What Is A Broken Link?

If you’ve been using the internet for research, work, or personal reading, you’ve most likely experienced clicking on a broken link.

You may be looking for a certain product, and when you finally find it, you end up feeling frustrated because you reach a dead end when you click on the link. This is what you call a broken link.

Broken links, also referred to as link rots or dead links, are website pages that users can’t access for certain reasons. What site visitors get instead is an error message.

Broken links may be frustrating for users, but they can also present opportunities for your PR and link building efforts. 

When you find a broken link, you can use your existing blog post content or recreate the broken page and ask the publisher to link to your content instead of the dead link. 

It’s an excellent SEO strategy called broken link building, which we will discuss later. 

How Do Broken Links Affect SEO?

Having a few broken links on your website won’t affect your overall SEO as long as you fix them as soon as you can. Google checks the quality of a website using a set of guidelines, and dead links have an impact on your website’s search engine ranking.

It’s a different story if you have too many broken links on your site and you leave it unattended. Google may consider it abandoned or neglected.

If visitors constantly encounter error messages from your site, they’ll move to a different website, which will increase your bounce rate and make your pages look unreliable to search engines.

What Are The Different Types Of Broken Links?

There are three types of broken links:

Broken Internal Links

A broken internal link is an unreachable link that was supposed to bring your users to a different page on your website.

Your links become dead links when you delete the page from your website or when it dropped during migration.

When you have several broken links on your website, search engines like Google will find it difficult to crawl all the pages. Search engines may think that your website is either unfinished or not optimized.

Broken External Links

An external link, as its name suggests, is a link that takes a user to a different website, which is owned and managed by someone else or a different entity.

A broken external link can happen for various reasons, such as a non-existent website, the website has moved, or the website has incorrect redirects. 

When your website has lots of broken outgoing links, users may consider you less trustworthy and authoritative.

Broken Backlinks

Backlinks are links from other sites that lead to your content. Broken backlinks happen when you delete or move a page from your site or change its content. It can negatively affect your site’s trustworthiness and level of authority. 

external links

What Causes A Broken Link?

Broken links happen for many reasons. It could be due to one of the following:

The user enters an incorrect URL

Typographical errors are the most common causes of broken links. The user may have entered a misspelled, incorrect, or incomplete website URL.

Website restructuring

When you launch or restructure an entire site on the same domain, pages may be renamed, combined, or deleted. The links to the pages in the old structure will no longer work. They’ll become broken links unless you update them accordingly.

Deleted page

Links that go to a page that was deleted end up as broken links. The links no longer have anywhere to go, so they display an error message. 

You must set a clear redirect structure before you delete a page. Create a process wherein anyone who works on a site should notify the SEO team before deleting any page.

Renamed page

A renamed page may also cause a dead link. When you rename a page, its URL changes. Broken links happen when you fail to update the URL in all links to that page. 

Stop tinkering with URLs because it could lead to broken links. If you need to make any changes, be sure to notify your SEO team.

Domain name change

Rebrands or mergers will lead to brand domain changes. During business rebrands or mergers, the development team sometimes forgets to change the internal links. 

Internal links may become broken links if they’re not updated. That’s why it’s crucial to implement a full migration plan.

Downloadable content was moved

Certain internal and external links direct you to a different page. Sometimes, outbound links lead you to a piece of downloadable content, such as a PDF, eBook, or document.

These links become broken links when you move the location of the downloadable content without updating the link.

Broken Code

Broken codes also lead to broken links. Whether it’s Javascript, CSS, HTML, or other plugins, you must ask your website builder to fix the broken code for the links to work.

The firewall blocks access to the link you’re trying to access

Broken links may also happen when the firewall blocks you from accessing the page that you’re trying to reach.

link equity

Are Broken Links A Problem For Your Website?

Broken links may not significantly affect your SEO, but they will still cause certain problems, so they’re disadvantageous to your website. 

They can ruin the user experience, force users to leave your website without finishing their transaction, and increase your bounce rate.

If your entire website is filled with broken links, it won’t provide a seamless navigation experience for your users. 

Always remember that search engines favor websites that offer the best user experience, which means fewer to no broken links at all.

Broken links can affect customer experience

Broken links can have a significant effect on customer experience. Google may understand that a website has some broken links. But site visitors may not be that forgiving.

