So what I wanted to talk to you today was about broken links and why they’re important to try and avoid and minimise on your website.
What’s a broken link?
For those of you that don’t know, quite simply, when you click on a link on a webpage, whether that’s a link that takes you to another page on the same website or another page on an external website, a broken link is when you click on that link and the page that it takes you to does not exist, so you’re unable to read the content and ultimately, it’s a frustrating inconvenience, I guess. They are completely natural. They gather up over time, particularly in things like blog pages where somebody has written an article and inserted a link manually within the copy somewhere, and then 1, 2, 3 years later, that link no longer works because what they’re linking to has either been changed or no longer exists.
Why are broken links a problem?
Broken links can become a bigger problem from an SEO point of view if you have them en masse across your site. So, if you have a website that is riddled with broken links, every other link that you click on, the page doesn’t load, that can be a signal to the search engines of a low-quality website, and we know that that’s something that can impact your rankings. We’ve seen just recently, with the 1st of August 2018, Google core algorithm update, that a lot of sites that got hit were ones that were exhibiting elements and signals of low quality and some of the ones that improved their rankings were ones where there’d been major focus on improving those quality signals, and that included internal linking.
The final reason why internal links are important to maintain is that search engines use them as a clue to…as to the importance of any given web page on the site. So let’s say you have a very important page, very important service page, for example, that you want to rank for a particular term or related set of terms, then if there’s lots of other pages on your site that link to that page, and the search engines will pick up on that and go, “Okay, well, we’ve got lots of pages here, all pointing into a particular page, that particular page must be important for the topic that it discusses.” It’s obviously a bit more complex than that, and you do see people not fully understanding the concept and therefore sort of doing spammy techniques when it comes to internal linking. But if done correctly, internal linking can be a very powerful tool in your arsenal to improve your SEO.
How to fix a broken link
So today, we’re gonna show you how to find broken links on your website using a tool called Screaming Frog. It’s a relatively cheap subscription tool that you pay for under license. We’re gonna show you how to use Screaming Frog to find broken links across your site. So, I’ve got an example website already pasted in the bar here. What I’m gonna do is just hit start and we’ll see the site starting to be crawled by the search engine, sorry, the Screaming Frog crawler.
Now, what we’re interested in is any pages returned within this section of the response code, client error, so these are pages are being found that don’t exist. Now, there’s a good chance these pages are linked to from other pages, and therefore, we want to know what are the other pages on the site that are linking to these broken pages because that’s where we want to go and update the link so that they’re no longer broken.
So, I’m not gonna let Screaming Frog crawl the whole site, because we’ll be here quite a while, so I think we’ve probably got enough there just to sort of delve in and have a look at. So, what I’ll do is I’ll stop the tool now. Now, to run the broken link report, you need to come up here to Bulk Export. And from Bulk Export, choose Response Codes, and then from Response Codes, choose Client Error for XXX. So, we’ll click on that and we’ll just save that with the default name there.
So, with that saved, what we wanna do is find that file, which we’ve got down here. And we’ll just open up… Okay, so we get this file displayed like this, which doesn’t look particularly useful. What I’ll do is I’ll just take you through what we’re looking at here. So, the only columns that we’re really interested in are Source column, Destination column, the Alt Text column, and the Anchor column. They’re the main ones. So, if we just hide these ones here, and that one there, and we’ll get rid of this one as well.
Okay, then, so what we’re looking at here, the Source column, this contains the pages that have the broken link on it. So, these are the pages that we wanna go to to fix the link, to update it. The Destination is the page that the link should take you to but does not. And then here, we’ve also got some more clues to be able to find it quickly. So, if there’s text in the Alt Text, it means that it’s basically an image link. So, if I just expand, it means there’s an image on this page somewhere that has the broken link on it. If it’s text on the Anchor, in the Anchor column, it means that there’s a text link and it’s that kind of link that doesn’t work.
So, let’s go and try this one here. So, what we’ll do is we’ll copy that, and we’ll open it up in the browser of your choice. Okay, so we know that there is an image on this page somewhere that is a broken link. So how do we find it? Well, there’s a few decent Chrome extensions that you can use that will help speed up some of this work. The one I use is called Check My Links, completely free, just Google “Check My Links Chrome Extension.” It’s free. Install that and that will help you out. So, we’ll click on that and see what it has to say for itself.
So, we can see that it’s going through all the links on the page. Now, what we’re looking for is something coming up in the invalid links. So here we go, we’ve got one, and it’s just highlighted here, 404, 404. So, it looks like what we’ve got here is two little image icons, navigation icons going to the next page and what they’re meant to do is when you click on this, it’s meant to take you to the next story, which according to our report should be about three of awards for York Maze. Sorry, that’s incorrect. For the next story one…okay, it’s the same one, okay, no problem.
Now, when we click on it, what we’ll find is it doesn’t exist, and in this case, for pages that don’t exist, it takes you back to the home page. So, we have the broken link there that needs fixing. I would say, in this particular case, because this is a broken link or a set of broken links on the navigational aspect of the site, that is something that we would class as relatively important to fix soon.
We just go and look at another example. Let’s try and find one with a text link on it. So here, we have a page which has some text on it somewhere saying “25th Anniversary.” And apparently, that is where the broken link is. So again, this all go in here. We’ll do paste and go. So somewhere on this page, it says “25th Anniversary” which has a link on it, and Screaming Frog is telling us that that is a broken link. So just quickly here, I can see, actually, that this almost certainly is the link in question. We got “25th Anniversary,” it’s a link that probably takes us to a page that does not exist. But what we’ll do is we’ll run our Check again, and this is why this is useful rather than you having to sort of sift through, you know, that page, trying to find the link manually or visually, this tool can very quickly find the link for you. There you go. It’s saying here that yeah, on this link, the page doesn’t exist. So, if we just click on that, just to double check, and again, we can see the error URL up here, taking us back to the home page.
So one thing worth pointing out is that these quick sort of Check My Link type tools, Chrome extensions, they’re not always 100% correct in the information they give you. You should always manually check the links yourself. And they are very good for quickly identifying where problems exist. So in this case, what the webmaster of this site should be doing is taking this report and working through each of these pages here, to locate the broken link, and then updating it one way or the other, so either updating the links so it works, you know, changing the URL so it points to the correct location for this page, or in some cases, deleting the link altogether.
So that’s just a really quick and easy way of using Screaming Frog to find broken links across your website. And broken links are something that are very important to keep on top of for the three reasons I gave earlier. That is number 1, they minimize the bad experience that users have when they come to the site, they minimize the low quality signals being sent out to the search engines that can impact your rankings, and thirdly, they are very powerful when used correctly to guide the search engines to the most important pages of your site which can help with your rankings.
So, I hope you found that useful. We’ve got plenty more videos coming on how to use Screaming Frog and various other SEO useful bits of information. So, stay tuned and I look forward to showing you another video sometime soon.