How to Fix Broken Links

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Broken Links are infuriating especially if someone has a website, surely, they worked hard and they used valuable hours in order to make the website a valuable resource for the visitors. However, if the links are not working, it can disrupt all of the hard work. There are two reasons why broken links on the website can be damaging,

First, they make for a bad experience for the user, if the users click on the links just to see 404 errors, they will get irritated and may never return to the website. Second, they undervalue all the SEO efforts. The Broken links can limit the movement of link impartiality throughout the site, which will impact the rankings negatively.

If they would like to avoid these likely dangers, they should regularly check the entire website for broken links. The good news is we have done this work before and we have documented everything in a step by step, easy process, which we hope one might find helpful. So here is a comprehensive guide to find and fix broken links across the website.

Step one is to find the broken links. There are a lot of tools that one can use to identify broken links, several of them free. One might want to try Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a free tool for tracing website performance, and it is also helpful for easily finding broken links. 

They have to log into their Google Analytics account and set the evaluation period for the amount of time they want to look at. If they check for the broken links monthly, set the period for the month since their last check. Go to Content, then Content by Title on the dashboard, and load the page. Create a filter at the bottom by typing in the title of the website’s 404 error page in the blank box after “Filter Page Title: Containing”. 

After that, go ahead and click the “Go” button on the Google Analytics filter page. Then click on the page title to view details. For simpler navigation, one can change the rows shown per page from 10 to 100 (to see all 79 rows) at the bottom right. Google Analytics offers the ability to set email alerts to get these broken link reports on a regular basis, as well as to trade broken link details.

In case one cannot use Google Analytics for whatever reason, Xenu is another free tool, Xenu Link Sleuth. After one has installed the Xenu software and launched the gizmo, go to File, then check URL, and enter the website’s domain. Make sure the box next named “check external links” is unchecked and if not then Uncheck  then click “OK” to run the analysis. Take note that that if it is one is first time using Xenu, it can take a little while to complete the report. So please be patient.

Step 2 is to create a report and track the changes. After identifying all the broken links, create an Excel spreadsheet in order to trace link redirect processes. Call it something such as the “Broken Link Redirect Report.” In Google Analytics, one can export the report that was just created by clicking Export CSV for Excel on the top of the page and downloading the file. 

For our objectives, we only need the data on the broken links, the page views and unique page views, so just copy and paste these data columns into the Excel spreadsheet that was created. One can export data from Xenu too; just click on File, then Export to Tab Separated File, and then open that text file with Excel. Then, arrange the main data from Google Analytics and Xenu into separate sections on the Excel spreadsheet.

Step 3 is to analyze the data and then decide which pages should be redirected. After all of the preparation, we come to the most important stage. Both Google Analytics and Xenu give us a list of links that may be broken. But before actually redirecting them, one should analyze first the pages and the reasons they may not be working properly.

We have to remember that not all of the broken links are created equal. Some of the links are actually visited more often than others. There have been many cases of broken links or visits to a stray URL occurring only once. These URLs can be a result of simple human error or someone that mistyped an incorrect URL into the address bar and may not be worth fixing. However, the broken links with multiple visits are perhaps worth the time and effort to fix as they show a trend (even if it is one of human error).

Also, for some links, we can easily figure out the correct URL and fill up the data in the spreadsheet; for other links, we can put a cautious URL there and use a different color to highlight it with. As for the other links, we can use those to redirect to the domain homepage. In essence, we would only redirect those links that have many visits and those that were caused by a minor error.

The reports on Xenu have the advantage of not displaying the URLs that were recorded in your analytics because of a typing error. All the links shown in Xenu are in fact existing links that are shown on the site. But these URLs might still contain character errors. For example, links are caused the by the same problem: “#” is replaced by “%2523.” 

When we identify these instances, we need to determine the cause and fix the same problem across all instances. This step will only be complete once one has located the links that need to be redirected and  documented them all in your Broken Link Redirect Report.

The final step, step 4 is to Redirect in CMS. In the end, it is time to actually redirect the broken links in the content management system also known as, CMS. Go to Administration, then Site building and finally URL redirects. Click “Add redirect”. Fill in the “From” and “To” blanks by copying and pasting from the final Broken Link Redirect Report. 

Pay attention to the link format during the process. Then select the “301 Moved Permanently” which is shown in the drop-down Redirect Type menu. Click “Create new redirect”. Rinse and repeat the process above to redirect all the broken links and then update the Broken Link Redirect Report.

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