Broken and dead-end links are a fact of life if you run a website. The important thing is to get into the habit of finding and fixing them on a regular basis. Not only do broken links make visitors unhappy but also it is important to remember that search engines like Google penalize websites for broken links, both internally and externally.
The four most common causes for broken links include:
- Site redesigns. Platform changes (i.e. WordPress to Shopify) typically can cause a lot of broken links unless you are careful. For major site changes like this there needs to be an effort to remap every URL that can’t be duplicated onto a new URL and have a permanent 301 redirect in place.
- Product changes. Product updates that create a new URL often cause the old product page to be turned off. Often these pages rank well and are bookmarked so we suggest 301 redirects and or mentioning on the old page that the product has been updated and providing a link to it.
- Human error. Mistakes happen and deleting or moving pages, coding the wrong URL into a link, are all possibilities and even though they may not be a common occurrence, over the course of a month they can add up.
- Links to external pages on other websites. All of your links may be in order but if you have links to other people’s websites they may go bad over time as pages are changed and/or moved and removed.
Remember, managing internal links is not a one time fix. It is important to do a deep clean on your website’s links at least once a month to ensure you aren’t sending visitors to any dead-ends. Search engines will also appreciate the absence of broken links!
Steps to complete this task
Make a list of all your broken website links. There are many free services out there such as https://validator.w3.org/checklink – so need to pay for this service.
Implement a 301 redirect (not a 302) for all the broken links on your site to enhance your SEO (the suggested articles at the end of this track have examples for rewriting code).
Design a custom “404” page for your website that suggests pages similar to your visitor’s query (our articles have examples of great 404 pages).
When redesigning your site, make sure that you copy your URLs and content over perfectly. If you are using a new URL structure be sure to map old pages to new ones and implement 301 redirects.
Change up your 404 page from time-to-time. Seasonal 404 pages really show visitors how up-to-date you are.
- Make your website load faster.
- Make your website navigation simple and intuitive.
- Write web content that your visitors will love.
- Use internal linking on your site to enhance navigation.
- Clean up broken links and create a user-friendly 404 page.