Nobody likes a broken link on a website. Your website readers will probably abandon your page if they see a broken link as they will feel that the article is not up-to-date. This is why, broken link has SEO implications and search engines including Google advise webmasters to do a regular checkup of websites in order to find broken links and fix them.
What are Broken Links and are they bad for SEO?
Your website links out to other sites from a page or an article, however over the course of time, links rot, i.e. their website owners may decide to change their path, they may move the resource to some other page, or they may completely abandon and shut down the site.
A link that does not work any more is called a “broken link” or “dead link” and if your page keeps referring to that broken link then your website visitors will not be able to rely on your website content too.
Google’s webmaster tool generally tells you about dead links (404 and other errors) on your own website, however it doesn’t tell you if the outgoing link from any of your page is broken. However, a broken link still affects your SEO as your reader may abandon your website thinking that your content is not up-to-date.
How to Find Broken Links?
Finding broken links on your website can be done via various online tools, however most of them are paid. We wrote about a free tool called Xenu Link Sleuth which can help you find all broken links on your website.
If you just want to check broken links on a single webpage, you can make use of this handy chrome plugin which checks your current opened tab for broken links.
Ways to Fix Broken Links?
Once you have found broken links, you may want to fix them in order to keep your website up-to-date. Find below several ways, we can go about fixing these broken links:
1. Fix typos or linking errors
Many a times you will find that the link is not working because there was a typo in the link or if you left a trailing ‘/’ by mistake. These types of errors can be easily fixed by fixing the typo in the links. If you are not sure, you can search for the content on that website and find and correct the link to the content.
2. Search for the new location of link
Sometimes, webmasters move links around and thus they break the links. To resolve such broken links, you can search for the links either on the website or simply on search engines. If you are able to find the moved content, you can update the existing link to point to the new URL.
3. Contact webmaster
If searching for the linked content doesn’t yield any result then you can try contacting the webmaster of the site informing him about the broken link and asking for the new location. Most of the websites have a contact page through which you can contact them. Alternatively, you can make use of WHOIS tool to get the website owner information including e-mail id and contact them.
4. Link to homepage of the site
If nothing of the above works and the webmaster also doesn’t reply to your queries, you may want to choose to simply link to the home page of the website. However this is generally only possible if you think that their website still contain relevant information and your readers will be able to find what they would be looking for on their site.
5. Replace link with an alternate
Replacing a broken link with an alternate similar link is another choice that can help you fix the broken link while still maintaining the relevance of your outgoing link. You can use search engines or ask in forums such as reddit for a similar content that you can link to.
6. Create similar content on your site
If you are unable to find an alternate content to link to then you can also decide to create a similar content on your own site and refer it from your existing content. You should opt for this way only if you think that the linked content would be relevant for your own site and it is possible to recreate the broken link. You may want to refer to an archived copy of the link in order to create similar content on your site. An archived copy can be accessed via websites such as Internet archive.
7. Replace link with an archived page
If recreating the content on your own is also not possible, then you may want to simply link to the archived content found on Internet archive. This way you can be sure that you are referencing to the same content even though it is an archived copy.
In case, the archived content is not available or if you feel that the archived content is outdated and is no longer applicable then the only way to fix a broken link will be to unlink it. Simply unlinking the broken link will work if your content doesn’t appear to be broken after removing the link.
9. Delete reference to link
If unlinking the broken link makes you content broken too, try to remove the content which refers to the broken link.
10. Delete content with link
Take this step only as a last resort and only if the entire content was completely relying about the outgoing link. For e.g a review of a product that is no longer available and there is no alternate way you can fix it. Note that taking this step would mean a 404 on your own site which can you fix by issuing a Remove outdated content request to Google and other search engines.
There are many reasons your site content may have broken reference to other sites and in this post, we have tried to highlight multiple ways you can fix such broken links. We have used these techniques from time to time on multiple sites with success and you may want to try them out too. Fixing broken links is part of regular maintenance of your website and you would want to take it up seriously if you are concerned about SEO implications.