If you manage a website, it’s important to check for broken internal links regularly.
Broken internal links can frustrate visitors and cause them to leave your site. They can also hurt your website’s search engine optimization (SEO).
But don’t worry. There are ways that you can easily find and fix these broken links yourself.
It will take some time, but it will be worth it in the long run for both your users and your website.
- Why Internal Links Matter
- What Are Broken Internal Links?
- How Did I End Up With Broken Links?
- How To Find Broken Internal Links
- How To Fix Broken Internal Links
- How Do Broken Links Negatively Affect Your SEO?
- Broken Internal Links Are A Headache But Are Often A Neglected SEO Task
Why Internal Links Matter
Internal links are an important part of SEO because they help search engines understand the structure of your website.
They also help users navigate your website and find the information they’re looking for.
In addition, Google has said that internal link structure is a critical ranking factor.
So if you’re not paying attention to your website’s internal links, you could be missing out on valuable search engine traffic.
What Are Broken Internal Links?
A broken internal link is a link that points to a page on your website that doesn’t exist.
This can happen for many reasons:
- The page has been deleted.
- The page has been moved and the link wasn’t updated.
- There’s a typo in the URL.
- The link is pointing to the wrong page.
Broken internal links can have several negative consequences for your website, including:
- Frustrated visitors: If a user clicks on a broken link, they’ll go to a 404 error page. This can cause them to leave your website and look for the information they need elsewhere.
- Negatively Affected SEO: Internal links help search engines understand the structure of your website. If you have a lot of broken internal links, it can negatively impact your website’s SEO.
- Lost website traffic: If search engines can’t crawl your website properly due to broken links, you could lose out on valuable traffic.
How Did I End Up With Broken Links?
There are many reasons that broken internal links can end up on your website.
In some cases, the links were always broken, and you never realized it.
In other cases, the links may have worked at one point but stopped due to a change you or someone else made to your website.
You Changed The URL Of A Page
If you’ve ever changed the URL of a page on your website, any internal links pointing to that old URL will now be broken.
For example, let’s say you had a page with the URL https://example.com/services.
But then you decided to change the URL to https://example.com/our-services.
Any internal links pointing to the old URL will be broken because they’re still pointing to the page’s old location.
Any links pointing to https://example.com/services will need to be updated to point to the new URL, https://example.com/our-services.
You Entered The Incorrect URL When Creating A Link
When creating internal links, it’s easy to accidentally enter the wrong URL.
This can happen for a number of reasons, such as:
- You misspelled the URL of the page you’re linking to.
- You forgot to include the “https://” or “http://” part of the URL.
- You included an extra space in the URL.
All of these small mistakes can cause a broken link.
When creating links, always double-check your work to ensure you’re using the correct URL.
Careless mistakes are a common reason for broken internal links.
The person in charge was not aware of causing broken links or they were not paying attention.
Either way, if your site has many broken internal links, you must correct these as soon as you can.
The Page You’re Linking To Was Removed
If you’re linking to a page that no longer exists, the link will be broken.
This can happen for a number of reasons, such as:
- The page was never created in the first place.
- The page was deleted by accident.
- The page was intentionally removed but not replaced with a new page.
Don’t discount the issues that global changes to a site’s internal links can cause when you’re not paying attention.
Links To Certain Types Of Content Have Been Removed Or Moved Elsewhere
Some types of content are often removed or moved to other locations on a website.
These can include:
- Audio files.
If you’re linking to any of these types of content and the file has been moved or deleted, the link will be broken.
Check any links to PDFs, images, and videos on your website to ensure they’re still working.
You Recently Updated Your Site’s URL Structure And Did Not Redirect Old URLs
If you’ve recently updated your website’s URL structure, any old URLs will no longer work.
This can cause broken links because the new URLs will differ from the old ones. For example, let’s say your website had this URL structure:
But then you decided to change the URL structure to this:
Any old links pointing to the old URLs will now be broken. This is because the new URL structure is different from the old one. You will need to set up redirects from the old URLs to the new ones to fix this.
Ideally, you will want to use 301 redirects instead of 302 redirects.
301 redirects are permanent and will tell search engines that the page has been moved to a new location. 302 redirects are only temporary.
Regardless of how much time I work in SEO, I continue to run into developers who use 302 redirects as their preferred solution of choice.
Sadly, this is not correct and not ideal.
For any permanent website structure changes, always make sure you use a 1:1 ratio of 301 redirects on any links that may be broken after the change.
Broken Elements Within A Page Due To Malfunctioning Plugins And Other Issues
Another common cause of broken links is malfunctioning plugins and other elements within a page.
These can include:
- Malfunctioning social media plugins.
- Malfunctioning contact forms.
When these elements are broken, they can cause links to be broken as well.
For example, if you have a social media plugin that’s not working, it may prevent people from being able to share your content on social media.
This can lead to fewer people linking to your site.
Another example is if you have a contact form that’s not working properly.
If people can’t get in touch with you, they may try to find your email address elsewhere on your site.
If they can’t find it, they may give up and go to a different website.
This, again, can lead to fewer people linking to your site.
If you have a video player that’s not working, it can prevent people from watching your videos.
If you have an image gallery that’s not working right, it can prevent people from seeing your images.
Both of these can lead to fewer people linking to your site. To fix this issue, you will need to find the broken element and fix it.
For example, if you have a social media plugin that’s not working, you may need to update the plugin or use a different plugin.
If you have a contact form that’s not working, you may need to fix the form or find a different contact form plugin.
Your Website Is Down
If your entire website is down, it’s a big problem.
