Broken backlinks are a common issue that can impact a website's SEO and user experience.
In this article, we will explore what broken backlinks are, why they are important to find, and how they can impact a website's overall performance. We will also discuss various types of broken links, the disadvantages of having them, and the tools available to help you identify and fix these problematic links.
How Does a Link “Break?”
A link can "break" or become a broken backlink due to several reasons:
- Page Deletion or Removal: When a webpage that was linked to no longer exists or has been intentionally removed, the link becomes broken. This can happen if the page's content is outdated or the website owner decides to remove it.
- URL Structure Changes: If a website undergoes a redesign or restructuring, the URLs of its pages may change. Links pointing to the old URLs become broken, as they no longer lead to the intended content.
- Content Movement: Sometimes, website owners move content from one URL to another without setting up proper redirects. This can lead to broken links when the original link still points to the old URL.
- Server Issues: When the server hosting the linked content experiences technical problems or is temporarily unavailable (e.g., due to server errors like 502 Bad Gateway or 503 Service Unavailable), the link may break.
- Spelling or Typo Errors: Sometimes, broken links occur due to simple mistakes like misspelling the URL in the hyperlink. A small error in the link can render it nonfunctional.
- Domain Changes: If a website changes its domain name, links that point to the old domain may break unless proper redirects are set up to the new domain.
Types of Broken Links
You’ll know a link is broken when you click on the link and you come to one of these pages:
- 404 Not Found: The web page linked to no longer exists or has been moved without redirection.
- Bad Host: The server cannot be reached, the page doesn’t exist, or the hostname is invalid.
- Bad Code: The server violated the HTTP Spec.
- 400 Bad Request: The hose server doesn’t understand the URL.
- Timeout: The server timed out when connecting with the page.
The Cons of Broken Backlinks
Having broken backlinks can negatively impact your website in several ways:
Poor User Experience: Visitors may leave your site when they encounter broken links, leading to higher bounce rates.
Wasted Crawl Equity: Search engines allocate a limited amount of resources to crawl a website. Broken links consume this valuable crawl equity.
Unused Link Equity: Link equity is wasted when it can't flow through a broken link to boost your site's SEO.
Tools to Find Broken Backlinks
There are several tools available to help you identify broken backlinks on your website:
- Google Search Console: This free tool provided by Google is a valuable resource for webmasters. It provides detailed information about site performance, including broken links.
- Ahrefs: Ahrefs is a comprehensive SEO tool that offers backlink analysis, including finding and fixing broken links.
- Semrush: Semrush is another powerful SEO tool that can identify and analyze broken backlinks, helping you maintain a healthy backlink profile.
Find Broken Links Using Google Search Console
To find broken links using Google Search Console, follow these steps:
- Log in to your Google Search Console account.
- Select your website property.
- Navigate to the "Pages” under “Indexing.”
- Scroll to the bottom of the page to “Why pages aren’t indexed.”
- Click on “Not Found (404).”
You should now see a list of 404 errors within your site. You can inspect each URL by clicking on it and clicking on “Inspect URL.” This action will show you all the data Google retrieved about the URL.
Find Broken Links Using Ahrefs
To find broken links using Ahrefs, follow these steps:
- Log in to your Ahrefs account.
- Enter your website's domain and select the "Backlink" option.
- Scroll down to the "Broken Backlinks" section to see a list of broken links.
If you have a larger site, you should perform a site audit in Ahrefs. This can help ensure you don’t miss any broken backlinks.
- Navigate to “Site Audit.”
- Click on “Project.”
- Click on “External Pages.”
- Click on “HTTP Status Codes.”
- Click on “External 4XX” to see all broken external links.
Find Broken Links Using Semrush
To find broken links using Semrush, follow these steps:
- Log in to your Semrush account.
- Select the “Backlink Audit” tool.
- Set the scope and properties for the tool.
- After the audit is complete, navigate to “Target Pages.”
- Click on “Target URL Error.”
- Select “Active Keywords.”
You'll receive a list of backlinks leading to URLs on your website that are generating errors.
What To Do With Broken Links
After finding broken links, you have several options:
Outreach to Update the Link: Contact the website owner to update the broken link to a working one.
Outreach to Remove the Link: If the broken link is causing harm, ask the webmaster to remove it.
Monitor Your Backlinks: Regularly check for new broken links and maintain a healthy backlink profile to prevent future issues.
Identifying and fixing broken backlinks is crucial for maintaining a website's SEO and providing a positive user experience. By using the right tools and following best practices, you can keep your website's backlink profile healthy and ensure that your visitors have a seamless browsing experience.