Aside from causing usability issues, broken links has been debated by SEO experts as to whether they impact search rankings.
In my opinion, I don’t believe having a few broken links can hurt your search rankings which is typically quite common on larger websites. For example Wikipedia which is also one of the most highly ranked websites in the world and filled with broken links. How’s their search rankings?
Google crawls through linked pages and when a broken link is detected this can stop Google from finding additional linked pages. If pages aren’t crawled then they will unfortunately not be visible in the search results.
From a usability perspective it’s important for users not to encounter broken links as it may cause them to leave your website. From Google’s perspective when users leave your website this can impact your search rankings as well as it tells Google that the user did not find what they were looking for. Not to mention broken links also make a company seem unprofessional.
Fix your broken links
Once you’ve identified the broken links on a website you can either fix them directly on their page(s) or you can setup a redirect in your .htaccess file which is located in your /public_html folder.
Creating a 301 redirect is very simple. Just add the following line below to your .htaccess and replace the old and new urls in double quotes.Redirect 301 “/old-url-path/” “/new-url-path”
1) Screaming Frog
In a previous post I’ve mentioned the Screaming Frog SEO Tool developed by a UK company. This tool is great for on-page SEO as it can scan your entire website (usually in just a few minutes) for issues including broken links. There is a free version of this software that allows you to crawl up to 500 url and a paid version with more features for 140 pounds per year.
2) Google Console / Google Webmaster Tools
It amazes me how few web developers and SEO experts I’ve met either don’t know or don’t bother setting up their website on Google Console. It allows you to get very useful information about your website including broken links.
- Just click on Crawl->Crawl Errors on the side menu.
- Click on the Not found tab
You will see a list of all broken links on your website. There are two ways you can address the broken link data displayed.
1) You can setup 301 redirects in your .htaccess file for all old/broken links to point to a new destination page or
2) you can identify the page that has the broken link by clicking on the link itself then choosing the “Linked from” tab.
If you have thousands of broken links and your savvy with excel then I recommend exporting ALL broken links into an excel file and create another column with the new URL’s. By formatting the file you can quickly and easily create 301 redirect entries required for your .htaccess file.
3) Google Analytics
You can also retrieve this same information from your Google Analytics. On the left hand menu select
- Site Content->All Pages
- For the Primary Dimension select Page Title.
- Enter “Page not Found” in the search box
- Click on the link for your 404 page
- This will provide all the broken links
Similarly to Google Console, you can export all the links into a CSV to prepare your .htaccess file.
4) WordPress Broken Link Checker
If your website is developed in WordPress then you can install the Broken Link Checker plugin which scans your entire website for broken links. Not only will it display all broken links found in a table but will also send notifications to your email harassing you to fix them. I’m not a fan of having too many plugins running on my WordPress websites so I would deactivate or remove this plugin after I’m done using it.
To install the WordPress Broken link checker you can download the plugin from WordPress.org or you can download and install it through the plugin library in your WordPress dashboard.
This WordPress plugin has some pretty neat features including:
- Ability to edit the links directly from the plugin
- Prevent search engines from following broken links
- It detects broken links, images and redirects
- Highly configurable in the plugin settings
5) Download the Broken Link Checker Chrome Extension
There are a few chrome extensions available for checking broken links. Once installed this extension highlights any broken links found within a web page. While I find this extension useful for SEO purposes I don’t find this to be an efficient way of checking broken links on a website especially if the site is large. Download the Broken Link Checker Chrome extension.
As they saying goes “there are more ways than one to skin a cat”, so if you have any additional suggestions on fixing broken links I’d love to hear them in the comments below.