Broken Links 101: Everything You Need to Know About Broken Links
Broken links are frustrating. They aren’t only annoying for the customers and impact your SEO practices. If someone clicks a link and it fails to provide the information they require, they would get frustrated and leave the page.
A broken link doesn’t work. They cannot bring the user to a new location means a new page on your website. The link is officially broken when a user fails to access a webpage. Broken links make it difficult for Google and other search engines, to crawl your pages when your page links are broken.
When your website has broken links, Google is unable to move on to other pages in the crawl. This makes Google think that your website is not ideally optimized which can affect your rankings.
Examples of broken links
One of the most common signs of broken links is the 404 error page. To know more, here are some examples of broken links:
404 Page Not Found
This means that the page doesn’t exist on the server but is used to delete pages.
400 Bad Request
This means that the server cannot understand the URL a user is attempting to reach.
Bad Host is an invalid hostname, meaning that the server having the said name is unreachable or doesn’t exist anymore.
The error indicates that the host server is busy processing the request or has misconfigured the link. As a result, the link is dropped.
The URL put together has extra slashes, is missing a bracket, or has some other errors that break the link.
This error means that the HTTP request from the link has timed out while link-checking.
This error communicated that the server perceives the request as empty. And the response doesn’t have any content or response code.
The server tags the HTTP code as violating the HTTP spec.
Why Do Broken Links Occur?
Listed below are some of the reasons why broken links occur:
- Entering incorrect URL with misspelled or mistyped details.
- The URL structure of the site is newly changed (permalinks) without a redirect, leading to a 404 error.
- The site is not available anymore. It has been deleted permanently or moved.
- Geolocation restriction or firewall has restricted outside access.
- Links to Google Docs, PDFs, video etc., have been deleted or moved
Types of Broken Links
Broken links hurt the user experience and affect your authority on search engines because dead sites make the website look less credible.
There are three main types of broken links:
- Broken External Links
- Broken Internal Links
- Broken Backlinks
Broken External Links
A broken external is when your site has a link to a page on another domain that no longer works. An external link takes the user to a website outside of your control which is usually another site that supports the content of your pages. When the links get broken, it means that the external site is no longer there, has moved locations, or lacks the right redirects implemented.
Broken Internal Links
These are the links that are broken on your site. But if you have made changes to the site’s URL, removed that particular page from the site, or dropped pages during migration, you might have broken internal links on the site. As a result, Google and other search engines find it difficult to crawl your pages. And Google thinks your website is incomplete or not optimized.
Backlinks connect to your content via links present on other web pages. Or you can say that they are external links for your information. When you make changes to your content or experience errors like changed URLs or deleted pages, the backlinks are unable to support your website and establish yourself as a credible site. This could impact your standing with Google and other search engines.
How to Fix Broken Links
One must work on fixing broken links for the success of your SEO strategy and ensure a satisfactory user experience.
Here are some of the tried and tested methods of fixing broken links and preventing the potential consequences:
Delete Broken Links
You can delete the broken link causing problems. This is a quick fix that doesn’t require you to do the below-mentioned methods. However, discretion is necessary as excessive deleted links damage your website’s internal linking structure.
Recreating or Replacing Content
You could replace or recreate the content of the removed or deleted page if you face several broken links for a missing content page. This way you can provide quality content and don’t have to remove all the links.
You can use 301 redirects to inform Google and other search engines that the link is not broken. You can redirect to a page that offers relevant content. Although avoid redirects to the home page.
Request External Link Fixing
If there is an external link to the broken link in question, you can ask the domain holder and request them to fix the link. This could be helpful if the particular link is relevant and important to your site.
The Impact of Broken Links
Apart from being annoying, broken links can hurt both your business and website. Here is what happens:
Google Cannot Index Your Page
The Google crawlers need to go through your website, gather each page’s information, and then index each of them. If the crawler comes across a broken link, it cannot move to the next page which could stop indexing. Indexing enables web pages to appear in SERPs.
Increased Bounce Rate
Google determines your bounce rate by calculating how long visitors spend on your page. A bounce is a single-page session as per Google. The bounce rate gets high if many people visit your website and view one page only. Search engines perceive this as a sign that your website is not giving users the required information. Your website rankings can drop as the search engines only drive traffic to sites that are reliable.
You can miss out on revenue due to broken or non-functioning links. You would lose a customer if your site has a broken link that renders them helpless to order a product/service or book a consultation. Unhappy customers are likely to share their experience online via a negative review and tell friends about it. This would make your online efforts futile. If you cannot offer a user-friendly and satisfactory experience, it’s useless to drive traffic to your site.
How to Find Broken Links?
Since you know all about broken links and how to fix them, it is time to understand how you find them. Here are some practical ways to find broken links on your website:
Quality Assurance Testing
QA testing should always be part of your process when you are merging old pages, adding new ones, switching domains, or rebuilding your website. One of the main things to do is check all links and ensure they are not broken. If they are, decide how to redirect or change it to prevent errors after going live.
Google Search Console
The Google Search Console works by utilizing the information the bots collect to devise a report. This way, you can identify the issues the algorithm has detected that could assist you in determining if Google is coming across broken links. However, this works for the URLs on your site only. Not the external links.
You might already be using tools for SEO. These tools provide the option for site audit or examining the links on your web pages. This way, you can find out if your site has any broken links. There are some tools that can even tell you the cause of broken links, a major help in your SEO strategies.
How do Broken Links Affect SEO?
As said above, when a user gets error messages and broken links constantly, they will bounce back from your site which can impact your authority on search engines. It is common for website owners and even SEO experts to get stressed due to broken links on their website thinking it can negatively impact rankings. In reality, broken links may affect your SEO but not as badly as you imagine.
Broken links are natural occurrences and Google understands that. Broken links affect the user experience which can indirectly affect SEO. User experience tends to be a ranking factor. Broken links lead to poor user experience. So, when you fix broken links, do not wish for a major jump in ranking. But you should be more focused on delivering a smooth user experience.
Broken links also affect SEO through wasted link juice, which could be directed elsewhere. Rather than going to the different pages on your website, link flow gets cut off and wasted. Broken links might give negative signals regarding your site’s authority to Google for outbound links. But even though they don’t affect traffic or rankings, they should be optimized.
Finding and replacing broken links is essential to keep pace with SEO and optimize your site efficiently. Having numerous broken links damage SERP rankings, lead to a poor user experience that can annoy customers and lead to loss of revenue. Addressing broken links and fixing them could significantly improve your SEO strategies.