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min read
January 26, 2024

How To Fix Broken Links to Improve SEO

Keelyn Hart
Content Writer at Letterdrop


  • Broken links can harm your website's SEO rankings and user experience.
  • There are three types of broken links: Error 400 Bad Request, Error 404 Page Not Found, and Error 410 Gone.
  • Broken links can be identified manually or with the help of third-party tools.
  • Fixing broken links involves updating or redirecting them, deleting them, or fixing website downtime issues.
  • Regularly checking and updating broken links is essential for maintaining good SEO rankings.

You're aware that there are a couple of broken links on your site — hopefully, you found them before potential buyers did.

Nothing drives a high bounce rate like links that go nowhere and glaring Error 404 pages.

Google will also struggle to index and understand your website structure, which can hurt your SEO rankings.

The TL:DR is — you need to identify and fix them before the problem starts to affect conversions.

What Causes a Broken Link?

Here's the list of potential causes for a link "breaking":

  • Misspelled URLs, or copy and paste errors
  • When pages get deleted
  • When content on a page gets deleted or moved
  • When pages get moved or updated, and a 301 redirect hasn't been set up
  • When there is a general website restructure or redesign without proper redirects being put in place
  • When the site that's being linked to is no longer available or has been moved
  • Broken page elements, such as on-page content or malfunctioning plugins
  • The site is down, which can affect all types of links (both internal and external)
  • Geolocation restrictions, such as "this video is not available in your country" — this is an exception where the broken link is not something you can fix

As your website grows, you're likely to do multiple reshufflings that will affect your links. It's your responsibility to account for these changes.

The 3 Different Types of Broken Links

It's important to know what broken link errors look like so that you can identify instances of them quicker.

There are three main types of broken links:

1. Error 400 Bad Request. This happens when the host server doesn't understand your URL, often because of a typo or invalid request.

For example, typing www.example.com/products/ when the actual URL is www.example.com/products

400 Bad Request due to a broken link
400 Bad Request due to a broken link

2. Error 404 Page Not Found. This is the most common error, which happens when a redirect hasn't been set up after a page has been deleted or moved.

For example, when a URL has changed from www.example.com/ourproducts to www.example.com/products, and a redirect has not been set.

Error 404 not found as a result of a broken link
Error 404 not found as a result of a broken link

3. Error 410 Gone. This is similar to Error 404, except the page or resource you're trying to link to is completely gone from the server.

Error 410 Gone due to a link that
Error 410 Gone due to a link that's been deleted

Are Broken Links Bad for SEO?

Yes. Broken links, also referred to as dead links, can harm SEO because search engines like Google consider them as a sign of poor website quality and may lower the website's ranking in search results. What's more, broken links make it difficult for Google to crawl and index your website.

Dead links aren't at all helpful to a user browsing your site, since the link no longer takes them to the intended page.

If they encounter a broken link, users are usually redirected to an error page. This has two effects:

  1. Their experience on your site is disrupted, especially if they come across multiple broken links at once
  2. They perceive your site as poorly maintained, unprofessional, and unhelpful

This causes users to bounce, and poor user experience like this sends red flags to search engines. It's a harmful cycle that tanks your rankings and the probability of your website driving conversions.

How To Identify and Fix Broken Links for SEO

Finding Broken Links Manually

If you don't have the budget or bandwidth to invest in link checker tools, you can identify and fix broken links on your site manually.

To find broken links:

  1. Go through each page on your site and look for broken links yourself. Look for incomplete or misspelled URLs, and follow each link to make sure it takes you to the intended page. If not, make a list in a spreadsheet.

2. Use the "Inspect" tool in Google Chrome. Right click on the page you want to check, which will open up the "Inspect" panel. Click on the "Console" tab and refresh the page. All your 404 errors will be listed, pointing you to broken links

An error 404 (broken link) shown by Google Chrome
An error 404 (broken link) shown by Google Chrome's "Inspect" tool

3. Download Your XML sitemap. You'll be able to see all the 4xx errors on your site.

Type "Ctrl + F" or "Cmd + F" and type "404", "410", or "400" to find all instances of broken link errors in your sitemap.
To download an XML sitemap:

3.1 Enter the URL of your XML sitemap, or the sitemap index file. (You can easily find your sitemap in Google Console. Navigate to Sitemaps → Click your sitemap.)

