Imagine surfing a trusted website then you get an error 404 message. That can be very frustrating, don't you agree?
Broken links may hinder your SEO efforts as Google frowns on bad browsing experiences. For one thing, it disrupts link juice. Also, it might affect your site's performance on search engine result pages. Eventually, it disrupts your site's visibility and traffic flow. This single factor can cost you in more ways than you can imagine.
As a website owner who has put in lots of work into developing and running your website, how can you tackle this problem of broken links? Granted, this poses lots of challenges, but such links are not as hard as you may think.
To begin with, this article will give a clearer understanding of broken links. It highlights several ways of identifying broken links, as well as ways to fish them out. And these steps are free too!
What Broken Links Are
Broken links are actually pages in a website that a visitor who wants to access can not just find. When this happens, an error message displays on the screen, indicating that the webpage cannot be found. The message can appear in various formats, some examples are:
“Error 404” Message: This means that the page cannot be located on the server.
“Bad host” Message: This means that the server name which was searched, cannot be located.
“Bad URL” Message: This means that the URL was searched using a wrong protocol e.g. brackets, commas, question marks, etc., or otherwise cannot be found.
“Bad Request 400” Message: This means that the host server cannot interpret the URL on your web page.
“Timeout” Message: This means that the time required to generate results has elapsed during the link search
“Empty” Message: This means that the host server could not generate an error code
“Reset” Message: This means that the web page was disconnected from the server during the search.
There are various reasons why broken links occur on a website, it could be that:
The external website is offline;
A webpage has been moved without changing the internal link;
Structural website changes;
Misspelled URL or incorrect URL;
The link to a webpage no longer exists on the server;
A page the link leads to has been removed.
Now, we have covered the basics of what broken links are. And we've seen some examples of broken links. You are already several steps ahead in fixing broken links on your site because "the first step to solving a problem is to understand the problem," as the saying goes.
In order to fix broken links, however, you first have to find them, and that is where the real challenge is. But fear not! As mentioned earlier, it is not as hard as you may think. Let us get right on to it.
How to find Broken Links in your Website
Finding broken links can be challenging when you do not know where to look or how to go about it. It could mean checking every line of code throughout your website. You can imagine trying to look for a needle in a haystack. Now if you were to search for a needle in a haystack how would you go about it? Well, a smart move will be to search every square inch using a magnet. While that will be painstaking, it definitely increases your chances of finding it.
Well, here is how you can use tools like that magnet in finding a broken link in your website:
In order to find broken links on your website, you need the right tool. Just like the needle in the haystack illustration, you should not go about it by sifting through every line of code in your site's back-end. Not only is this process inefficient, but it is also time and energy-consuming. Every day, new methods of solving problems faster are developed, and they are available on the internet mostly for free. It will only be wise to use these tools available to solve your problem. Examples of some free tools to use include:
1.) Google Analytics:
This is a powerful and outstanding tool by Google for tracking the performance of your website. In order to use Google Analytics, you need to:
log in to your account, then select your website's content. You can do this by clicking the "behavior" tab, then click on "site content". Ensure to select all pages. Also, set the period you want google analytics to assess your website. It can be monthly or weekly, you can do this by setting the start date and end date.
The next step is to set your title page in the viewing options, after which you can then create a title filter. You can do this by clicking the "advanced" button.
After this, select the type of content you want Google Analytics to filter for you. Do this by inserting any of the error messages. After setting up the filter, click on "Apply."
All the pages with broken links will appear, within the period you specified earlier, as well as the number of times they occur. For efficiency, it is advised that you check for broken links at regular intervals.
2.) Google Search Console:
This is another superb tool for finding broken links in 2023. It is free to use, and it allows for the submission of pages and posts to Google for crawling and indexing. The amazing thing about GSC is that it notifies you automatically if it encounters any broken link on your website as it crawls it. Google's Search Bot prioritizes crawl errors, this means that if the link is not important, no adverse effect to your search ranking will take place.
To manually check for broken links, check your search console for 404 errors. It will highlight links that require your attention.
You can start by:
Opening your console
Go to the left panel, under security and manual actions, select manual issues to see any action required on your part. If nothing appears here, it means nothing is pressing to affect your rank. Still, the notification prompt -found on the top right of the page- can give further insight into any detection by the Bot.
Other useful tips about Google webmaster include:
It optimizes websites for SEO, giving comprehensive detail on page performance.
It also provides technical data, showing relationships of both the external and internal page links in your website.
Broken links in a website can cause several negative outcomes, which can often be tough to fix or are even irreparable. It can make or mar your efforts in converting traffic online. It can also affect your SEO ranking. And you must bear in mind that the competition is always ready to pounce on any opportunity that you miss. To help navigate through this, this article discusses how to find broken links in 2023.
Finding broken links on your website is not limited to the steps mentioned here. There are lots of other tools that are available online, some of them require that you subscribe to their services, while others offer a limited free version of their services. Whichever choice you make, the right tool surely helps you to find broken links on your website and improves your ranking on search pages.