The Complete Guide to Finding and Fixing Broken Links in 2024

Broken links are the silent killer of websites. You may not notice them at first, but over time, they slowly erode your site‘s search engine rankings, user experience, and credibility.

A study by Ahrefs found that 42.5% of websites have broken links, with an average of 61 broken links per site. And according to a survey by SEMrush, 40% of marketers don‘t regularly check for broken links as part of their SEO strategy.

Don‘t let your website become a statistic. In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll explore the in-depth process of finding and fixing broken links in 2024, with a focus on using Google Search Console. As a blogging expert who has helped dozens of websites clean up their link profile, I‘ll share proven tips and best practices to help you keep your site in top shape and avoid the negative impacts of dead links.

Table of Contents

  1. Why Broken Links are Bad for Business
  2. Using Google Search Console to Find Broken Links
  3. Other Tools for Finding Broken Links
  4. How to Fix Different Types of Broken Links
  5. The Importance of Regular Link Maintenance
  6. Best Practices for Preventing Broken Links
  7. Reclaiming Lost Link Juice with Link Reclamation
  8. Broken Link Building: Turning Broken Links into Opportunities
  9. Advanced Techniques for Dealing with Broken Links
  10. Broken Link FAQs

Why Broken Links are Bad for Business

Before we dive into the technical details of finding and fixing broken links, let‘s take a moment to understand why it‘s so crucial for your website‘s success.

Broken Links Hurt Your SEO

Search engines like Google use links to discover and rank the pages on your website. When a search engine bot encounters a broken link, it sends a negative signal about your site‘s quality and maintenance. Over time, this can result in lower search rankings and reduced organic traffic.

As Andrey Lipattsev, Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, stated in a Q&A, "I think there is a lot of benefit in finding the broken links on your site and fixing them because that also helps us understand your site better."

In addition, any authority and link equity passed by the broken link is lost. In competitive industries, losing even a handful of high-quality links can have a significant impact on keyword rankings.

Broken Links Provide a Poor User Experience

Put yourself in the shoes of a visitor to your website. They‘re engaged with your content and want to learn more, so they click on a link. But instead of finding the information they seek, they hit a dead end in the form of a 404 error page.

It‘s a frustrating experience that can lead visitors to lose trust in your brand and potentially abandon your site altogether. Research by Gomez found that 88% of users are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience. And according to a survey by KISSmetrics, 79% of customers who are dissatisfied with site performance are less likely to buy from the same site again.

By fixing broken links, you create a more seamless user experience and facilitate the customer journey down your marketing funnel.

Using Google Search Console to Find Broken Links

Google Search Console is a free tool provided by Google that helps you monitor and optimize your website‘s presence in search results. It‘s also one of the best ways to identify broken links on your site. Here‘s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Log in to Google Search Console: Navigate to and sign in with your Google account. If you haven‘t already, you‘ll need to add and verify your website property.

  2. Access the Coverage Report: From the Overview page, click on "Coverage" in the left-hand navigation. This report shows you the indexing status of all the pages on your site.

  3. Investigate Errors: In the "Details" box, look for the "Error" row, which will indicate the number of pages with errors that Google has detected. Click on the number to view more details.

  4. Identify 404 Errors: The "Error" report will display a list of issues, grouped by status code. Look for the "Not found (404)" row and click on the number in the "Pages" column to see the specific URLs returning a 404 status.

  5. Export the Data: To further analyze the list of broken links, you can export the data to a spreadsheet. Just click on the "Export Data" button and select the desired format (CSV or Google Sheets).

By following these steps, you‘ll have a comprehensive list of broken links on your website that you can start working to fix. But Google Search Console isn‘t the only tool at your disposal.

Other Tools for Finding Broken Links

While Google Search Console is a powerful starting point, there are several other tools you can use to augment your broken link detection process:

  • Bing Webmaster Tools: Bing‘s equivalent to Google Search Console provides a "Crawl Information" report that lists any 404 errors encountered by the Bing crawler.

  • Ahrefs Site Audit: This paid SEO tool offers a comprehensive site auditing feature that checks for broken links, among other technical SEO issues. According to Ahrefs, their crawler "is second only to Google in terms of active crawling."

