quickly edit links directly from the settings page, no need to manually visit each post.
Plugin: Broken Link Checker
After searching and identifying the broken links, the next step is to create a report regarding these links.
Users need to open an Excel sheet and track the links.
Analyze the data
The next step is to analyze the data provided by Google Analytics and Xenu.
Both tools provide a list of broken links.
Users need to analyze the pages and check the reasons why they are not working properly.
Google Analytics shows that there are some links, which are visited frequently while others are used rarely.
There are a few broken links that do not work because of mistyping or other human errors.
The website owners also need to check and correct the URL for the pages that have broken links.
Xenu is the tool that shows only those links that are live but have character errors.
Such characters can be #, which can be replaced by some other character.
Such problems need to be identified and resolved for all such pages.
The owners need to document the link in the excel file and redirect it.
The next step is to redirect these broken links.
They have to go to the URL Directs option, which will usually be present in the File menu of the tool.
There will be an option called Add Redirect and after clicking it,
the owner has to fill in the From box and the To box by copying the links from the Excel file.
After doing all this, select Create new redirect available on the Type menu.
You can also use any of the redirect plugins.
One of the best ways to find broken links is by using the Semrush SEO tool.
Semrush is a complete SEO tool for on-page, off-page or technical SEO.
You can use it for free as well (limited features).
These are the ways in which people can find broken links and resolve the issue.
Broken links can affect a website’s ranking because people do not like to visit such websites with broken links as this can lead to frustration.
People never come to visit such a website again.
The website should be checked for broken links and if there are any, the owner can resolve the issue with the help of free or paid tools.
Google Analytics and Xenu are free tools that owners can use for the purpose.
So I think now you are aware of “What are broken links and how to fix them”.