When visitors enter your website, your primary goal is for them to become customers. Broken links can prevent them from being just that. 

A dead link prevents potential clients from purchasing on your site, so having one is not beneficial. Some customers won’t even buy from a brand that they’ve previously had a bad experience with.

Users easily end up feeling frustrated when they’re unable to access the information on your website and instead get an error. Because of their terrible user experience, they probably won’t do business with you anymore.

Think about this: You want people to view your brand as an expert in the field. You link to a resource that aims to help clients solve their problems while proving that you’re an authority in your niche.

Instead of being a great resource as promised, users end up feeling disappointed when they find a 404 error. 

As a result, they view your brand as unreliable, so they end up going to your competitor and doing business with them instead.

Here are a few examples of error messages that you’ll get when you try to access broken links.

  • 404 Page Not Found – The page you’re trying to access can’t be found on their server. It happens when you delete a page, or there’s a mistake in the hyperlink.

  • 400 Bad Request – The request that you made is either corrupt or incorrect, and the server can’t process or understand it.

  • Bad host – The invalid hostname error code means the server either doesn’t exist or can’t be reached.

  • Bad URL –  The malformed URL error code means there’s an error in the URL, such as a missing bracket, extra slashes, etc.

  • Bad Code – The invalid HTTP response code means the response of the server doesn’t adhere to the HTTP spec.

  • Empty – The empty response means the host server returns a no-content code.

Broken links can affect your revenue

Broken links can be a roadblock when converting users to buyers. Your SEO efforts won’t mean anything if your users can’t reach the conversion page because of a dead link.

You’ll lose revenue and customers, too. The frustrated visitors of your website may share their sentiments with other people. You’ll end up losing more than one customer because of your dead links.

You don’t want to have a well-built website only to end up with unhappy and frustrated visitors. 

So, it’s important to ensure that all the links on your website are working, so users don’t end up feeling disappointed when they get an error message instead of getting the information they need.

Broken links can affect your website’s bounce rate

Regardless of how many broken links your website may have, website visitors will judge it according to the content, load time, user experience, and usability. 

If they can’t access the information they need because of a dead link, they’ll visit a different website that can provide them with the content they’re looking for. 

Your website’s bounce rate increases whenever your visitors spend less time on your website and quickly click the exit button.

Broken links can affect your Google ranking

As previously mentioned, when users move to a different website because they’re unable to access the information they need on your website, your bounce rate increases. When this happens, your ranking in Google search page results can drop, too.

Google will flag your website as less reliable or credible whenever visitors leave your site after a few seconds of landing on your page.

A dead link may also lead to a non-indexed page. Google gathers information as to what your website is all about through your links. 

If the links aren’t working, then Google can’t index the page, which could contribute to a lower search engine page rank.

Why Do You Need To Fix A Broken Link?

Broken links affect your site’s reputation. You don’t want your website visitors to think that you’re not a reliable and credible source of information, right? So, you should prevent sending your users to broken pages.

You need to constantly check for broken links on your site, update them as required, and fix them as necessary. By doing so, you’ll be able to maintain the quality of your website.

How Do You Identify Broken Links On Your Website?

You can search for broken links on your website through software and plugins. Listed below are some of your options.

Google search console

Google search console is the most common option when you need to find broken links. It creates a broken links report that Google may have noticed during the crawl. 

However, it only works for internal links and not external ones that your website may have.

SEO tools

You probably have a set of tools for SEO. These tools generally have options that allow you to perform a site audit. It will check the links on your website pages to determine if there are any broken links on your website. 

In some cases, these SEO tools may also pinpoint the cause of the broken URL, which could help you improve your SEO strategies. Some of these tools are Google Analytics, Xenu, Stage Analyzer, and SEMrush.

Broken link checker

You can use a broken link checker tool. Your website builder can install this plugin on your website to detect and fix broken links.

Once installed and active, the plugin will parse your content and find broken links. After checking, you’ll be notified of any detected broken links. 

You’ll have different options on how you wish to proceed. You can unlink, redirect, delete, or even mark the link as not broken. 

Other examples of broken link checkers are W3C Link Checker, Dead Link Checker, and Sitechecker.

