The Effect of Broken Links
We’ve all experienced broken links; either by coming across one while surfing a website or application, or a user notifying us of one on our own website. Users are taken to that infamous “404 error” page that probably includes a witty message and image, alerting them that this link is broken and no longer exists.
When it occurs on a website of our own, it’s embarrassing and frustrating, to say the least. And can sometimes be out of our control. The most common reasons for a broken link include:
- Linking to an internal webpage that had been moved or renamed;
- Linking to content (files, videos, photos, etc.) that had been deleted or moved;
- Linking to an external URL address that was changed without knowing;
- Or linking to the incorrect URL originally;
But more than just experiencing some frustration and embarrassment, broken links can actually effect the search rankings and conversions of your website.
- Users hate broken links.
This goes without saying, but if a user comes across multiple broken links on your website, it’s a frustrating experience and screams bad usability. Users are discouraged to continue surfing a website after a certain number of broken links, and will just move on to find their information elsewhere, or by other means, such as emails and phone calls.
- Search engine crawlers hate broken links.
Crawlers will scan every page on the Internet over and over for indexing and rankings. But when they run into a broken link, they stop crawling the website further, and move on to the next one. If your website isn’t being crawled by search engine spiders, you’ll have pages that won’t be indexed or appear in search engine results.
- Google hates broken links.
When users spend less time on your website due to broken links, search engines will assume it’s because your website isn’t providing quality content, thus lowering your rankings. Google has even specifically addressed broken links in their Webmaster Guidelines, stating to “Check for broken links and correct HTML”.
Thankfully, it’s not all bad news. There are multiple resources out there that can help you keep your website in shape, by scanning for broken links and sending you a report.
- Xenu Link Sleuth is one of our favorite link checking resources, and one we use often for our websites. It’s easy to download, and offers a full report of broken links, images, frames, backgrounds, and local image maps.
- W3C has a Link Checker that requires no downloading to run a test on your website. In no more than a couple of minutes, you will receive a report with broken links, list of redirected links, and any broken anchors.
- To monitor our platform and GeorgiaGov website, we use services from Siteimprove. For a fee, Site Improve periodically pings and monitors the platform, checking to make sure all of our websites are up and running. They also offer a full report indicating any broken links, misspellings, and accessibility testing on your website. Contact us if you’re interested in adding Site Improve’s annual service to monitor your website.
The key in using these resources is to add them to your regular website maintenance routine. Make sure to check for broken links periodically, especially after making content changes and updates. A correctly working website will keep users coming back and seeing your agency as a credible and reliable source of information.