How to Find Broken Links
Broken links, also known as dead links, are links on a website that do not work or lead to a valid webpage. In HTML, links are created using the <a> tag and are used to connect different pages and resources on a website. When a user clicks on a broken link, they will typically be directed to a 404 error page or a page that says the link is not available.
Broken links can occur for several reasons. One of the most common reasons is when a webpage that is linked to is moved or deleted, resulting in a broken link. Other reasons for broken links include typos in the link URLs, incorrect link paths, or website errors.
Broken links can negatively impact the user experience on a website, as they can lead to frustration and a lack of trust in the website's content. Additionally, broken links can harm a website's search engine optimization (SEO) by causing search engines to penalize the website for having a poor user experience.
How do broken links occur in HTML?
Broken links can occur in HTML for various reasons, including:
- Linking to a webpage that has been moved or deleted: If a webpage that is linked to is moved or deleted, the link will no longer work and will result in a broken link.
- Incorrectly entering the link URL: If the URL of the webpage or resource being linked to is entered incorrectly, the link will not work.
- Typing errors in the link URL: Typing errors such as misspellings, extra spaces, or incorrect capitalization in the link URL can also result in broken links.
- Broken image links: If an image file that is being linked to is deleted or moved, the image link will not work and will result in a broken link.
- Using outdated or invalid HTML: If outdated or invalid HTML is used, it may result in broken links.
- Issues with website hosting: If there are issues with the website hosting, such as server downtime or slow loading times, this can also result in broken links.
How to find broken links on my website?
There are several ways to find broken links on a website:
One way to find broken links on a website is to manually check each link on the website by clicking on them one by one. This can be time-consuming, especially for larger websites, but it is a straightforward way to identify broken links.
Use a broken link checker tool:
There are several online tools available that can automatically scan a website and identify broken links. Some popular broken link checker tools include Dead Link Checker, Broken Link Checker, and W3C Link Checker. These tools are quick and efficient at finding broken links, but they may not catch all broken links or provide detailed information about the links.
Check web server logs:
Website owners can check their web server logs to identify any HTTP error codes that are returned when users try to access certain pages on the website. A 404 error code indicates that the page could not be found and may indicate a broken link.
Use a website crawler tool:
A website crawler tool, such as Screaming Frog or Xenu Link Sleuth, can crawl a website and identify broken links. These tools can also provide additional information about the links, such as the HTTP status code and the number of internal and external links.
How to fix broken links
Fixing broken links on a website involves identifying the broken links and then taking appropriate action to either update or remove the links. Following are some steps to follow to fix broken links on a website:
- Identify the broken links: Use one of the methods mentioned in the previous answer to identify the broken links on your website.
- Determine the reason for the broken link: Once you have identified the broken links, determine why the links are broken. Common reasons include outdated or incorrect links, changed URLs, and deleted pages.
- Update the links: If the web page or resource being linked to has been moved or renamed, update the link to point to the new location. If there is a typo in the link, correct the typo.
- Remove the broken links: If the web page or resource being linked to no longer exists, remove the broken link entirely.
- Use redirects: If a page has been moved or renamed and the URL has changed, consider using a redirect to automatically redirect users to the new location.
- Test the links: After fixing or removing broken links, test the links to ensure they are working correctly.
- Regularly check for broken links: It is important to regularly check for and fix broken links on your website to ensure a positive user experience and to optimize your website for search engines.
How to Prevent broken links
To prevent broken links from occurring on your website in the future, here are some best practices to follow:
Use valid and up-to-date HTML:
Ensure that the HTML used on your website is valid and up-to-date. This can help to prevent broken links and other issues from occurring.
Use relative links:
Use relative links whenever possible instead of absolute links. Relative links are more flexible and can adapt to changes in the website's directory structure.
Double-check links before publishing:
Before publishing a new page or post, double-check all links to ensure that they are correct and working properly.
If a page has been moved or renamed, use a redirect to automatically redirect users to the new location.
Regularly check for broken links:
Regularly check your website for broken links using one of the methods mentioned in a previous answer. Fix any broken links as soon as possible.
Use a consistent website structure:
Use a consistent website structure to make it easier to manage links and ensure that links are not broken when pages are moved or renamed.
Tools to check for broken links
There are several tools that you can use to check for broken links on your website:
- Google Search Console: Google Search Console is a free tool provided by Google that allows you to check your website for broken links, among other things. The tool provides a detailed report of all the broken links on your website, along with suggestions for fixing them.
- Dead Link Checker: Dead Link Checker is an online tool that allows you to check your website for broken links. The tool is free to use and provides a detailed report of all the broken links on your website.
- W3C Link Checker: W3C Link Checker is an online tool that allows you to check your website for broken links and other issues related to linking. The tool is free to use and provides a detailed report of all the broken links on your website.
- Screaming Frog: Screaming Frog is a website crawler tool that can be used to check your website for broken links. The tool is available for free up to 500 URLs, after which a license is required.
- Xenu Link Sleuth: Xenu Link Sleuth is another website crawler tool that can be used to check your website for broken links. The tool is free to use and provides a detailed report of all the broken links on your website.
Broken links and SEO
Broken links can affect your website's SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in a negative way. Here are a few reasons why:
Poor user experience:
When a user clicks on a link and it leads to a broken page, they may become frustrated and leave your website. This can increase your bounce rate and lower your user engagement metrics, which are both factors that can negatively impact your SEO.
When search engine bots crawl your website, they may encounter broken links. This can prevent them from fully crawling your website and indexing all of your content, which can negatively impact your SEO.
Loss of link equity:
If an external website links to your website and that link leads to a broken page, the link equity (or "link juice") that would have passed to your website is lost. This can negatively impact your website's authority and overall SEO.
Best practices for managing broken links
Following are some best practices for managing broken links on a website:
- Regularly check for broken links: It's important to regularly check your website for broken links using a tool such as Google Search Console, Dead Link Checker, or Screaming Frog. This allows you to identify any broken links as soon as possible and take appropriate action to fix them.
- Fix broken links promptly: When you find a broken link on your website, it's important to fix it as soon as possible. This can help to prevent negative impacts on your website's SEO and user experience.
- Use redirects: If a page has been moved or renamed, use a redirect to automatically redirect users to the new location. This can help to prevent broken links from occurring and maintain your website's link equity.
- Use a consistent website structure: Use a consistent website structure to make it easier to manage links and ensure that links are not broken when pages are moved or renamed.
- Avoid link rot: Avoid link rot by regularly updating and maintaining your website. This includes updating content and removing outdated pages, which can prevent links from becoming broken.
- Provide a custom 404 page: When a user encounters a broken link, provide a custom 404 page that provides useful information and guidance on how to navigate your website. This can help to improve the user experience and reduce bounce rates.
It is important for website owners and developers to regularly check for and fix broken links on their websites to ensure that users have a positive experience and that the website is optimized for search engines.