What Is a Broken Link?

Jake Sheridan
Oct 22, 2021

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Hyperlinks are the foundation of the internet. The ability to link between web pages is a critical feature. When everything is in order, every link on a website will take you to the correct location.

However, links can fail.

A page may have been deleted or is no longer available. It is possible that an image will not load or will be missing. A website or resource to which you link may go offline. A website owner may move a post or page without updating others that link to it.

Broken links are bad for quality assurance, as your digital marketing efforts should have taught you by now. Broken links can wreak havoc on your conversion rates. They have an indirect impact on SEO by influencing bounce rate, time on site, and how link juice is passed.

Broken links can also have a direct impact on SEO rankings by signaling that your website is old and out of date.

This article will give you more insight on what a broken link is, why fixing a broken link is important, how to fix broken links in SEO, and how broken external links affect SEO.

Sit tight and follow through…

What Is a Broken Link?

A broken link is a web page that a user cannot find or access for a variety of reasons. When a user attempts to access a broken link, web servers frequently return an error message. Broken links are also referred to as “dead links” or “link rots.”

There are several common reasons why a page or resource may be missing:

  • You updated the URL of the page.
  • During a website migration, some pages were lost or renamed.
  • You may have linked to content (such as a video or document) that is no longer available on the server.
  • It’s possible that you typed the incorrect URL.

Here’s an example of a broken link:

Why Is Fixing a Broken Link Important?

Broken links have an impact on your site’s reputation. As a website owner, if you re-direct your customers or readers to your website via a broken link, they will get the impression that your site is not a reliable source to use. This has an impact on your site’s reputation and credibility, and may eventually lead to an increase in bounce rate. Sending customers (and Google bots) to broken pages is just as bad, as both will have a negative impact on your site’s experience.

Broken links are also used by Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines to determine the quality of a site, but as long as you’re constantly checking for broken links, updating broken links on your site, or fixing broken links when Google notifies you of a new issue detected on your site, you should be able to maintain a high-quality site.

Many website administrators battle broken links “in the name of Google” because they are afraid of repercussions.

404 pages, on the other hand, have no effect on the performance of your other URLs in search results, according to the Google Webmaster Central Blog. Furthermore, Google’s John Mueller famously stated that the web changes and content becomes outdated, so Googlebot will not lose sleep over broken links.

The effect of broken links on SEO is slightly different and much more profound. Broken links increase bounce rates, shorten session duration, and reduce conversions, all of which affect search rankings.

Broken Link FAQ

How do I fix broken links in SEO?

To fix broken links, i.e both inbound (internal links) and outbound links (external links), you must first locate them. There are numerous free tools and paid broken link-building tools available to assist you in locating broken links.

They include Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Screaming Frog, Xenu, Buzz Stream, Dead Link Checker, Ahrefs, Broken Link Checker, SEMrush, Online Broken Link Checker, Chrome extensions like “Check my links”, Netpeak Spider, or Domain Hunter Plus, and many more.

The easiest and fastest way to see whether you have dead links is by using broken link checkers like the SEO Audit Tool.

If you use Google Webmaster Tools, broken links on your website can be found under the “Crawl Errors” section.

Google Search Console can also assist you in identifying any issues with your site after Google web crawlers have crawled it. They will notify you if a page on your website is broken. It is important to note that they only display URLs from your website and no external links.

If you use WordPress, you can use one of several plugins to check your site for broken links. It allows you to easily correct, remove, or change broken links directly from your dashboard.

Depending on how much content you create each week, you’ll need to set aside some time each month to monitor for broken links.

Check Google Crawl Errors: Error 404 The search console simplifies this by prioritizing crawl errors for you. If the top errors in the report are all irrelevant, you can be confident that nothing pressing is further down the list of 404 crawl errors.

Deep links on the website should be avoided unless (or until) absolutely necessary. A deep link is one that points to a specific page rather than the homepage; other synonyms for deep links include internal linking and anchor text.

Update all links pointing to a relocated internal page. For an outdated internal page, remove all links to it from your content, or find something comparable worth linking to.

Understanding what the dead page was about is the starting point for creating relevant content. Discovering this gives you insight into what and why someone chose to link to the previous content. The Wayback Machine at archive.org is the best tool for this.

For example, there could be some broken HTML or JavaScript, or even some plugin interference (when working on a WordPress site.)

There is also the issue of external links possibly leading to moved or deleted pages. This can be discovered using a backlink analyzing tool. A 301 redirect is also recommended if these backlinks exist.

Do broken external links affect SEO?

External links, according to top SEOs, are the most important source of ranking power.
Because search engines consider external links to be third-party votes, they pass link equity (ranking power) differently than internal links.

According to survey data on search engine ranking factors, obtaining external links is the single most important goal for achieving high rankings. This is due to the fact that external links are one of the most difficult metrics to manipulate and, as a result, one of the best ways for search engines to determine the popularity of a specific online page. This concept was first used by Alta Vista, an early search engine, and was later improved upon by Google.

Google first made a name for itself by introducing PageRank to the Stanford community (an algorithm developed by Google co-founder Larry Page). This algorithm considered hyperlinks to be popularity votes. The pages with the most links pointing to them were deemed to be the most popular.

Links provide search engines with relevancy cues that are extremely valuable. The anchor text used in links is typically written by humans (who can interpret web pages better than computers) and is highly reflective of the content of the page to which it is linked.

What does a broken link look like?

Here are some examples of error codes that a web server may present for a broken link:

  • 404 Page Not Found: On the server, the page/resource does not exist.
  • 400 Bad Request: The URL on your page is not understood by the host server.
  • Bad host/ Invalid hostname: The server with that name does not exist or cannot be reached.
  • Bad URL: URL encoding error (e.g. a missing bracket, additional slashes, incorrect protocol, etc.)
  • Bad Code – Invalid HTTP response code: the server response is in violation of the HTTP specification.
  • Empty: The host server responds with “empty” responses that contain no content and no response code.
  • Timeout: During the link check, HTTP requests are constantly timed out.
  • Reset: The host server terminates connections. It’s either misconfigured or overcrowded.

Don’t forget: check out the other definitions (over 200) in our growing SEO glossary.

Let’s Fix Your Broken Links

Hopefully, this article has given you a better understanding of a broken link.

Broken links destroy the user experience on your site. If a user clicks on a link and receives an error message, they will most likely navigate to another page or website. If a large number of users do this, it may have an impact on your bounce rate, which Google will consider when determining your site’s ranking.

Broken links disrupt the flow of link equity as well. Backlinks from reputable websites increase the page authority of your website. Internal links aid in the flow of equity throughout your site. Blog articles, for example, can boost the rankings of other articles if they are related and linked.

Finally, broken links prevent Google bots from crawling and indexing your site. The more difficult it is for Google to understand your entire site, the longer it will take to see any positive changes in your ranking.

Loganix is consistently helping its clients improve user experience through fixing broken links. Reach out to us today and let us help you fix your broken links too!

Hand off the toughest tasks in SEO, PPC, and content without compromising quality

Explore Services

Written by Jake Sheridan on October 22, 2021

Founder of Sheets for Marketers, I nerd out on automating parts of my work using Google Sheets. At Loganix I build products, and content marketing. There’s nothing like a well deserved drink after a busy day spreadsheeting.