You need to regularly monitor for and fix internal and external broken links on your website to improve visibility on search engines, provide the highest user experience, and keep your website up to date. Keeping your links updated gives your readers access to useful resources and information.
Your website has two types of links: internal links and external or outgoing links.
What is an outgoing or external link?
Most websites have outgoing links. Outgoing links are hyperlinks that point to content and media on another website (also known as an external link).
For a Chamber of Commerce website, this might be a link to a local business’s website, your city’s government website, or even resources on a small business development center’s website.
What is an internal link?
A hyperlink that directs users to a page or resource on your website is called an internal link. These also need to be checked for broken links, also known as dead links.
For example, hyperlinks on the Kathy Jacobs Design website are signified by green text that turns blue when rolled over. This link goes to samples of website design projects we have completed.
When you remove images and PDFs or move pages on your website, you may forget to update the links that point to that page or resource. This will cause a broken link.
Why do links break?
While external links add useful resources and tools for your users, the URL may change if a website is reorganized or redesigned. When a page is moved or deleted, any links that point to that page will become broken. Then, when a user clicks on the link on your website to a page that no longer exists, they will get an error.
Why are broken links bad?
Broken links create a bad user experience. Imagine clicking on a link in an article you read and encountering a 404 Not Found error. Not only is this frustrating, but it can signal to the reader that your website is outdated or untrustworthy. When a user encounters several broken links, it may cause them to leave your website. User experience is one factor affecting your organic search engine rankings.
Dead links can also hurt your ranking in organic search engine results by signaling to the search engine that your site is out-of-date. Search engines prefer to recommend the most current, updated, useful information for the user.
Broken internal links can cause crawl errors when search engines index your website, meaning some pages might not show up in organic search results.
Keeping links up-to-date helps you
- Provide a good user experience for your visitors
- Show that your website is kept current and fresh
- Avoid any potential negative impact on your search engine rankings
How to find broken links on your website
There are many paid tools and several free tools to check the links on your website.
Google Search Console
Google’s search console has a Page Indexing report that you can utilize to check for broken internal links.
Errors prevent pages from being indexed and won’t show up in Google search results. If you see the error “Not found 404”, the link to that page is not working properly.
If your website is running WordPress, WPMU DEV has created a plugin called Broken Link Checker that you can run on your website.
Ahrefs Broken Link Checker
Ahrefs provides a free broken link checker tool that checks BOTH inbound and outbound links.
Broken Link Checker
This online tool will allow you to scan up to 3,000 pages with their free version. This free version only checks links to pages, not documents, images, or other resource types. They offer a commercial version.
W3C Link Checker
This is a good tool for checking individual pages, but you have to get the premium service to check all pages on a given domain at once. The free version checks external links, internal links, and images. It’s relatively fast and will return results that are clear and easy to understand. Access the tool at: https://validator.w3.org/checklink
How to fix broken links
Once you find a broken link on your website, updating the link to the proper URL is important. You can manually update the hyperlink on each page or use a ‘find and replace’ tool. You will also need to create 301 redirects for pages that were moved or deleted.
WordPress Plugins That Manage Redirects
If your website runs on WordPress, the plugin Yoast SEO is a very easy way to redirect broken links and deleted pages. This is only available for the paid version of this plugin, but it is worth it! Whenever you change a page’s URL or delete a page or post, this plugin will remind you to redirect that link to a new link or to list it as removed.
This free plugin has been around for more than 10 years and is used by over 2 million websites. Once installed, you can manage 301 redirects, track 404 errors, and keep your site up-to-date with the plugin Redirection.
How often should I check for broken links?
You must check your website for dead links at least once a year. Ideally, checking for broken links should be done once a quarter. Factor in how frequently you update and change your website and how many external links you have on your site when determining a schedule for checking for dead links.
If you would like help with social media marketing, content creation, content marketing, email marketing, or web development for your Chamber of Commerce or Tourism Organization, get in touch with us today!