What are broken links and why are they bad for websites?

Difficulty: Beginner

If it ain't broke, don't fix it

What is a broken link?

A ‘broken link’ or a ‘dead link’ is a link on any internal or external web page that no longer works as intended because the website that the link points to is encountering an error of some kind.

Broken links occur because:

  • Response code 404: This is the most common reason for a broken link. This is when the page that you have linked to no longer exists on the destination website
  • Response code 410: The whole website no longer exists anymore 🙁
  • Incorrect URL: This is an all too common error. The link input on the page is broken because it has been entered incorrectly...whoops!
  • Firewall restrictions: A resource that is linked to is protected by a firewall forbidding external access without authorisation OR the user has firewall protection software blocking access to the resource


How to fix a broken link

There are three quick fixes for a broken link: repair, replace or remove.

  1. Repair

    This method applies when you may have input the URL incorrectly on the link itself. Instead of typing out the URL, which is probably why it’s wrong in the first place, go to the resource, copy the link and paste that bad boy as the link on your page.

  2. Replace

    This method applies when the original link you have on your page is (1) returning a 404/410 response code or (2) is subject to a firewall restriction. Replacing the link is a simple enough process but what you replace it with is what matters here. You can replace the broken link with the same resource that may have been moved on the website but didn’t get a 301 redirect *fist shake* or replace a broken link with a similar resource on another website that will provide the same value to users

  3. Remove

    If you don’t want to replace the URL with the correct version or you can’t find a resource to replace it with, you can remove the link in its entirety. Now, this isn’t ideal but it is viable. We’ll explain why below.


Why broken links are bad for your website

There are a few reasons why broken links are bad for your website. We’re going to dive into the technical reasons of why bad links are like the poison apple to your website. Here’s why:

  • Goodbye customers: you could lose potential $$$ if your website is plagued with broken links. Customers could bounce off your site onto your competitor’s site.
  • Conversion rates through the floor: Broken links can hurt your conversion rates especially if the equivalent of a purchase link on your website suddenly broke
  • Grrrrrrrr: Think of a user clicking on a link, expecting something of value at the end of the exchange but at the end there’s nothing. It’s frustrating and irritating to say the least and that’s a bad user experience.
  • Taylor Swift: In 2017, T-swizzy released an album titled Reputation and that’s what is at stake if you have broken links littered throughout your website (reputation, not the musician lol). With broken links, users will make a negative connotation with your website as they interact with broken links and this has flow-on effects for your reputation.
  • The Big G: Search engines don’t take too lightly to websites with broken links. As we all know, Google is a user-focused machine, awarding websites with good user experience with great organic rankings. If your website has broken links, Googlebot will see that and penalise accordingly because broken links are (you guessed it) attributed to bad user experience.


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