Quality assurance

You need to check the quality of your pages. Whether you’re adding a new one, combining existing pages, moving domains, or restructuring your site, quality assurance testing is a must.

During this phase, you have to check all links using a dead link checker and make sure that there are no broken links. 

In case there are any, you should set up a plan to change or redirect the link, so you don’t encounter any problems after you publish the page.

How to fix broken links?

Constantly check your website for broken links. It could be once a week, month, or quarter. There are some practices that you should also follow.

Fixing internal broken links

It’s simple to deal with internal broken links. You have full authority over your website, and that means you can do anything you want with the links, making changes or deleting them permanently.

Here are some tips for dealing with internal broken links:

Search for crawl errors

Make sure that your website builders use Google’s Search Console to fix craw errors. The 404 errors search console makes the process easier.

Use deep links only when required

Deep links, also called anchor text or internal linking, involve linking to a specific page on the website instead of the homepage. 

You should consider using deep links only when you believe that you’re linking to a reliable website.

For example, you’re running an online shop. Your website builder must check for broken links if you’re linking to your own product pages that would be moved, deleted, or become inactive once the inventory runs out.

Update page content

Each of your website pages contributes to your overall SEO performance. But their contributions vary significantly. Some pages contain more links and content than others. 

You must refresh a page that’s broken to make sure that your internal links are active and prevent your competitors from using your dead links for their broken link-building efforts.

Recreate or replace the content

You should consider replacing or recreating the page that was removed or deleted, which caused the dead link. 

This way, you don’t have to get rid of all the links associated with the page, and you can continue providing quality content to your visitors.

Look for typos

You should be careful when you’re adding links to your pages. A simple typo error will direct your user to an error page, which could leave them feeling frustrated.

Redirect

Links and content are valuable. Your search engine rankings will be affected if you lose a whole page filled with valuable content due to a dead link.

That’s where redirect comes in handy. It’s an ideal option when the broken page has lots of valuable links that you can’t afford to lose. 

You can use 301 redirects to lead users to the proper page. This way, you can fix the bad link problem without the risk of losing the links that the page contains.

Delete links

If the broken pages are too outdated or don’t contribute to your website’s overall performance, then updating it may not be worth the effort. 

You can simply delete the dead pages if they don’t contain a lot of content and links.

Fixing external broken links

Broken outbound links in your content can cause a lot of problems, especially if the affected page contains relevant content. 

When this happens, you should consider replacing it with a link from the same or a similar website.  

Just like with broken inbound links, you also have the option to remove the dead link entirely.

audit external links

How Do You Prioritize Fixing Broken Links?

Fixing broken links on your site can be time-consuming if there are plenty of them. Here are some tips to help you prioritize broken internal, external, and backlinks.

Broken internal and external links

  • The number of links pointing to the broken page

  • Is the page relevant to your business?

  • What are the anchor texts of the links that point to the broken page?

  • Are the linking pages strong?

  • Where do the linking pages belong to your website’s overall structure?

Broken backlinks

  • How strong is the linking website domain?

  • How strong is the page that contains the dead link?

  • What are the keywords that the linking domain ranks for?

  • What are the keywords that the linking page ranks for?

  • Does the link send referral traffic to your website?

  • Did the link result in conversion?

Why Should You Create A 404 Error Page?

It’s also a good idea to have a 404 error page on your website. You can redirect your users to your 404 page when they’re trying to reach a dead link.

Your 404 error page should be well-designed, so you’ll have higher chances of retaining the user and stopping them from moving on to a different website.

An excellent 404 error page informs users that the page they’re trying to access is unreachable and offers other options that provide similar content.

It should include a simple error message, a search box that allows them to search for a keyword on your website, and a link to your homepage.

What Is Broken Link Building?

Did you know that you can also use broken links to your advantage through broken link building? You can build backlinks by replacing the links to 404 pages of other websites with a working link from your website.

You can send outreach emails to site owners, making them aware that they have broken links and offering help through similar content they can use as a replacement.

A word of warning, though, broken link building isn’t as easy as it sounds. There are times it works well, but there are instances when it’s not effective.

What Are The Benefits Of Broken Link Building?

Broken link building can offer you several benefits, such as the following:

  • You can work this white hat technique on a massive scale.

  • Outreach is useful since you’re offering to help people who are running a website by informing them about their broken links.

