How to Find Broken Links on Your Site

April 17th, 2014 by Eva Martin
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We’ve all encountered them, and we all hate them. They’re the dead ends of the internet, the dirty clutter, the link rot. Dead links on websites can be extremely frustrating and impact user experience negatively.

Luckily, there are dozens of tools which can help you check for broken links on your website – all you need to do is fix them.

Why are broken links bad?

You may ask yourself why it is important to check for broken links and fix them.

  • Broken links make you look as though you don’t care.
    When users click on a link and end up on a 404 page, it leaves the impression that the webmaster doesn’t care about the content on the website and the user’s experience. So don’t damage your online reputation.
  • Broken links are frustrating. You are sending your users off on a wild goose chase when they are trying to find something on your site. In the worst case, a broken link may even prevent you from acquiring a new customer.
  • Broken links throw off your SEO.
    Search engine spiders that crawl and then index your website follow the links on your site to navigate it. Fixing links makes the site friendlier and more accessible for search engines.
  • Fixing broken links means you are keeping it fresh!
    Search engines favour sites that are regularly updated, as this signals to them that the site isn’t dead but looked after and maintained. If you regularly check for broken links and fix them, search engines will come back and re-index your page.

 

Broken Links

Broken have a negative impact on user experience and can damage your online reputation

 

Where do all these broken links come from?

All my links worked when I put them there, why shouldn’t they be working now?

Over time and with growth of website content, links often break and remain undetected. This happens when an old page got deleted, moved, the URL changed, servers are down, domains expire or page access requirements changed. Links then don’t point to valid pages anymore.

This problem is often worse with outbound links. You usually won’t get notified when the website to which you are linking changes, so it is beneficial to regularly check if all your links are still alive.

How to check for broken links

Fortunately, checking for dead links isn’t a manual process – fixing them is! Most link checker tools will check both internal and external links. Internal links are those links which point from one of your web pages to another page on your site. External – or outbound – links, as the name suggests, point to other websites and take your visitors away from your site.

Below we’ve compiled a list of our favourite broken link checker tools:

Broken Link Checker Tools

Free Browser Based
OnlineDomainTools’ Link Checker
W3C Link Checker
Dead Link Checker

Free Downloads
LinkChecker 9.1
Xenu’s Link Sleuth

Paid Browser Based
LinkTiger
Link Research Tools  This tool is particularly interesting as it lets you identify broken links that are pointing from external sites to your own.

Bear in mind that site-wide links such as in the footer and header may show up multiple times depending on the tool you’re using. Look out for the anchor text to identify these.

Cursor over Hyperlink

Error Types

In order to fix your links, it is important that you understand the error codes your broken links are associated with.

404 – Not Found – The most common error. This link leads to a page that could not be found on the server. Update the link with the correct URL, an alternative page or remove the link.

401 – Unauthorized – To access the page to which the link is pointing a user first needs to log on with a valid user ID and password. Some websites’ content may only be available for registered users, so you may not be able to send your visitors to this page.

403 – Forbidden – This link leads to a page on which access to the resource is forbidden for some reason. This often happens when a website doesn’t allow directory browsing, make sure you are specifying an actual web page file name and extension, not just a directory.

When was the last time you checked for broken links? Give this a try and tell us how you get on!

Broken link checking is just one of our initial service phases. if you need to clean up your website and web content, check out SERPS Invaders’ Online Marketing and Content Strategy services. Got a question? Get in touch at hello@serps-invaders.com


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