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June 1, 2022 - By Jesse McCarl

Tune Up Your Website: How to Find and Fix Broken URLs

Broken URLs have the potential to put a wrench in the works, ruining the overall effectiveness of your website. The dead-end URLs negatively impact the overall user experience, for starters. As with all usability issues, arriving at error pages instead of the desired destination erodes visitors’ trust in your site. Without trust, you can say goodbye to regular site visits, conversions, and brand loyalty.

To make matters worse, the broken links slowly chip away at your site’s SEO. As the broken URLs add up, your link signals decrease, causing search engines to downgrade your rankings. Then, fewer visitors find your website as a result. Unless you fix your links, this vicious cycle continues indefinitely – allowing your competitors to outrank you with ease.

Fortunately, you can actively find and fix broken URLs to keep your website running at its best. And it’s easy, too. Ready to get started? Simply use this guide to track down all your broken links, and then fix them fast.

Best Ways to Find Broken Links on Your Website

To truly help your web design shine, you’ll want to track down broken URLs on the regular. You don’t have to do it manually though. Just use any of the free and paid tools to quickly find all the dead-end links on your site.

Ahrefs Broken Links Checker

With the Ahrefs Broken Links Checker, it’s possible to regularly check your site for dead URLs for free. You just have to type in your domain, set it to check down to the subdomain level, and hit go. The system will return an easy-to-navigate list of all your broken links. You can even schedule the tool to crawl your site monthly, weekly, or every single day.  

Google Analytics

Google Analytics provides a wealth of information about your site performance. To find info about broken URLs, go to ‘Behavior,’ and click on ‘Site Content > All Pages.’ After that, select the ‘Explorer’ tab, set your data parameters, and then click on ‘Page Title’ in the ‘Primary Dimension’ section. Finally, select ‘Advanced’ to create a page title filter and search for all the 404 pages on your site. Use whatever name you put into the CMS for your error pages to find all the broken links.

Screaming Frog Log File Analyzer

More than just a broken links checker, the Screaming Frog Log File Analyzer provides an in-depth look into the health of your website. When using the free version, the system will return 1,000 log events total for one website. If you need more than that or have additional websites to review, you’ll want the paid version. Either way, you’ll need to download the tool to put it to use. 

Semrush Site Audit Tool

The Semrush Site Audit Tool gives you all the info needed to assess the performance of your website, including broken URLs. To get the inside scoop, you’ll first need to sign up for a monthly subscription. You can then run a full audit of your site, allowing you to review a list of broken internal and external URLs.

WordPress Link Checker Plugins

If you have a WordPress site, simply use a plugin, like the Broken Link Checker, to find dead URLs. You just have to download the plugin, and then run it through your WP dashboard. Once you find and fix the broken URLs for SEO, we recommend deleting your selected plugin until you need it again. Otherwise, it could slow down your website and impact its overall performance.

For the best results, add checks for broken links into your search engine optimization audit procedures. Your efforts will help ensure you get the results you seek from your SEO techniques. On top of that, you can rest assured that you’ve gone the extra mile in optimizing the customer experience.

Quick Guide on How to Fix Broken URLs on Your Site

Once you have a list of all the dead links, it’s time to fix them. You’ll want to start by putting them all in a spreadsheet, so you can track your changes. Then, get to work on going through them one by one.

Your approach to fixing the broken URLs will differ considerably depending on if you’re dealing with internal or external links. Here’s a look at what you might need to do.

Internal Links

Internal links often go bad as you make changes to your site. Sometimes, however, the problem comes down to a simple typo. As you look through to find and fix broken URLs, watch for extra or missing characters in the links.

As for the rest, your choices include:

Recreate the Page

Your broken URLs may point back to a page long since removed from your website. At that point, all its internal links lead to nowhere, potentially alongside backlinks that would otherwise bring traffic your way. So, to bring the dead links back to life, you just have to recreate the page. Before you do that, make sure the content aligns with your marketing strategy or it’s all for not.  

Create a Redirect

If you have no intention of restoring the prior page, create a 301 redirect instead. Recognized by Google as a permanent move, this redirect transfers the link equity of the old page to the new one. You just need to choose a new page with similar content – or you can use your home page as a last resort.

You can accomplish this step by using a WordPress plugin, like Simple 301 Redirects, or by accessing your website’s root folder through your file manager. While working within the root folder, you’ll need to either create or modify the .htaccess file to redirect each broken link to the new page.

Delete the Link

Oftentimes, it’s best to simply delete a broken URL and start anew. You can then go back to the page in question and find a new spot for an internal link. Look for anchor text relevant to other pages on your site while keeping the user experience in mind. Don’t forget to reflect on your marketing strategy to put emphasis on your key focus areas whenever possible.

External URLs

When it comes to fixing broken external URLs, you can either replace the link or delete it altogether. You don’t have any control over where or not the content exists, after all. So, your options are limited.

Replace the Link

If you want to replace the link, start by looking to see if the site owner just moved the page. Otherwise, find a new page that supports your stats, claims, and other citation-worthy content. Or you might want to rewrite the section to best support new data that’s come out since it was originally created.  

Often, your external links go to a partner, or some site with whom you have an established relationship. In this case, it is perfectly standard business practice to reach out to a contact at that organization. An external link for you is a traffic source for them. It benefits the SEO of both site to keep the link active, so they may offer a different URL where you can point, or they’ll create something new. The point of this is always a good reader experience, but SEO and partner relations are a great added benefit. 

Delete the Broken URLs

When you simply cannot find a good way to replace the broken URLs, just delete the link and move on. Although maintaining working external links goes a long way in boosting your SEO performance, you might be better off focusing your efforts elsewhere for the time being.

Although time-consuming, removing broken links does wonders for your site’s credibility and search rankings. If you keep up with it, the process becomes much quicker, too, as your efforts keep internal and external links live and working to your benefit.

Need Help to Find and Fix the Broken URLs on Your Website?

Plan to do your website audit complete with bad link checks every quarter for the best results. Regular site check-ins will allow you to breeze through this process, allowing you to keep a close watch on your SEO performance.

Your efforts to find and fix broken URLs for SEO are just one piece of the puzzle, however, in creating a trustworthy website. An impactful site design with great content, vivid imagery, and intuitive navigation matters as well, of course.

To get your site tuned up just how you want it, look to our team at Hawke Media for support. We can build your perfect website, and then keep it working hard in tandem with many other marketing channels. If you’re ready to get started, just reach out to us today for a free consultation.

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