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How To Find Broken Links on Your Website & Fix Them

Broken links can ruin your site’s user experience and make it harder for search engines to crawl and index your website. Thankfully, finding broken links isn’t hard. Keep reading to learn how to find and fix broken links on (and to) your website.

Jul 14, 2023

9 m read

You’ve put countless hours into building a website that serves up valuable content to your visitors, wrapped up neatly in a pleasant user experience. Even with all of your hard work, broken links can happen. Those dead links can create a frustrating user experience and make it more difficult for Googlebot to crawl and index your site. All this can spell trouble for your brand reputation and online visibility.

But with all your other responsibilities, how do you stay on top of your site’s internal link health and make sure there are no deadends on your website?

The good news is, avoiding broken links isn’t hard as long as you have a process in place for monitoring them. Here’s what you need to know about finding broken links and fixing them.

Download the Victorious Broken Link Worksheet to track your link repairs for broken internal, outbound, and inbound links. (Note: You’ll have to copy the worksheet to your own Google Drive to make edits to it.)

What Is a Broken Link?

A broken link — or dead link — leads to a web page that doesn’t exist. When a user clicks on a broken link, they encounter a “404 Not Found” error. The page you intended to send users to may have been moved or deleted, or there may be a typo in the link. It’s also common for redirect errors to create dead ends on your website.

Types of Broken Links

There are two main types of links on your website that could be broken:

1. Links Pointing to Internal Pages 

There might be broken internal links that are supposed to connect two pages on your website. Or, there may be inbound links from another website that fail to find their destination on your site.

2. Links Pointing to External Pages: 

Also called outbound links, external links lead users away from your website to another website. Your site may host links to pages that no longer exist on the destination site. These broken external links can impact user experience.

Broken Link SEO

While broken links aren’t a direct Google ranking factor, they do disrupt Google’s indexing process and waste your crawl budget, both of which can negatively impact SEO.

Disrupted Indexing & Wasted Crawl Budget

The more time Google crawl bots waste backtracking from the dead ends caused by broken links, the less time they spend indexing the quality content you want to rank in search results. 

Your site’s crawl budget is a factor of the number of URLs Google wants to and can crawl on your website. Broken links lower the responsiveness of your site to Google’s crawl bots and, in the long term, can impact the overall crawl budget Google dedicates to your site. 

A major concern of search engine optimization is making sure Google can read and understand your content and how it fits in in the larger ecosystem of your site to rank it properly in search results. When broken links make it difficult for Google to index the valuable content on your site, it will eventually impact how your content appears in SERPs.

Wasted Link Equity

Link equity is the authority and value one page shares with another page it links to.

Link equity, sometimes called “link juice,” is a search engine ranking factor based on the idea that certain links pass value and authority from one page to another. This value depends on the linking page’s authority and topical relevance. Topical relevance and authority take a great deal of time to accumulate. So it’s no small matter when a broken link disrupts the flow of equity throughout your site, since it can negatively impact search rankings for pages “downstream” of the broken link. 

How To Find Broken Links

There are a few solutions to help you find broken links on your website. Below, are steps for:

How To Find Broken Links on Websites Using Google Search Console

Check out our Guide to Google Search Console to learn more about this convenient tool if you haven’t already. 

  • Log in and click on ‘Pages’ on the left-hand menu.
  • You’ll see boxes labeled ‘Not indexed’ and Indexed.’ 
  • Click on each one individually to see if Google has found any 404 issues on your website. If so, you will see a tab labeled Not Found (404).
  • Click on the Not Found (404) tab to view specific errors, including a list of all the pages with broken links on your site.
How to use Google Search Console to find broken links on your website
  • Export the list into a spreadsheet and save it to refer to when you’re ready to fix the broken links.
Using Google Search Console to find scan links on site

Finding Broken Links With Screaming Frog

Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider is a free tool (with a more advanced paid version) that checks websites for broken links. Follow these steps to use its broken link checker. 

use screaming frog to find broken links
  • Open the tool, enter your website URL, and hit ‘Start.’
how to use screaming frog to scan for broken site links
  • Locate any 404 broken links by navigating to ‘Response Codes’ > ‘Client Error (4xx)’.
  • You’ll see a list of URLs with 404 errors. Click on one URL > the Inlinks tab near the bottom of the screen. Here, you can identify the source of your broken link. The From tab will show you the source, and the To tab shows the broken link.
  • To export the complete list of broken links to a spreadsheet, go to ‘Bulk Export’ > ‘Response Codes’ > ‘Client Error (4xx) Inlinks.’
export broken link report from screaming frog

Use SEMrush To Check for Broken Links 

SEMrush has a free site audit tool that reports on issues and errors that can impact your search engine ranking.

how to use semrush to find broken website links
  • If you don’t already have a SEMrush account, a popup will ask you to register your email address to access the free site audit. With the free audit, you can check up to 100 pages of your website.
  • The next window allows you to customize your site audit settings. The default settings should suit your purposes to scan a site for broken links. Click ‘Start Site Audit.’
customize audit settings on semrush
  • SEMrush will run the audit and create a project for your site.
  • Click the linked number in the ‘Errors’ column for a detailed description of all the issues found in the audit.
finding broken links with semrush
  • There might be a lot of information on this page to absorb, but scroll down to the line that says ‘XX internal links are broken.’
broken link report from semrush
  • If the number on this line is greater than zero, you can click through for the details about which pages contain broken links and exactly what the broken links are. Click the ‘Export’ button on the top of the page to save the broken links report to a .xlsx or .csv file.
export broken link report from semrush

How To Find Broken Outbound Links With Ahrefs

Ahrefs has a broken link checker that can locate broken outbound links on your site in just a few seconds.