  • There’s no shortage of supply in broken links.

  • It’s a tested and proven method of gaining backlinks.

  • Your broken link prospects want to link to quality resources. They’ll be grateful to learn that you’ve spotted a broken link, and they’ll be more than happy to take the link alternative you’ll provide.

  • You don’t recreate the content of the broken link. When you find broken links within your niche, you can recommend similar content you already have from your website.

  • Broken link building gives you access to more audiences.

  • It allows you to explore different sites and discover new keywords and topics.

  • It opens new opportunities to get to know people and establish new connections that may be relevant in your chosen market.

How Do You Find Broken Links?

Broken links are plenty if you know where to look. Here are a few strategies you can use.

Find highly linked broken pages

You need to use SEO tools, such as Semrush, Google Webmaster, and Ahrefs Broken Link Checker to find broken pages with a lot of backlinks. You can use a free tool or subscribe to paid SEO tools.

Where do you start?

Begin your search for highly linked broken pages with your competitors. They will reorganize, move, and delete content at some point and that would result in at least one dead page. 

Sift through the broken pages and find topics that are relevant to your niche. 

Search through resource pages

You can also search for broken pages about a certain topic or broken links on popular resource pages.

These pages generally feature relevant and authoritative articles that you may find useful. It’s recommended to find resource pages from previous years.

There’s a huge possibility that they will have broken links. Not only that, these old links could have a lot of referring domains, which are websites that link out to a different website.  

You can use the LinkMiner, a free chrome extension, to help you skim through these pages for broken links. Then, determine if the broken links fit your campaigns and check the number of referring domains for each broken link.

Search through popular websites in your niche

The next tip is to find broken links in popular websites within your niche. You can use Ahrefs Site Explorer to look for broken links.

You’ll get a long list of broken links. So how do you know which ones to use?

You can filter the list by going to the Best by Links pages and selecting 404 from the dropdown menu. Don’t forget to filter the results by the number of referring domains.

It’s a simple and quick method to find broken links in the 404 pages of popular pages within your niche.

Search competing websites for broken links

Just like resource pages, and popular websites, your competitors may also link to broken pages. 

You can use Ahref’s site explorer to look for dead pages that competing websites are linking to.

Search the web for broken pages about a particular topic

You can also search the internet for broken pages with links to a certain topic. Ahref’s Content Explorer can help.

This tool allows you to search a broad topic and filter the results for broken external web pages only.

only broken links

What Are The Best Broken Link Checkers?

Finding broken links can be time-consuming, so a broken link checker or link analysis tool comes in handy. Here are three of the best broken link checkers you can try:

Ahrefs Backlink Checker 

Ahrefs Backlink Checker is a tool you can use to get a detailed report about all the backlinks to your website or other websites. So, you can examine your competitors’ most linked-to pages using the “404 not found” filter.

You can also view the broken links report that provides the details of the outbound linking anchor texts.

Ahrefs also has a free broken link checker you can try. Its paid subscription starts at $99 monthly.

Screaming Frog SEO Spider

Screaming Frog SEO Spider is a free tool you can use to crawl a website. You can crawl up to 500 URLs using the free version, but you can sign up for the paid version if you need more pages.

You can download the report in a spreadsheet and use it to examine backlinks, internal links, and external links.

The details include URL, page title, metadata, etc., which you can use to analyze your SEO and improve your site’s performance.

Screaming frog SEO Spider paid version costs $209 a year.

Semrush

Semrush allows you to run an audit on any domain, so you can use it to fix your site’s SEO issues or to find broken links for your link-building campaigns. You can try it for free and use many tools, but your access to data is limited.

Semrush can do a deep link analysis, as well as give you a “Toxic List” of URLs with issues that need to be resolved, including broken links.

Its paid plans start at $119.95 monthly.

How Does Broken Link Building Works?

After finding broken link opportunities, you’re ready to carry out your broken link campaign. Here’s what you need to do:

Check the link prospects

Once you have the links, the next thing you need to do is vet them.

So, how would you know if you should pursue a broken link opportunity?

You should pursue the opportunity if the broken page has good backlinks, and you can align your page with why people linked to the broken page. Otherwise, just let it go.

