What are broken links?
Broken links are links on a webpage that lead to a URL that is no longer live.
This can either come about from either a site owner using an incorrect link to try and link to your site or they may be linking to an outdated URL.
Why you need to deal with them
Broken links could be stopping potential visitors or customers from reaching important pages of your site. URL’s change and external sites could be using old URL’s to link to your site. Or they could simply be using incorrect URLs.
By keeping on top of these you can ensure visitors always land on a live working page.
Google may also see unattended broken links or crawl errors as a sign that you aren’t maintaining your site. All things being equal in the search results, this could work against you.
How can you find them?
There are a number of ways you can uncover these errors.
Google Search Console will give you a report of external pages that are incorrectly linking to your site within their crawl error sections.
A tool like Xenu will crawl the site itself and give you a rundown of any internal links that need your attention.
What action should you be taking?
Once you have your list of broken URL’s, you need to try and marry these up to relevant live pages within the site.
The reason for this is that ideally, you want to send your visitors to a similar page as this is what they would be looking for when clicking the link in the first place.
Once you married up the broken links to live pages on your site, you need to set up commands within your .htaccess file called 301 redirects.
These simply inform search engines that an old link is no longer available and to go to a different page instead.
This will refresh the page the visitor can see and send them to a live page instead of an error page.
Internal broken links
As much as it is important that you keep on top of broken links coming from external sites, it is more important that you make sure you don’t have any internal broken links.
You may have set up links within your site that lead to a page you no longer have live or you may have changed its URL (but you haven’t updated the link). This can give Google the impression that the site isn’t well maintained or looked after. These broken links can also lead to a bad user experience.
Unlike the external broken links, internal ones are easier to fix.
All you need to do is simply replace the broken link for a correct one or remove the link altogether.
It is also important you don’t have any internal links that are redirected links. Google will question why you aren’t simply linking to the correct page in the first place.