How to Find and Fix Broken Internal Links on Your Site (FAST)
- 1 What are Broken Internal Links?
- 2 How Do Broken Links Happen?
- 3 Why are Broken Internal Links Bad for SEO?
- 4 How to Find Broken Internal Links?
- 5 How to Fix Broken Internal Links?
- 6 Final Thoughts
A broken internal link is bad for your user experience, but it’s also bad for your SEO.
There are many ways to find and prevent broken links on a website and there’s really no excuse for having them anymore.
We want to help you limit mistakes like this so you can focus on the SEO efforts that really move the needle.
In this guide, we’ll teach you:
- How broken links happen
- How to find broken links
- How to fix broken internal links
- And how to do all of this somewhat automatically
Let’s get into it.
What are Broken Internal Links?
A broken internal link is a hyperlink that directs visitors to a non-existent page on your website.
This can occur due to various reasons, such as:
- The page was deleted
- The page got moved without updating the link
- The URL was originally typed wrong
- The link is directed at the wrong page
These broken internal links can result in negative consequences for your website. It can frustrate visitors as they end up on a 404 error page, prompting them to leave your website and seek the information they require elsewhere.
Having broken internal links on your website is also bad for SEO. Internal links are essential for helping Google crawl your site. Think of a broken link as a dead end.
Google has no choice but to turn around and go somewhere else if they find a broken link. If the crawlers can’t figure out how to navigate the site, you won’t be able to reap the rewards of your efforts in the search, or Google simply won’t crawl the page, so it’ll be harder to get indexed.
How Do Broken Links Happen?
We discussed this briefly in the previous section, but let’s elaborate a little to help you better understand how this happens.
There are a number of ways broken internal links happen:
The most common way that broken internal links happen is if the URL of a webpage changes. This often happens when your website undergoes a redirect or a redesign. It’s important that you never change URLs without first understanding the consequences.
When you change the URL of a page, any of the internal links that the page has will break.
This will result in a bunch of on-site errors and likely a lot of internal link building time wasted. You never want to change the URLs of your pages unless you’re prepared to go through and fix all the links.
Changing the URL will also mess up any backlinks you have from other sites.
This can result in massive backlinks losses if you don’t send the new URL to the site you got the link from. Even then, there’s no guarantee they’ll change the link.
You Entered the Wrong URL
If you enter the wrong URL, the two pages aren’t going to match up, which will result in a broken internal link.
You must enter URLs exactly as they are with dashes, underscores, or whatever else they have in place.
If you’re publishing content on a blog and inserting a bunch of internal links, check each before publishing the post.
The Page Was Removed
A broken internal link can also happen if a web page has been removed. The page may have been removed because it was outdated or the content was irrelevant.
In this example, any links that lead to the removed webpage will result in a broken link. This can frustrate users, especially if the web page contains valuable information.
There are a couple of different ways this can happen.
- You updated your site’s format – Most websites are built with various categories and sections to compartmentalize content and make the site easy to navigate.
For example, if you have a gardening website, you may have sections on flowers, vegetables, fruit, maintenance, watering, etc.
If you decide to remove one of those sections, it might remove or change the URLs of the pieces of content within.
There’s no right or wrong thing to do here. If you have to do it for whatever reason, go ahead and do it. Just be aware that it may cause broken links on your site, but you can find them using methods we’ll discuss later.
- The piece of content is outdated – We find this happens a lot in affiliate marketing. You write a review on “the best lawn mowers of [insert year].” Once that year passes, what is considered the best lawn mower might change.
You have two main options. You can either delete the piece of content or create a whole new one. Or, you can update or refresh the piece and preserve the existing links.
In the case of broken external links, you don’t always have control over this. If someone removes a page on their own website, you’ll need to remove or change the link.
The Sites URL Structure Was Redirected
This issue is similar to the first point but different because it can break a ton of links all at once.
Let’s go back to the gardening example. If you had a URL that looks like this:
“Vegetables” is likely a sub-category on your website with its own page compiling all the vegetables you talk about on the site.
If you wanted to change the section on vegetables to:
This will break all links pointing to any page on your website with the word “vegetables” in the URL.
To prevent this, you need to redirect all the traffic from the vegetable page to the veggies page using a 301 redirect.
Why are Broken Internal Links Bad for SEO?
When Google crawls your site and runs into a broken link, this tells the search engine that the site isn’t properly maintained and might contain outdated information.
This can immediately impact the crawler’s ability to navigate the site, making it more difficult for Google to identify keywords that will result in ranking power.
That’s part one.
Part two is the user experience issue which Google pays much attention to.
It’s right in their mission statement.
Google has one job: to provide users with the easiest and most useful way to obtain the information they want.
Broken links can interfere with this by leading users to dead ends or unrelated content, resulting in a negative user experience. When a search engine crawls a website and finds broken links, it can reduce the website’s trustworthiness in the eyes of the search engine.
