“Broken link error” or “page not found” are quite common to come across on a website and I have personally experienced it many times. Hence, why I decided to dig deeper and learn more about broken links.
Broken links are the worst enemy of your website and growth in general. If you were to ask an SEO expert, their answer would be something like “terrible for ranking” or “Google hates broken links”.
How much of that is true?
Let’s find out, but first let me explain…..
What are broken links?
Broken links are often referred as dead links and can affect your website ranking in some cases. More than ranking it hurts your business profits. Well, think about it if a page is not found and its advertised in Google, what do you think will happen when the visitor click on the link and reaches your website. The visitor will be disappointed to have wasted their time and look for another page.
Have you ever come across a website, where you clicked on a link that did not work?
Yes, you are right that’s the kind of link I’m referring to!
Why websites have broken links?
There can be many reasons as to why websites have dead links. One of the most common reason is, the link reference or title has changed.
For example: Initially when your content writer built the link for you it looked something like this:
https://www. examplelink. com/guestpost
Later on, the website owner changed the link to https://examplelink. com/guest-post-link
In this instance the first link becomes invalid or dead link. Therefore, if you were the website owner you should update the link to https://examplelink. com/guest-post-link.
Now the question is how do you identify broken links?
You have a great understanding of broken links and 404 error by now.
Now the question is how do you identify them considering the size of your website. There are several ways to perform this task that includes online tools, audit tools and plugins. These tools will not only help you identify them in one go, but you can make a list to track easily.
In fact, you should repeat this process at least 4 times a year if not more.
What can you do to fix broken links?
To fix the broken links you need to either hire a professional or update those links yourself, with something that will work. This is where you need to set a strategy in place and work on your budget. If you are tight on the budget then learn the skills online though YouTube and Google search. You can even consider joining online courses and lucky for you there are plenty of courses available for free.
What is 404 error?
404 error is merely nothing but technical term for broken link. You would have seen variations of messages on websites suggesting:
- page not found
- could not find what you were looking for
- better luck next time
The reason it’s called 404 error page so that the search engines i.e. Google, Yahoo, Bing and bots can read it.
Broken links can affect SEO
It is somewhat true that broken links generate signal to search engines and webmasters may notice drop in ranking. Simply because if the link is broken means it creates poor experience for user or visitor. The search engines are all about creating user friendly, easy to navigate rich experience no matter what you are searching!
Hence, search engines may penalize if there are too many broken links. In saying that, there is no concrete evidence whether it is true.
For Example: Think about your personal experience:
- Have you ever been a shop multiple times and searched for an item?
- What happens if you are unable to find the item you are searching for after a few attempts?
You will probably stop going to that shop and look for another shop with same product.
Similarly, if your visitor or search engines aren’t able to find the information your page is meant to have, they will move on to the next website.
We have categorised the tools that most SEO use into three categories to identify 404 error pages. Some of these tools comes part of a package along with other useful options or standalone.
- Online Tools
- Audit Tools
Note: Inclusions, price, features and requirements are set by individual providers and may change at any time without notice.
Online tools are great when it comes to checking dead links. However, most of these tools have limitations under free version and can be upgraded as required for nominal fee. If you are a beginner to SEO or online business all together, chances are that your website has low number of pages. It means most of the free tools can be useful.
First in the list, we have:
Checks first 2000 links for free and then you can subscribe to their plan for better value. Their basic plan starts at $9.95 and allows to check up to 50,000 links per month. The tool is very straight forward and does not require you to be a professional to use it. You can choose to check the whole website or single page.
Simply key in your domain or website name and hit the check button.
Extensions are a great tool and quick solution to most of SEO needs. Extensions such as Moz Bar, Similar web and now broken link checker are all very helpful. These extensions are easily accessible on Google Chrome browser.
Well, who does not use Chrome these days and if you don’t, you are missing out a lot of good stuff!
This tool in particular, is offered by Atomseo and is very simple to use. Simply type in your website and click the button “check site”. Compare to previous tool you can check 2000 links per day. However if your website has more pages, then you can consider subscription options at very decent prices.
#3 Dr Link Check
Drlinkcheck is an online tool to assess your website links including dead links. The tool can outlay total number of links and the number of links with 404 error message. Additionally, it can identify the number of links that have redirects and as well as do-follow.
It allows you to check 1500 links per website. However, the limit of 1500 per day or per month isn’t clear to us. Feel free to provide feedback, if you happen to find the specifics. Their basic subscription starts at $10 for 10,000 links up to 5 websites.
The links can be external or internal, referring to a page on your own website or someone else. Therefore, having the right audit tool makes sense and some of the professional SEO’s use multiple tools.
Why would you need more than one audit tool?