Any links pointing to your website will be broken because people can’t visit your website.
This can lead to a significant drop in traffic overall. While this normally impacts external links, it can also affect internal links because they will now be zero.
This is especially problematic if the site is down for a long time before you discover the issue.
You will need to find out why your website is down and fix the problem. It could be an issue with your hosting, domain name, or something else.
Once you find the problem and fix it, your website should be up and running again.
But there are times when an entire website “disappears,” leaving just a blank page.
If your website shows a blank page, it is most likely due to an issue with your server or hosting.
How To Find Broken Internal Links
There are a few different ways to find broken internal links on your website.
These methods range from manually checking each link to using automated tools.
We’ll start with the manual method since it’s the most straightforward.
For this method, go through each page on your website and check all links, including links in the navigation menu, sidebar, footer, and anywhere else on the page.
Click on each link and see where it takes you.
If the link goes to another page on your website, that’s great!
If not, you’ve found a broken link.
You can also use Google Chrome’s “Inspect” tool to check for broken links. Right-click on any page on your website and select Inspect.
This will open up the “Inspect” panel.
Click on the “Console” tab and then refresh the page.
Any 404 errors will be listed. A 404 error means that the page could not be found.
In other words, it’s a broken link.
If you want to automate the process of finding broken links, there are a few different tools you can use.
These tools will crawl your website and check all of your links.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a free tool that allows you to track your website’s performance in Google search results.
One of the many things it can do is show you any 404 errors your website has generated.
Log into Google Search Console and go to Crawl > Crawl Errors. From here, you can see any 404 errors that your website has generated.
Screaming Frog is a desktop program that can crawl websites and find broken links. It’s available for both Windows and Mac.
Once you’ve downloaded and installed the program, enter your website’s URL and click Start.
The program will then crawl your website and generate a list of all the internal links it finds.
You can then export this list as a CSV file.
Google Analytics is a free tool for tracking your website’s traffic. You can use it to find out which pages on your website generate 404 errors.
Log into Google Analytics and go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels > Organic Search. You can export the list of pages here and crawl them with Screaming Frog.
Once you add the file into Screaming Frog and crawl it, you can see the errors by using pages as a list directly from Google Analytics.
The benefit of doing it this way versus just crawling all pages with Screaming Frog is the ability to prioritize your internal link correction efforts based on pages physically receiving traffic on your site.
How To Fix Broken Internal Links
Once you’ve found the broken internal links on your website, it’s time to fix them.
Here are a few methods you can use:
- Redirect the link: If the page that the link is pointing to has been moved, you can redirect the link to the new page. This will ensure that users go to the right page, and it won’t damage your website’s SEO.
- Update the link: If there’s a typo in the URL, or if the link is pointing to the wrong page, you can update it to point to the correct page. Again, this will help improve your website’s SEO.
- Remove the link: In some cases, it might be best to remove the broken link from your website. This is usually the case if the linked page has been deleted and is no longer available.
You may also want to check Google Analytics reporting to determine which pages receive traffic and prioritize your link removals.
By working on prioritizing these tasks, you can cut your workload to a minimum.
This works well for sites with a few pages receiving many visitors instead of thousands of pages receiving many visitors.
By following these steps, you can find and fix any broken internal links on your website. Doing so will help improve your website’s SEO and keep visitors happy.
Here are some tips on how to find and fix broken internal links:
Use A Link Checker
There are many link checkers available online.
Some are free and some are paid.
A quick Google search will turn up plenty of options.
Check Your Site’s XML Sitemap
If you have an XML sitemap for your website, this is a great way to find broken links.
Download the sitemap, open it in Screaming Frog, and crawl it.
From here, you can see all the links on your website and check to see if any are broken.
Check For Redirects
If you’ve recently moved pages on your website, some of the old links might still point to the old page.
Check with a tool like Screaming Frog.
Just enter your website’s URL and click Start.
The program will then crawl your website and generate a list of all the internal links it finds. You can then export this list as a CSV file.
Use Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a free tool that allows you to track your website’s traffic.
You can use it to find out which pages on your website generate 404 errors. Log in to Google Analytics and go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages.
You should see a list of all the pages on your website and how many times each page has generated a 404 error.
How Do Broken Links Negatively Affect Your SEO?
Broken links can negatively affect your SEO in several ways, from crawling to indexing and simply from people unable to find a page on your site.
If your broken links interfere with any of these processes, you have a problem to correct.
First, Google uses links to crawl the web.
When Google crawls a website, it follows all of the links on the site.
If there are broken links on the site, Google may not be able to crawl the site properly.
This can lead to Google not indexing all of the pages on your website.
The fewer pages on your site that Google can index, the fewer pages of content that your users will see.
If you have many pages of content that are unable to be crawled or indexed, this could lower the quality of your website overall.
Second, links are one metric that Google could use to determine the quality of a website.
If a website has a lot of broken links that are generating many errors, Google may view it as low quality.
This can lead to a lower search engine ranking.
Finally, people use links to navigate the web. Clicking on a link that doesn’t work is frustrating.
This can lead to visitors leaving your site entirely.
Broken Internal Links Are A Headache But Are Often A Neglected SEO Task
Broken internal links can damage your website’s SEO and frustrate visitors.
But by using a link checker and checking your site’s XML sitemap, you can easily find and fix any broken links on your website.
It will help improve your SEO, keep visitors happy, and help avoid potential issues with Google crawling and indexing your website.
So take the time to fix broken internal links, and your website will be better off for it.
Featured Image: Production Perig/Shutterstock