Backlinks play a crucial role in SEO since it represents a vote of confidence in your content. If websites link to your content, they’re telling search engines that they’re vouching for you. 

Google and other search engines will then consider your website as relevant and worth linking to, which would increase your chances of securing higher rankings in search engine result pages. 

Create a replacement page

Once you have a good idea of why people linked to the broken page, the next step is to create a replacement page.

You can start with a rough outline. You shouldn’t copy the content of the broken page word per word, but you want to come up with something similar. 

You must create a piece that contains information on the same topic and fulfills the same purpose. 

Then, get in touch with the site owner and offer the link to the replacement page on your website as an alternative to the broken link. This way, you’ll be helping them fix the dead link while getting a quality backlink to your site. 

Use your existing content

A more efficient alternative to creating a replacement page is to use existing and similar content from your website. 

If you already have related content on your website, you can propose that the site owner uses your link instead to replace the broken link.  

Send outreach emails

Now is the time to do the outreach. What does it mean?

Outreach refers to the method of pitching replacement resources to those that are linking to a dead page. Some people send generic emails, but personalized emails are best for outreach.

When you send a general or non-personalized email to everyone, you’ll have a lower chance of converting them. This method may get your domain blocked or cause webmasters to put you on a blacklist.

If you want better conversion rates, then choose personalized outreach emails. It takes more time and effort, but this method is more effective.

How To Create An Effective Outreach Email For Your Broken Link Building Efforts?

Always remember that popular resource websites get outreach emails all the time. The webmasters of these websites know that you want them to use your link as a replacement for the broken link you detected. How do you stand out from the rest?

Here are some tips to make an effective outreach email:

Do your research

Before you contact the webmaster, do your homework first. Try to understand how the website works and why they would be interested in linking to your content instead. Do you have any common interests? If yes, you can use them to start a conversation.

Get in touch with the right individual

You can’t just send out an outreach email to the first email address you see on their website. 

You must do your research well if you want to get in touch with someone who can decide whether to add your link or not.

The best persons to reach out to are the head of marketing and content managers.

Build a rapport

Build a rapport with the webmaster rather than asking for a link immediately. You don’t have to do everything at once on your first email. 

Instead, you can use the first email to introduce yourself and talk about how good their website is. Establish a relationship with the webmaster to improve your chances of earning a link.

Keep it simple

Keep your emails short and simple. Nobody wants to read long and complicated emails. 

It’s better to be straightforward and honest rather than beat around the bush about wanting to earn a link.

Appreciate and offer value

When you’ve managed to establish a relationship with the webmaster, you should respond positively. 

Tell them that you appreciate their effort and offer value for the time they’re spending communicating with you.

Win links

Keep in mind that winning broken links involve more than just offering a replacement link to the webmaster. 

They get outreach emails all the time. You must stand out in their inbox, so communicate effectively and quickly. You have to give them a reason to respond and work with you.

Is The Broken Link-Building Method An Effective Tactic In 2022 And Onward?

Broken link building can be an effective strategy in improving your rank on the search engine results page. It may be time-consuming and doesn’t guarantee successful results.

But when done properly, broken link building can help boost your SEO efforts. It works well with guest blogging and resource pages link building.

Should you include broken link building in your link building efforts?

Definitely. It can help increase the visibility of your website and potentially boost your inorganic traffic.

You may also gain a competitive advantage when you inherit competitors’ links. Broken link building also helps you establish domain authority, which Google and other search engine favor a lot.

Conclusion

Finding broken links and fixing them are a crucial part of search engine optimization. Broken links, regardless of how many you have on your website, can leave your users feeling frustrated.

Broken links create poor user experience and may even lead to lost business because visitors will decide to do business with a different website just because they can’t access a certain page on your site.

It may be simple or difficult to fix the broken links. It’s easier to fix broken inbound links because you have full authority over the web page. 

On the other hand, broken outgoing links need more work on your end since you have no control over the external pages. You have to reach out to the owner of the website and ask them to fix their broken links.

You must stay on top of your website links. You must check for broken links regularly, deal with them immediately, and find broken link building opportunities.

Broken link building can help you find white hat SEO opportunities and top-quality links for your website.

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Kelsey Reaves is an SEO Consultant and founder of D2C Brand. We were lucky enough to talk to her about her link-building strategies.