What Is A Broken Link? (And How To Fix Them!)

blue link with one broken link
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You are cruising around the internet, searching for products or information. After following a few choice routes, you click what you hope will be the perfect destination, only to find yourself landing on a discouraging dead end — a broken link. Commonly called 404 errors, broken links disengage website visitors, contribute to a poor user experience and increase an unwanted high bounce rate. If your website contains broken links, they can hinder your visitors and thwart all of the efforts you have made in building a quality website. However, there are ways to detect broken links and fix them, and steps you can take to avoid creating them in the first place. 

What is a Broken Link?

Links throughout website content are useful elements. They allow readers to choose whether they want further information on the topic, and if they do, they can simply click to get it. Internal links lead to another page within the website, and external links direct the reader to another site. Either type of link has the capacity to “break”.

A broken, or dead, link is a link that does not work because it contains an invalid URL, or its destination has been removed and no longer exists. Broken links show up through error codes, such as:

  • 404 Page Not Found (The destination does not exist)
  • 400 Bad Request (The server cannot process the URL)
  • Bad host: (The server cannot be reached)
  • Bad URL: (The URL is formed incorrectly or is missing certain elements)
  • Timeout: (The request timed out during the link check)
  • Reset: (The server is too busy or is wrongly configured)

Why Do Broken Links Happen?

Broken links happen for various reasons. Sometimes the website owner simply mistyped the spelling of the URL, or omitted crucial components of its address. The website structure may have changed since the link was created, the site may have been moved, or the computer’s firewall may not be allowing access. “Link rot” is a term that describes a website that contains a high number of broken links, and it usually indicates a neglected site that has not been regularly updated. 

Why Are Broken Links Bad For Business?

Although broken links and error messages may not directly disturb your SEO efforts, they do bother your website visitors. This leads to a poor user experience and causes website visitors to exit early, contributing to a higher bounce rate. 

Broken LInks Affect Your Search Results

Broken links do not directly affect your over SEO strategy, but they do impact your search results. A bunch of broken links show the search engine that your site has been neglected, and broken links that do not get fixed impact the quality factor of your website. Broken links interrupt the flow of the search bots, as they crawl throughout the cyberworld. If search bots find too many broken links on your site, they will stop crawling your website and your content will not be discovered and indexed in the search engines.

Broken LInks Lead to A Poor User Experience 

The search bots may keep crawling your website after finding one broken link, but your human website visitors may not be quite as merciful. A broken link causes a poor user experience — one that may send them elsewhere. User experience is one of the key factors in SEO and Google prizes user experience highly, tweaking their algorithms to accommodate an increasingly improved user experience. 

Broken Links Increase Your Bounce Rate

When a website visitor enters and quickly exits your website after viewing only one page, this is called a “bounce”. Many factors influence bounce rate, and a high bounce rate translates into poor quality rating for your website. Broken links definitely increase a website’s bounce rate, since they repel visitors and send them away. To lower your bounce rate and improve your marketing efforts, find and repair any broken links on your website. 

Broken Links May Damage Your Credibility

Broken links frustrate and irritate website visitors by placing roadblocks in the middle of their search. When people encounter a broken link on your website, they may get the impression that your site is not to be trusted, which damages your credibility and shrinks the viability of your brand. 

Finding Broken Links

A small website that has few pages can be checked easily for broken links after updating or making changes on the site. However, large websites with multiple pages and links have a greater capacity to hold broken links and should be checked often. There are tools available to make examining your site easier, and they should be employed every week for larger websites. Some of the tools that can help you check for broken links include:

  • Ahrefs – can be used to alert you to any broken links that need fixing.
  • Google Search Console – can be used periodically to check your site, and will alert you if a search bot runs into any broken links. 
  • Screaming Frog – crawls your site, looking for problem links and displays a list of items that can affect the quality of your website.