  • Screaming Frog: This popular website crawler has a free version that allows you to scan up to 500 URLs for broken links. The paid version removes this limit and provides additional features.

  • SEMrush Site Audit: Another paid tool, SEMrush‘s Site Audit feature identifies broken links as part of a larger technical SEO audit. It includes handy filters for internal and external links.

  • Broken Link Checker: This free online tool allows you to enter a URL and generates a report of all broken links on the page or website. It can be useful for checking specific pages.

By combining Google Search Console with one or more of these supplementary tools, you can ensure that you‘re casting a wide net and catching all the broken links that may be lurking on your site.

How to Fix Different Types of Broken Links

Not all broken links are created equal. The way you fix them will depend on the type of link and the nature of the error. Here are some common scenarios and how to resolve them:

Internal Broken Links

Internal links are links that point from one page on your site to another page on your site. When an internal link breaks, it‘s usually due to one of the following reasons:

  • The linked page has been deleted or unpublished
  • The URL of the linked page has changed
  • The link is pointing to the wrong URL (e.g. due to a typo)

To fix internal broken links, you have a few options:

  1. Restore the linked page: If the broken link is pointing to a page that was accidentally deleted or unpublished, you can simply restore the page and the link will work again.

  2. Create a 301 redirect: If the URL of the linked page has changed, you can set up a 301 (permanent) redirect from the old URL to the new URL. This way, any links pointing to the old URL will automatically be redirected to the new one. Learn more about how to set up 301 redirects in WordPress.

  3. Update the link: If the link is pointing to the wrong URL or contains a typo, you can simply edit the link to point to the correct URL.

External Broken Links

External links are links that point from your website to a page on another website. When an external link breaks, it‘s usually because:

  • The linked page or entire website no longer exists
  • The URL of the linked page has changed
  • The linked website is experiencing technical issues or downtime

Fixing external broken links is a bit trickier, as you don‘t have control over other websites. Here are a few options:

  1. Remove the link: If the linked content is no longer relevant or necessary, you can simply remove the broken link from your page.

  2. Replace the link: If the linked content is still relevant but has moved to a new URL, you can update the link to point to the new URL. You may need to do some research to find the new location of the content.

  3. Link to an alternative resource: If the original linked content no longer exists, you can look for a similar resource from a different website and link to that instead.

The Importance of Regular Link Maintenance

Finding and fixing broken links is not a one-time task. As your website grows and evolves, new broken links can crop up at any time. That‘s why it‘s important to make link maintenance a regular part of your website upkeep routine.

At a minimum, I recommend doing a full broken link audit once per quarter. For larger websites or those with frequently changing content, monthly audits may be necessary.

By staying on top of broken links, you can mitigate their negative impact and ensure that your website is always providing a top-notch user experience. Plus, by identifying and fixing broken links quickly, you can minimize any potential damage to your search engine rankings.

Best Practices for Preventing Broken Links

Of course, the best way to deal with broken links is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Here are some best practices to keep in mind:

  • Use permanent, descriptive URLs: When creating new pages or posts on your site, use URLs that are descriptive and unlikely to change in the future. Avoid using dates, numbers, or other temporary elements in your URLs.

  • Set up 301 redirects when necessary: If you do need to change the URL of a page, always set up a 301 redirect from the old URL to the new one. This helps maintain any link equity the old URL has accumulated.

  • Be mindful when linking externally: When linking to external websites, try to choose reputable, well-maintained sites that are less likely to change or disappear. Avoid linking to pages that look spammy or low-quality.

  • Regularly update and prune your content: Over time, some of your website content may become outdated or irrelevant. Rather than letting it languish, update it or remove it entirely. This helps keep your site lean and reduces the chances of broken links.

By following these best practices, you can minimize the occurrence of broken links and save yourself time and effort in the long run.

Reclaiming Lost Link Juice with Link Reclamation

In addition to fixing broken links on your own site, you can also leverage broken links on other websites to your advantage. This tactic is known as "link reclamation."

Here‘s how it works:

  1. Find mentions of your brand or website: Use a tool like Google Alerts, Mention, or Ahrefs Alerts to find unlinked mentions of your brand or website on other sites.

  2. Check for broken links: Visit the pages where your brand is mentioned and check for any broken links using the tools mentioned above.

