What are Broken Links in SEO?
A broken link is a hyperlink to a page on a website which is either empty or non-existent external webpages.
When a broken link is clicked, an error message will be displayed. As broken links leave a bad impression in the mind of the website user, they have to be tackled immediately by website developers and designers.
Examples of a broken link error code:
Here are some examples of error codes that a web server may present for a broken link:
404 Page Not Found:
The page/resource doesn’t exist on the server.
400 Bad Request: The host server cannot understand the URL on your page.
Invalid hostname: The server with that name doesn’t exist or is unreachable.
Malformed URL (e.g. a missing bracket, extra slashes, wrong protocol, etc.).
Invalid HTTP response code: the server response violates HTTP spec
The host server returns “empty” responses with no content and no response code.
Timeout: HTTP requests constantly timed out during the link check.
The host server drops connections. It is either misconfigured or too busy.
Reasons for broken links:
There are various reasons that broken links can occur, for example:
- The website owner entered the incorrect URL (misspelled, mistyped, etc.).
- The URL structure of your site recently changed (permalinks) without a redirect and it’s causing a 404 error.
- The external site is no longer available, is offline, or has been permanently moved.
- Links to content (PDF, Google Doc, video, etc.) that has been moved or deleted.
- Firewall or geolocation restriction does not allow outside access.
Disadvantages of broken links:
- Affects and lowers the search engine ranking:
Broken links will affect your search engine ranking. That doesn’t mean that your website will start losing their ranks, however, having too many broken links on a single page might indicate that a site is either neglected or abandoned. Broken links are used by Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines to determine the quality of a site, but as long as you’re regularly checking for broken links or fixing broken links when Google notifies you of a new issue detected on your site, you should be able to maintain a high-quality site.
- Bad user experience and website traffic could be reduced:
The impact of a broken link can be huge. User experience is an important factor that affects SEO. When search engines algorithms change, it’s because their primary goal is to provide a better search and experience for users. Search engines will understand that there will be some broken links, but when an actual user goes to your site, they might not be as forgiving. This will inevitably reduce your reputation.
- Lowered reputation and High Bounce Rate:
A user coming to your website by clicking a link and then not finding the desired information will feel irritated and then switch to some other website thereby increasing your bounce rate and having a bad experience in mind. Whether you have one or many broken links, each visitor on your page will make their decision based on usability, experience, load time and content. If broken links exist on your site and the visitor cannot access the information, they will move on to a different site that can provide them the information they need. The less time they spend on your site, the higher the bounce rate.
How to Find Broken Links on Your Website:
There are many ways to find out the broken links in your website
- The simplest and fastest way to see if you have any broken links is by doing your SEOptimer report and see if there are any broken links on that page:
- Google Search Console can also help identify any issues with your site once their bots have crawled your site. If a page of your website is broken, they will notify you. Note that they only show URLs on your website and not external links.
- There are many other free tools and websites where you can check for broken links.
Best Practices: How to fix broken links:
Depending on how much content you curate each week, you’ll need to dedicate time each month to check for any broken links. Whatever time frame you choose, try to follow these best practices:
- Check Google Crawl Errors:
- 404 errors search console makes this easy by prioritizing crawl errors for you. If the top errors in the report are all irrelevant, you can rest assured that there’s nothing pressing further down on the list of 404 crawl errors.
- Avoid deep links on the website unless (or until) required:
- A deep link is one that links to an actual page instead of a homepage, other synonyms for a deep link include internal linking or anchor text. Whether it is internal or external, if you believe the site is a reliable source of information, you definitely want to use deep links. If, for example, you run an eCommerce shop and you are linking to your own product pages that might go away when you no longer have inventory, you’ll need to schedule a monthly checkup to make sure none of your links are broken.
- If the link is an external link, ask out to the linking website and request a fix:
- If the linking website made a mistake when linking to you, it’s worth reaching out and letting them know about the issue. If the URL source or website no longer exists, you can replace it with a different source or remove it completely.
- Use of Redirection Mechanisms:
- There should be a proper redirection mechanism which will redirect users to a new location of information in case of broken links. To redirect (301) the broken page to the new location, visit:
<meta http-equiv=”refresh” content=”0; URL=’http://new-website.com’” />
- Recreate and replace the content at the broken URL:
- If you are not able to find where the broken link was pointing then find out what the broken page used to be and try to either replace it or recreate it.
- Redirect (301) the broken page to another relevant page on your website:
- Find a similar topic or a piece of content on your site and redirect the broken page to that page. For example, if you have a broken page entitled “How to do broken link building,” it would make perfect sense to redirect this to a working page entitled “The complete guide to broken link building.”
- Leave as a 404:
- This is a totally viable option; you just need to make sure that you show a “hard” 404, not a “soft” 404.