This can cause the website’s rankings to drop, resulting in less organic traffic to the site.
Internal links are an important part of on-page SEO because they improve the structure of a website and help distribute page authority across the entire site. We talk about this quite a bit in our internal link audit.
If a page has a high Page Authority (different from Domain Rating) and you link to a page that doesn’t exist, you’re basically giving some of that authority away for nothing.
When a high PA page links to a low PA page, it passes some of that authority on and helps the website overall.
When a high PA page links to a broken page, it only hurts the linking page and the website.
The bottom line is don’t ignore broken internal links because they won’t go away on their own.
How to Find Broken Internal Links?
Alright, enough doom and gloom. The good news is, the process of finding broken links and fixing them is rather simple. Here are some tools and methods to help you:
Using Link Whisper, you can run an Error Report of your entire website and identify broken internal and external links.
You simply scan for broken links and then filter the links by type to find the internal ones. Luckily, there were none in the example we ran.
Once you receive the list, you can click directly into the post containing the link and swap it out or remove it. The whole process can take as little as 5-10 minutes, depending on your site size.
Screaming Frog has a tool called “SEO Spider,” and it’s designed to crawl your website and identify common SEO issues such as broken links.
The tool is incredibly easy to use, and they even offer a free version that allows you to find broken links on up to 500 URLs.
Once you run the scan, you can export the list as a CSV.
Google Analytics is most frequently used to track your website’s traffic and set goals for things like ecommerce sales and conversions. But there is a simple way you can identify broken links using the tool paired with Screaming Frog.
If you have the SEO Spider, you need to go to Acquisition> All Traffic> Channels> Organic Search, which will bring you here:
If you click Organic Search and then landing page you’ll find a list of all your pages by URL. You can export the pages at the top and then run them through Screaming Frog.
The reason you would do this over just using the SEO Spider is that you’re prioritizing the pages that have the most traffic. You want to make sure everything is fine with your most profitable and best-performing pieces of content.
Using Ahrefs is one of the simplest ways to find broken internal links on your website.
Enter your URL in the site explorer and look down at the bottom left-hand corner for the “broken links” section.
Thankfully, there are no broken links on Link Whisper so there’s nothing here to show you.
Another way to do this is through the Site Audit tool in Ahrefs. If you have a website, you should have Ahrefs automatically perform a periodic site audit to identify errors.
For this, you’ll go to Site Audit > Choose your site > Click your most recent audit
Once in there, you want to find internal pages > HTTP Status “client error 4xx”
Once you open that up, you’re looking for “404 not found” errors. If you click on each one, it will tell you the full URL and where the error was found.
“First found at” is the page with the broken internal link. “Full URL” is the broken page.
In this example, the article on “bug out location” linked to the page on “survival first aid kits.” If we want to verify that this is correct, we can click the link and see it for ourselves.
There you have it!
Google Search Console
Google Search Console is another useful tool for finding broken links on your website. Here’s how to use it:
- Log in to Google Search Console: Select the website that you want to check for broken links.
- Navigate to the “Pages” report: In the left-hand menu, click on it to view a list of the pages that are or are not indexed on your site. We want to focus on the “not found (404) section.
- Open up the 404 page and look at the URLs in there. If you inspect the URL, you’ll find that Google is still trying to crawl this page, but it no longer exists.
- Take all the URLs from that list and identify posts or pages on your website that might be linking to those pages. This will require a bit of manual labor depending on how you’ve organized the content on your site.
- Once you’ve removed the broken links, you’ll want to reindex the website to remove these 404 errors and prevent Google from trying to crawl the page again.
How to Fix Broken Internal Links?
Now that you know how to find broken links on your website, it’s time to learn how to fix the problem.
The method you choose to identify the links will determine how you fix them.
Link Whisper makes this incredibly easy by allowing you to directly identify and fix the broken internal links from the report. In the example above, we’re looking at an external link to an Amazon product and it even tells you the sentence and anchor text for the link.
You can simply delete the link and replace it with a new one.
Another option is Screaming Frog. Once you export your report of all the broken links on your website, you’ll have the URLs of the pages with the broken links.
You can then go in manually and change the links.
Sometimes this is a better option because it allows you to change the anchor text, which might be necessary.
You can do that with Link Whisper as well, but you’ll have to actually go into the article to make that change.
Your last option is to remove the link entirely. Perhaps the information is no longer relevant or the data you’re linking to is outdated. In that case, you might want to delete entire sections of the article and remove the links within them.
In this article, we learned why broken internal links are bad, how to find them, and how to fix them.
It’s important that you don’t ignore issues with your on-page SEO because they’ll build up over time and can result in lower rankings and less traffic to your site. If you take too long to fix these problems, Google may see you as a liability, making it harder for your pages to rank long-term.
We highly recommend using Link Whisper to find and fix broken internal links. The process is so simple, and you can do everything directly from the dashboard!