Find broken outbound links with ahrefs
  • On the left navigation bar, under ‘Outgoing links,’ click ‘Broken links.’
Creating a broken link report in Ahrefs
  • This page will list all the broken outgoing links on your site. Click ‘Export’ to save the results as a .csv file.
Download broken link report in Ahrefs
  • To see broken inbound links to your site, select ‘Broken backlinks’ from the left-hand menu.
Screenshot of broken backlinks in ahrefs for example site
  • You can export this information, as well.

Use the Inbound Link Errors tab in the Victorious Broken Link Worksheet to track broken backlinks (Note: You’ll have to copy the worksheet to your own Google Drive to make edits to it.)

Note: Broken inbound links (also known as backlinks) are coming from other websites. Follow up with those site owners to repair those valuable backlinks so you can benefit from the referral traffic, link equity, and search benefits they provide.

Learn more about backlinks and why they’re so important to your search ranking.

How To Set Up a Custom Report in GA for Broken Internal Links

Google Analytics (GA) is one of the most powerful Google tools you can use to monitor activity on your website. If you’re not familiar with GA, check out our Google Analytics Starter Guide.

Setting up a custom report in Google Analytics can help you stay on top of broken internal links as they occur just follow these simple steps.

  • Click on ‘Explore’ and then the colorful plus sign to create a new custom report.
creating a custom ga4 report to find broken links
  • Name your new report “404 report” or “Broken Links Report” to help you identify it at a glance. Then click the plus sign next to ‘Dimensions.’
Finding broken links with ga4 - screenshot of steps for creating report
  • Since we want this report to check out pages for errors, search for ‘Page.’ Locate the ‘Page path + query string’ and ‘Page title’ dimensions and check the boxes next to them. Click ‘Import.’
Finding broken links with ga4 - screenshot of steps selecting dimensions
  • Click the plus sign next to ‘Metrics.’
Finding broken links with ga4 - screenshot of adding metrics
  • Search for ‘Sessions’ and then check the box next to it. Click ‘Import’ to add it to your report.
Finding broken links with ga4 - screenshot of steps selecting metrics
  • Now that we’ve selected our data, we’re going to tell Google Analytics how we want to view it. The report defaults to a table, which is what we want. Drag the two dimensions you’ve selected — ‘Page path + query string’ and ‘Page title’ — to the second column under ‘Rows.’ Drag your metric, ‘Sessions,’ under ‘Values.’
Finding broken links with ga4 - screenshot of steps for populating report
  • We now have a basic Bar chart that shows us how many sessions our pages are receiving. Since we want to see how many pages are receiving 404 errors, we’re going to add a filter. Scroll down the second column until you see ‘Filters.’ Drag the ‘Page title’ dimension from the left column to this section. 
Finding broken links with ga4 - screenshot of steps for adding filter
  • Select ‘exactly matches’ from the top drop-down menu in the ‘Filters’ section. Start typing in the name of your 404 page on the second line until it appears and you can select it.My page is “ Page not found – Victorious.”  (If you don’t know what it is, go to your website and type in a subfolder that doesn’t exist. Then search for that page title on Google Analytics.) Click ‘Apply’ in the ‘Filters’ section.
Finding broken links with ga4 - screenshot of steps for creating filter
  • Your report now shows URLs that have resulted in a 404 error.
final report for finding broken links with ga4

You can now address the pages in the report. If you need to share the info with someone else, you can download it or add them to your report with the buttons in the top right. 

Remember to check back regularly. Your new internal broken links report now lives under the ‘Explore’ section of your GA4.

How To Fix Broken Links

Now that you’ve found the broken links on your site, it’s time to get down to the business of fixing them.

Analyze the Data

The first step in fixing broken links on your website is to analyze the data you’ve already collected.

Determine why each link is broken. 

With your spreadsheet open, ask yourself these questions:

  • How frequently do people visit the link? The answer to this question will help you decide if you should repair the link or if the page should be retired (and a proper 301 redirect in place).
  • Do you still use the page? If not, it may be wise to redirect it to a new page. 
  • Does the URL have a typo that you can fix quickly? This is an easy solution to an all-too-common problem.

Decide on an Action

Next, decide the best course of action for each URL. Here are your best options:

  1. Create a 301 redirect to a different working page with relevant content.
  2. Fix any typos you see within your broken link HTML code.
  3. Recreate a page for the link.
  4. Remove the dead link if you have no page to send it to. 

Download the Victorious Broken Link Worksheet to track your link repairs for broken internal, outbound, and inbound links. (Note: You’ll have to copy the worksheet to your own Google Drive to make edits to it.)

Check for Broken Links Regularly

Set up reminders to check your index coverage report at least once a month. That way, you can fix broken links as they occur rather than wait until they’ve accumulated to the point where they create a poor user experience or harm SEO efforts.

Alternatively, you can set up automated reports in Google Analytics to alert you to broken internal and external links.

Always double-check all your links after reorganizing pages or moving your website to a new URL. 

Maximize Your Online Visibility Through SEO

Although knowing how to find broken links is a great starting point to improving your SEO, a comprehensive strategy is the best way to create a lasting impact on your organic footprint. Our SEO agency offers a full suite of SEO services that we bring together to create a strategy that moves the needle on your business goals. Reach out for a free consultation and learn more about the power of partnership.

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