As websites get larger and larger with ever-growing content, it gets to be a nightmare to maintain. It is true for any website, unless you have a big enough and dedicated development team. But this is especially true of a blog, a forum or any site with a constant influx of new content.
Over time, content on the website can get outdated and can get removed. This could lead to broken links in other pages. Often, it can be cumbersome to find and correct these broken links as it can be in different parts of the site even ones that you don’t remember existed.
There are several different tools that allow you to find broken links in a website. Many of these tools are online websites, search engine tools (like Google Webmaster Tools) or stand alone utilities that need to be installed.
What is a Broken Link?
Before we embark on finding broken links, we should probably define what a broken link is. A broken link or broken URL is a web url that does not return a valid web object. It points to a non-existent web resource. Sometimes, broken links are also called dead links.
Typically the web server will return an HTTP code 404 when you try to access a broken web link.
There are several different reasons why you might have broken links on your site. All of these reasons are essentially due to a webmaster or designer error or oversight, which makes it easier to fix once you know where it is.
Type Error or Spelling Mistakes: It is quite possible that there has been a mis-type in the URL when it was coded. This is more common than you think.
Deleted Resources or Pages: It is quite possible that the resource has been deleted. It is true for resources that has been around for a while and it has been deleted by somebody, may be even accidentally. Even if it has been deleted intentionally, you may not have tracked down all the references to the resource or missed some in pages.
Renamed Resources: It is not uncommon for some resources, such as pages, images or css files to be renamed. It is difficult to track down all the references and change them manually. It is not uncommon for you to have missed some references.
Issues due to broken links
Whatever the cause of broken links, there are a couple of issues with having broken links on your site, especially with regard to SEO.
User Perception and Engagement: Broken links on the website tend to reduce the quality of the website. If an user is seeing repeated error pages when clicking on links, then it negatively affects the perception of the user about the website. It also tends to reduce user engagement as well.
Search Engine and SEO: The same goes for various search engines as well. When a search engine crawler sees repeated errors on your website, it tends to reduce the overall ranking of your website with in the search engine index. This can negatively affect the rankings in the search engine for your website and web pages.
Broken links to images and other resource files such as CSS files can give the perception to the search engines that the website is visually broken. This will negatively affect the SEO and ranking in the search engines.
The only way to effectively fix these broken links is to track them down one by one and either correct them or remove them. It can be time consuming but is usually worth the effort.