  3. Reach out to the website owner: If you find a broken link, reach out to the website owner or editor and politely let them know about the issue. Suggest replacing the broken link with a link to a relevant resource on your website.

Not only does this tactic help restore any lost link equity from the broken link, but it can also lead to new, high-quality links to your site.

Broken Link Building: Turning Broken Links into Opportunities

Another way to leverage broken links for SEO is through a tactic called "broken link building." This involves finding broken links on other relevant websites in your industry, creating content to replace the broken link, and reaching out to the website owner to suggest your content as a replacement.

Here‘s a basic process for broken link building:

  1. Identify relevant websites: Look for websites in your industry or niche that are likely to have resource pages or link out to content similar to yours.

  2. Find broken links: Use a tool like Ahrefs or Screaming Frog to crawl the website and identify any broken external links.

  3. Analyze the broken links: Look at the context and anchor text of the broken links to determine what type of content they were originally linking to.

  4. Create replacement content: If you don‘t already have content that would be a suitable replacement for the broken link, create it. Make sure it‘s high-quality and relevant to the original link.

  5. Reach out to the website owner: Contact the website owner or editor, let them know about the broken link, and suggest your content as a replacement. Be polite and personable in your outreach.

When done effectively, broken link building can help you acquire new, relevant links to your content while also providing value to other websites in your industry.

Advanced Techniques for Dealing with Broken Links

For more advanced SEOs and website owners, there are a few additional techniques you can use to deal with broken links:

  • Implement custom 404 pages: Rather than using a generic 404 error page, create a custom 404 page that helps visitors find what they‘re looking for. Include a search bar, links to popular content, and a way to report broken links.

  • Use a link monitoring tool: Tools like Link Explorer or Ahrefs can monitor your website‘s link profile and alert you to any new broken links in real-time. This allows you to stay on top of broken links without having to manually check your site.

  • Set up automated link checking: For larger websites, manually checking for broken links can be time-consuming. Consider setting up an automated link checking system using a tool like Integrity or Screaming Frog.

  • Implement an SEO-friendly URL structure: Use a URL structure that is both user-friendly and SEO-friendly, with descriptive keywords and a logical hierarchy. Avoid using special characters, spaces, or uppercase letters in your URLs.

By implementing these advanced techniques, you can take your broken link management to the next level and ensure that your website is always performing at its best.

Broken Link FAQs

Before we wrap up, let‘s address some common questions about broken links:

What‘s the difference between a 404 error and a soft 404 error?

A 404 error occurs when a page cannot be found and the server returns a 404 status code. A soft 404 error occurs when a page cannot be found but the server returns a 200 (OK) status code instead of a 404. Both are problematic from an SEO perspective and should be fixed.

Do I need to worry about broken links in my site‘s navigation or footer?

Yes, broken links in your site‘s navigation or footer can be just as problematic as broken links in your content. In fact, they can be even more damaging, as they appear on every page of your site. Make sure to regularly check your navigation and footer links for any issues.

Can I ignore broken links if they‘re on old or low-traffic pages?

While it may be tempting to ignore broken links on older or less popular pages, it‘s still important to fix them. You never know when a user or search engine bot may come across that page, and a broken link can still harm your site‘s overall SEO and user experience.

How can I prevent internal broken links when deleting or moving pages?

Whenever you delete or move a page on your site, make sure to set up a 301 redirect from the old URL to a relevant new page. This will ensure that any internal or external links pointing to the old URL will still work and not result in a broken link.


Broken links may seem like a minor issue, but they can have a major impact on your website‘s SEO, user experience, and overall success. By regularly monitoring your site for broken links and taking steps to fix them, you can keep your site healthy and avoid the negative consequences of dead links.

In this guide, we‘ve covered:

  • The importance of fixing broken links for SEO and user experience
  • How to use Google Search Console to identify broken links
  • Other tools and techniques for finding and fixing broken links
  • Best practices for preventing broken links in the first place
  • Advanced strategies like link reclamation and broken link building

Armed with this knowledge, you‘re well on your way to becoming a broken link master. Remember, the key is to stay vigilant and make link maintenance a regular part of your website management routine. Your users (and your search engine rankings) will thank you.

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