3.2 After the sitemap loads in your browser, depending on the browser, you can just click “File”, and then "Save As".

Saving an XML sitemap to find 4xx errors
Saving an XML sitemap to find 4xx errors

Finding Broken Links Automatically with Third-Party Tools

There are web crawlers and ‎content audit tools you can use to find your broken links that significantly speed up the process.

We would recommend investing in premium tools that can do more for you in terms of SEO and links, since the free options presented here have limited scope.

1. Letterdrop

You can find and automatically fix broken links in Letterdrop, which immediately publishes the fixes to your site — this makes it unique.

The Link Health feature shows you all the instances of broken links across your site and the cause of the break, from necessary redirects to incorrect URLs.

You simply select the links you want to fix and click "Publish" to bulk-fix them — no extra effort required on your part.

Find and automatically fix broken links Letterdrop
Find and automatically fix broken links

Letterdrop can also automate internal links across your site and automates content refresh monitoring.

2. ScreamingFrog

ScreamingFrog is a popular choice when it comes to web crawling and finding broken links. You can use their SEO Spider to direct you to pages that need their links fixed.

Finding broken links with ScreamingFrog
Finding broken links with ScreamingFrog

We put together a list of other ScreamingFrog alternatives here.

3. Ahrefs

Ahrefs has a Broken Links feature that pinpoints pages with broken links for you.

This gives you the opportunity to visit that page and fix it.

Automatically find broken links
Automatically find broken links

4. Google Search Console

You're able to see 404 errors in Google Search Console under Pages → Why pages aren't indexed. From there, click on "Not Found" to see a list of pages with 404 errors.

Finding broken links in Google Search Console
Finding broken links in Google Search Console

5. Google Analytics

You can search for any instance of 4xx errors in Google Analytics.

Navigate to Reports → Engagement → Pages and Screens. Scroll down until you find the search bar above your URLs — type 4xx or any instance of error you are looking for.

Finding broken links in Google Analytics
Finding broken links in Google Analytics

How to Fix or Redirect a Broken Link

If you don't use a third-party tool that can automatically fix broken links, you deal with a broken link in a couple of ways:

  1. Update it using a redirect
  2. Delete it entirely
  3. If the broken link is due to a broken page element or plugin, update, delete, or replace these elements
  4. If the broken link is thanks to website downtime (such as a host or server error), you need to contact your web developers and fix the issue

There are settings in popular CMS platforms like Wix, WordPress, Shopify and Webflow — we actually have a guide to setting up 301 redirects in Webflow — but here's how to create a 301 redirect for broken links in most sites:

  1. Access your website's user panel or content management system.
  2. Locate the redirects feature or option w--ithin the panel.
  3. Click on the "Add Redirect" or similar button to create a new redirect.
  4. Specify the path or URL of the broken link that needs to be redirected from.
  5. Enter the path or URL where you want the broken link to be redirected to.
  6. If necessary, use dynamic redirects by including *-symbols to redirect multiple broken links with similar patterns.

How to Find and Fix Broken Backlinks

Fixing backlinks is a little trickier since these links are to an external site and are therefore out of your direct control.

Tools like Semrush have backlink checkers, but if you don't have access to Semrush, you will have to manually check up on these backlinks yourself.

If you find broken backlinks, reach out to the webmaster of the referring domain.

  • Ask them if they wouldn't mind updating their broken link
  • Remind them of the benefit of updating the link to their own SEO rankings

Check and Update Your Broken Links Regularly

Don't let your broken links get away from you and tank your SEO rankings. Invest in tooling that helps you do regular checks, and — even better — can automate those fixes for you.

Letterdrop automates a slew of SEO best practices and is constantly updated to reflect the latest changes to the SEO landscape. Reach out to us to get started today.

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