If you own a website, most probably have put a lot of effort and time for optimisation to make it valuable to your audience. But if your links are broken, all your hard work will be a waste. Broken links can hurt your site in two ways:
- They cause a poor user experience – when users connect to links and get stalemate 404 errors, they get irritated and might never come back to your site.
- They bring down your SEO determinations – broken links reduce the parity between links in your website, which has a negative impact on your site’s ranking.
To evade these possible drawbacks, you should check broken links throughout your website regularly. If you are not sure how you can do this, do not worry because this article covers everything you need to know about finding and fixing broken links in a step-by-step method that is easy to follow.
Step #1: Locate Broken Links
Various tools that you can utilise to identify broken exist and most of them are free. Here are some of them.
- Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a powerful free tool for tracking the performance of your website, and it is also beneficial in tracking a broken link or hyperlink. Firstly, log into your Google Analytics account. On the menu on your left hand, look for behaviour and navigate as follows: Behavior – site – content – all pages’.
Then click on the “Page Title” link that is located directly on the right of the “Primary Dimension” tab.
Search for the title of your 404 page on the search box on the right top of your page. The default title for
most websites is “page not found”.
The feedback should display a single page; your 404 page. Open it to see the list of broken links and hyperlinks that have resulted in a 404 error. Since now you have the list of missing links, you can look for a good link and redirect the lost connection to the working link.
Also, you can include a secondary feature to see the page that contains the bad URL. To accomplish this, navigate through these steps “Secondary Dimension – Behavior – Full Referrer”. You will get the URL to the page that has a broken link next to every link.
You also can set for automated email alerts in case of broken links on Google Analytics. You can also export the details of the lost link. Fixing and redirecting broken links is a continuous activity. The average for a good website is once in a month.
Xenu Link Sleuth is another free tool that we recommend you should try. First, install the Xenu tool and open it. Open the “File” tab and select the “Check URL” link. Key in the domain of your website in the box and Untick the tab titled “Check Eterna Links”. Click “OK” to start the check. Xenu can become slow sometimes, especially if it is your first time to use it.
Step #2: Generate A Report and Trace Your Changes
Once you have identified your broken links, make a spreadsheet to trace the processes of redirecting links. When using Google Analytics, you can export the report you have generated by hitting the “Export” button at the top of the page, and the file will be downloaded.
You can also export data when using Xenu. You just need to navigate through these steps: File – Export to Tab Separated File – open with Excel. Next, you arrange the main Data from Xenu and Google Analytics into distinct pieces on your Excel spreadsheet.
Step #3: Conduct Data Analysis And determine the Pages That You Need to Redirect
Now that we are prepared, we dive into the most crucial stage. Both Xenu and Google Analytics provide you with the list of links and hyperlinks that are missing. However, before redirecting these links, you need to analyse these pages and determine the reasons behind them being lost or why they may not be working effectively.
All broken links are not developed in the same manner. Actually, some links have a higher number of users than others. In most times, broken links due to stray URLs happen only once. The issue might be as a result of human error or users typing the wrong URL in the address bar, and there is no value for fixing this. However, missing links with multiple users might be worth the effort and time to fix because they display an inclination, even if they result from human errors.
Also, you can easily determine the right URL for some links and fill it in the Excel data. You can also put speculative URLs for other broken links and emphasise them using a different colour. Redirect the rest of the links to the homepage of your website.
Reports from Xenu have an added advantage of not showing URLs that were lost due to typing errors. The links displayed on Xenu report are the links that exist in your website, even if they may contain errors in some characters. After identifying such incidences, you need to know the cause and fix the issue throughout all occurrences.
To conclude, you only need to redirect the links that have a core rule that causes error or links with several visitors. You will only be through with this step once you have determined the links that require to be documented and redirected from your Excel spreadsheet report. So, ensure you understand the cause of a link being broken before you consider redirecting it.
Step #4: Use Your Content Management System (CMS) to Redirect the Broken Links
The final step is the actual redirecting of the broken links in your content management system. In this case, we will use Drupal CMS from WordStream as an example. With this CMS tool, navigate through these steps:
- Click “Go to Administration” then select “Site Building.”
- Select “Add Redirect” and fill the details for “From” and “To” by pasting from the Excel Spreadsheet report you have created. Be attentive with the format of the link during the process.
- Select “301 Moved Permanently” from the dropdown list and click “Create New Redirect.”
Repeat this process to redirect all your lost links and hyperlinks and bring your report for redirecting broken links up-to-date.
Having done all these, you have accomplished your mission. You can now gain more benefits in your SEO because all your links are functioning, improving the user experience and enhancing your search engine ranking.