Well, there is no straight forward answer to this question. It may depend on the following:
- What you are trying to achieve?
- Are you looking to identify dead links only?
- Do you wan to improve overall website performance?
- Are you an SEO expert working on a digital strategy to improve website traffic or ranking?
and so on..
Let’s take a look at our handpicked SEO audit tools.
First one in the list is….
This tool is all in one for SEO audit purposes. If you are an optimization expert then you would agree with me on this! Not only you can identify the 404 error pages, but also export them to a list. Almost every tool out there can do the same, so the question is what make SEMrush so special.
Let’s dig in further…
SEMrush has whole bunch of tools to better your website traffic, ranking, identify high volume keywords, competitive analysis and much more. The list is quite huge, however you can try the tool for free and test it out yourself.
I have not personally gone back, since the first time I have tried SEMrush. Their keyword magic tool does a great job compare to some other free tools out there. Being free it is limited to 10 searches with 10 results per search each day. After you have tried, I’m sure you would be keen to subscribe to full version to remove that restriction.
However, I will leave that part for you to decide.
SEMrush & Ahrefs, beat the competition when it comes to checking broken links. They are one of the best SEO audit tools out there. Most importantly the free versions do fantastic job let alone paid subscriptions.
Ahrefs broken link checker has some restrictions being free version i.e. how many links or pages you can view in results. Ahrefs shows you first 10 broken links on any website similar to SEMrush.
You can try Ahrefs for $7 for seven days. The subscription will continue after the 7 days trial has ended if you don’t end up cancelling. They will charge a day or so before for the next month.
#3 SEO Spider
Screaming frog’s SEO spider can help you identify 404 error pages easily. The free version has a crawl limit of 500 pages. If you are on a tight budget or have a small website with a few pages, this could be the tool for you.
The question is, why SEO spider claims spot in our audit tools?
Simply, because it offers more than just identifying 404 error pages. The full list of features comparison between free and paid version is available on their website.
There are thousands of WordPress plugin out there today that can make your life a lot easier. If you are tech savvy then all you need is the below list and bit of time to test out each plugin. The reason you would want to test each plugin to ensure which one works better for you.
If you are someone like I was couple years ago, a beginner Don’t worry there are tons of videos on YouTube about almost everything. You can easily find the how to videos to save some bucks.
On the other hand if you have a few extras bucks to share, you can hire an SEO professional or freelancer being the cheapest option than company. Ask them the right questions and you can save thousands on your project.
Let’s take a look at the list of plugins to check dead links:
Assuming you are a WordPress user or in other words your website is built on this platform, this is a must have plugin.
You must be wandering, what makes it so special?
According to its author:
- It monitors internal and external links to identify broken links
- Checks for links with missing redirects and images
- You can setup notification via email or view in dashboard
- Availability to search and filter links by URL
- + much more..
Wpmudev offers other useful plugins as well to help with better website performance and ranking.
SEOPress plays an important role in improving overall website performance and SEO score. This plugin has tons of features to not only identify 404 error pages but also help your write quality content.
Some of the features include:
- Content analysis
- No advertisements
- Import meta data from another plugins
- Mobile and desktop Google preview
- Customize canonical URL’s
- Meta robots functionality
- Create your own custom XML sitemap
#3 Link checker
This plugin comes packed with full of features including:
- Find broken links and images
- Easy to setup
- No heavy loads on server
- Lists up to 500 broken links
You can buy the subscription to gain access to higher limits.
Here are some additional things to consider after you have identified the
Redirect 404 pages
Once you have identified the 404 error pages, the next question is what to do with it?
After you have made the list, you have two options to resolve it as following:
Option 1) Replace broken links with fresh content
Replacing the broken link with fresh content could help resolve the issue only if you are able to create the same page or post link. In most instances either the page has been renamed or deleted, hence generates 404 error.
Therefore, creating another page with similar name may not be the best option in most cases.
Option 2) Redirect the broken link to another page or post
Redirecting the broken link can be an easy fix, however it fixes on site issues only. If the issue relates to search engines like Google then you will need to request the error page to be deindexed from Google’s cache results.
Let’s take a look at what is deindexing….
Deindex from Google
You must take every step possible to deindex broken links from Google’s cache. To deindex the broken links, you will need to log in to your Google account and follow the steps outlined by Google itself. The removals tool helps you submit request by keying the exact URL that you wish to remove from Google cache.
You have learnt that broken links can potentially cause damage to your website ranking and traffic. Using the right set of broken link checker tools can help you identify and eliminate the issues with your website.
We have discussed 9 tools including audit tools and plugins to improve your website performance. Try them and choose the ones that fits your requirements. It is absolutely fine to use more than one tool to achieve desired results.
Tell us in a few words which tools have you tried?