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broken links

Broken Links Explained: How to Find and Fix Them

Broken Links Explained: How to Find and Fix Them

Christina Adame, VP of SEO • Intero Digital • June 13, 2024

broken links

Key Takeaways

  • Broken links can have a big negative impact on your website’s credibility and the user experience. These digital dead ends are red flags that signal to search engines that your website is outdated or poorly maintained.
  • Links can become broken for several reasons, including site reorganization, external changes, and even typos.
  • Once you’ve identified the broken links, you can fix them through redirecting, updating the link, or removing the link.

In the competitive landscape of SEO, broken links are silent saboteurs. Among the myriad factors influencing your website’s performance in search rankings, these seemingly minor issues can have a big impact your site’s credibility and user experience. Search engines, with their relentless pursuit of providing the best experience, view broken links as red flags that signal an outdated or poorly maintained site. Consequently, these digital dead ends can drag down your search rankings, so it’s crucial to address them promptly. 

When visitors encounter a broken link, they are understandably frustrated. After all, they clicked the link for valuable content or resources only to be met with the disappointing “404 Not Found” page. This not only disrupts their experience, but also erodes their trust in your website. Search engines are attuned to these frustrations and penalize websites that consistently deliver a poor user experience. Broken links can lead to higher bounce rates, lower time on site, and, in turn, diminished visibility in search results. 

Identifying and rectifying broken links is more than just a maintenance task; it’s a strategic move to safeguard and enhance your SEO performance. By understanding and addressing broken links, you can ensure your website maintains its reputation as a reliable, high-ranking resource in the eyes of visitors and search engines alike. 

Common Causes of Broken Links

The first step to solving a problem is identifying it. Tools like Semrush’s Site Audit or Google’s Search Console provide comprehensive solutions to scan your website for broken links. These tools crawl your site to identify any links that lead to nowhere, which allows you to pinpoint exactly where the issues lie. 

Links can become broken for several reasons, including: 

  • Site reorganization. Redesigning or reorganizing your website might lead to page deletions or changes in URL structures. 
  • External changes. Linked pages from other websites might be deleted or moved without redirection. 
  • Typos. Incorrect URL entry when creating a link can lead to broken links. 

How to Fix Broken Links

Once you’ve identified the broken links, fixing them can be a relatively straightforward process. Here are a few options: 

  1. Redirect. Implementing a 301 redirect for deleted or moved pages ensures a smooth user experience and preserves the link equity, which is crucial for maintaining your site’s SEO rankings. This method signals to search engines that the move is permanent, which helps transfer the original page’s authority to the new location and bolsters your site’s overall search performance.
  2. Update the link. Regularly updating the URLs in your site’s content when external pages have moved ensures your links remain functional and relevant. This proactive measure can prevent the erosion of visitor trust and engagement caused by encountering broken links. It also helps maintain the strength of your site’s external link profile.
  3. Remove the link. Removing a broken link entirely might be necessary when no relevant redirect or updated URL can be found. This action cleans up your site and enhances its quality and user experience. It also presents an opportunity to replace outdated resources with newer, more valuable content, which can improve both the relevance and the authority of your website.

How to Prevent the Negative Impact of Broken Links

You might be thinking, “OK, Christina, but how can I prevent these broken links from hindering my results?” The answer lies in maintaining a healthy website. Here are a few tactics you can use: 

  • Perform regular audits. To prevent broken links from undermining the integrity of your website, it’s essential to schedule regular link checks. This proactive approach ensures new issues are caught early and helps preserve a seamless navigation experience for visitors. Regular auditing can also contribute to better SEO performance, as search engines favor well-maintained sites. Consider setting monthly or quarterly audits depending on the size and dynamic nature of your website.
  • Link to reliable sources. When linking externally, choosing established and reliable sources helps maintain the validity of your links over time. It’s important to link to websites that have a reputation for longevity and stability. This practice reduces the frequency of link decay and protects your site’s credibility. Additionally, using authoritative sources can enhance the trustworthiness of your content, which is crucial for building user trust and, in turn, improving SEO.
  • Use link monitoring tools. Leveraging tools that monitor the status of your links in real time can be incredibly effective. These tools provide immediate alerts when a broken link is detected, allowing for swift action to rectify the issue. This capability ensures your site remains accessible and efficient and minimizes the negative impact on the user experience and SEO. Implementing such tools can be a part of your broader web maintenance strategy to ensure continuous operational excellence. 

Understanding and managing the health of your website and its links is about preserving user trust and enhancing the overall customer journey. Implementing regular checks and quick remedies for broken links can boost your site’s reliability and SEO performance. 

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