Fixing Broken Links

Once you discover a broken link, it is crucial to repair it immediately, before visitors encounter it. If the broken link is due to the error of another website, it may be helpful to reach out and let the website owner know of the problem. For other issues, consider the following ways to deal with broken links:

  • Repair the URL. Sometimes the broken link happens because of a simple typo, which is easy to fix.
  • Redirect the user. If the page no longer exists, reroute the user to a new location using a 301 or 302 redirect message. 
  • Replace the content with new information and direct the link to it.
  • Remove the link altogether. 

Avoiding Broken Links

  1. When creating content on your website, blog, newsletter or social media site, always test the links you include before you publish the page. 
  2. Avoid creating “deep links”. These are links that connect users to a specific page, instead of the home page of another website. Deep links are fine for internal links or reliable sites, but should still be checked periodically.
  3. Instead of deleting any outdated pages on your website, consider refreshing them and updating them. By doing this, any links to the page will remain intact. 
  4. Make it a habit to use available tools to check regularly for broken links and repair them immediately.

Law Quill | What Is A Broken Link? (And How To Fix Them!)

What Is Considered a Broken Link?

Any link that sends a user to a web page that does not exist is a broken link. For example, if you include a link on your firm’s website that returns an error message and does not redirect the user elsewhere, this is a broken link. Ideally, you want to avoid this, as search engines view websites that contain many broken links as poor-quality sites, impacting their rankings on search engines. As a result, the recommended approach for law firms is to remove such links or update them so they work as intended. Additionally, fixing these links improves your site’s user experience and makes it easier for your potential clients to learn about your services. This means it can improve your chances of turning your website visitors into clients. According to the Journalist’s Resource, the average lifespan of a link is roughly nine years, highlighting the importance of checking your links periodically to prevent them from becoming broken.

What Causes a Broken Link?

Many different variables can result in broken links and these typically happen unintentionally when a website owner updates their site or moves web pages. Learning about these common causes can ensure you avoid broken links on your law firm’s website and improve your site’s overall SEO. The following are the primary causes behind broken links:

  • Typos: This is a human error issue caused by misspelled URLs. When this happens, the server is unable to determine the correct location of the link, resulting in a display error. To avoid this issue, ensure you double-check your URL spellings.
  • Deleted pages: Sometimes, your URL might be correct, but the page it links to no longer exists. In this scenario, the user receives an error message as the link is unable to direct the user to the desired location.
  • Renamed pages: As with typos, if the website owner renames pages on the site but does not update the URLs in all of the site’s links, this results in the server displaying an error message, as it cannot process the request. To avoid this, make sure all of your URLs are up-to-date when you rename your firm’s web pages.
  • Different domains: Occasionally, law firms may decide to change their domain names. They may do this if they merge with another firm or if they want to rebrand. When this happens, the web administrator may forget to adjust the internal links during the transition. If you plan on changing your firm’s domain name at some point, ensure you develop a solid plan for doing so to avoid broken links.
  • Moved download links: When you click on a link, they may direct visitors to a location where they can download certain content, such as a PDF or Word document, instead of another page. If your firm moves these pieces of content without updating the links, this results in a broken link and a displayed error message to the visitor.
  • Coding issues: Sometimes, a coding issue may cause a link to not work as intended. To avoid this, it can be a good idea to ask your web developer to regularly review the website for coding errors. Additionally, gaining a basic understanding of HTML and CSS might help you to identify and remove these errors yourself

How Law Quill Can Help 

What is a broken link? A broken link is a virtual dead end for any visitor who encounters your website. Broken links are obstacles to smooth navigation, and they can infect and negatively impact the performance of your website. By conducting routine assessments and fixing broken links, you can improve the experience of your website visitors, keep your bounce rate low, and maximize your SEO efforts. 

We are here to help and would welcome the opportunity to visit with you for free regarding your website content, and take these tasks off your plate! Schedule a free visit with us by scheduling a quick phone or zoom call at your convenience on our calendar today. You can also email us at support@lawquill.com

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