A website is comprised of so many moving parts, as it were, that it’s not always easy for a small business professional to keep on top of all the details that can keep it running smoothly. From finding/creating graphics to blogging and updating information as necessary to all the minor details like linking to other relevant sites, a website can require a good chunk of your attention.
Let’s focus on links for this particular post. I’m sure you’ve got links on your site, external links that “point” to your social media profiles or other sites on the web that your readers would find interesting as well as internal links for people to contact you or buy your stuff. As you can see, links play an integral part in the overall user experience on a website. What happens to that user experience when your guest encounters a broken link? It’s unavoidable; broken links occur on the most well-known, most well-maintained sites on the web (heck, even Google gets 404s!). Broken links crouch in the shadows, waiting for the most opportune moment to sneak up on an unsuspecting visitor and BAM! 404 NOT FOUND!! That’s why keeping an eye on them should be part of your regular website maintenance routine.
How Does This Happen?
- Websites move.
- Sites get restructured and/or pages get deleted.
- Sometimes commenters even mistype their own URL in the comments!
Why Should I Care?
- Usability: You might not think it’s a big deal if you’re harboring a broken link or two on your lesser-traveled posts or pages, and maybe it’s not. But broken internal links are not that uncommon and a broken link in your main navigation can be disastrous (if they can’t get there from the main menu, how will they ever get there?). Perhaps even worse yet – those broken social media links, right when they were all good & ready to like your Facebook page! Less-than-stellar usability can result in missed opportunities.
- User Experience: Plain and simple, broken links frustrate people. When you click on something, it should GO somewhere, dangit. Specifically, it should go somewhere besides a 404 error page. The more frustrated they become, the less time they’ll bother to spend on your site. Their frustration will not reflect well on you or your products/services and they may just up and leave altogether. There go those missed opportunities again!
- SEO: Although Google has come right out and said that broken links alone do not hurt you or count against you in their search results, they also admit there are other reasons why you might want to address them. After all, why would they provide a 404 report as part of their Google Webmaster Tools suite if they didn’t think it was important to attend to them? What’s more, if broken links add up to poor user experience, search engines can pick up on that, too. They’re looking to send their users to quality sites, so ultimately (though perhaps not directly), the broken links can negatively affect your SEO.
How Do I Fix It?
- Make it a habit to manually check new links whenever you add them to a page or post.
- Visit this free online broken link checker. Enter your URL & the CAPTCHA and give it a whirl! The checker will display all the broken links it found on your site and which page/post it found them on.
- If you’re migrating pages from an old website or changing your WordPress directory, you might wanna check out this plugin.
So there you go. If you want to optimize your site’s usability, maximize your users’ experience and grab a few SEO ‘brownie points’ along the way, make sure you keep your broken links in check. Alternatively, you could partner with someone who’s got your back!
So did you visit the broken link checker and run your website through their online tool? What did you discover? Did you have more or fewer broken links that you expected?
Please share your experience and findings in the comments below. I always look forward to hearing from my readers!
Award-winning web professional Bonny Clayton, aka Your Web Chick, is a web designer, social media mechanic and email marketing technician.
A Tech Geek with a Creative Streak℠, she helps small business owners and entrepreneurs everywhere establish and maintain their online presence. She is committed to serving them according to their needs, whether that means “giving them a fish” or “teaching them to fish”.