Broken links are bad for SEO. Worse, they can muck up the users’ experience. Users become frustrated when a click results in a ‘Page Not Found’ error or misroutes to the wrong content. This is why it is to your benefit to fix broken links, whether they are contained within your site or inbound. Here are some tips for accomplishing both of these goals.
Why Repairing Broken Links is Important
Broken backlinks happen for two reasons. Either you move or delete a page and the link to it on another site stops working, or the content writer linking your page makes a mistake and publishes an erroneous link. This can be as simple as transposing something or adding a stray character. In either case, the user or a search engine crawler receives an error when they try to access the page they want.
When this happens, that’s one less user to connect with your brand and content. You will also lose any potential link juice that comes from that inbound link. Let’s walk through the process of fixing this.
How to Identify Broken Inbound Links
Even if you could, this is not a process you want to tackle manually. You’ll need a tool. AHREFs site explorer is probably the most well known option. However, there are others as well. Moz has an excellent tool. There is also Google Search Console where you can view crawl errors. If you use WordPress, there are plugins that can perform this function.
Depending on the tool you select, you can identify and sort broken inbound links according to referring website, or the broken link itself. Once you pick a tool and identify the broken links, you’ll be ready to clean things up.
How to Fix Broken Inbound Links
Your approach to fixing broken backlinks will depend on a few things. First, identify how many broken links are there. How many pages on your site are linked incorrectly on other sites?
If there aren’t many to deal with, you can take a more manual approach. One possibility is simply reaching out to the linking website, letting them know about the broken link, and asking them to fix it. There are some benefits to this approach:
- You can make a personal connection with someone who values your content.
- You help them to fix a broken link.
- You can thank them for sharing your content and outreach later if needed for new link building opportunities.
Another option is to simply recreate the missing page at the URL being linked. If that isn’t an option, you can do a 301 redirect to another page on your site with similar content. If the page in question now exists at a different URL, simply redirect to that page.
Finally, you can allow the error to remain. However, instead of displaying the default 404 error, it is much better to create a customized 404 error. For example, if someone links to a product you no longer produce, your hard error can explain this.
What do you do if you aren’t quite sure what the page contained? You can try the Internet Wayback Machine. This site gives as thorough and complete a source of archived links that you will find. If your page is linked there, you can take one of the steps above to fix your link or redirect it.
Unfortunately, the Wayback Machine simply doesn’t have every online page archived. If that is the case, there is some more detective work involved. You will have to take context clues from the linking website. Specifically, you’ll have to read the content linking to your page. This may help you to determine the content readers are looking for. You can then recreate the content or find it.
How to Identify Broken Links on Your Website
This can be a bit less complex as you have full access and control of your own website. Here, you will find errors that fall into two categories. The first is internal links. These are broken links to other pages within your website. The second is external links. These are links from your site to other websites. In either case, according to Fuel Online, it’s important to remember that Google’s web crawlers use links to index and rank pages. Both broken internal and external links can result in penalties and negatively impact the way your site is indexed.
Assuming your site isn’t small enough for a manual check, you will need a tool for this as well. Keep in mind that depending on the size of your website, the ‘crawling’ process can take a bit of time. Once you have your listing of broken links you can go about fixing them.
How to Fix the Broken Links on Your Website
Unfortunately, the process of fixing broken links on your own website can be tedious. Your first option is to simply delete the bad links. This is simple, but depending on how many links you are dealing with, time consuming. You can just go to each page and eliminate the links that don’t work.
The problem with this option is that it can leave holes in your content. You may have to modify your anchor text and surrounding verbiage. You might even need to add content to make up for the removed links.
Your second option is replacing the broken links with working links. First, you can see if there is simply a mistake in your link and fix that. You can also search the website you linked and find the page you intended to link or one that works. If you’ve only got a couple of links to fix, you can reach out to the owner of the other site for help.
If using the original site you linked isn’t an option, you can simply use Google to find relevant content. In fact, you might even be able to find something that is a bit more up to date. Finally, I mentioned the Internet Wayback Machine above. If you can’t find the page you wanted to link, you may be able to modify your link to point at an archived version of the page you want.
Broken links are bad news. Whether they are links on your site or inbound links, they compromise SEO. Worse, they frustrate users. By using the techniques above, you can ensure that your content is read without disruptions. You also reclaim any link juice you may have lost.