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Mastering Internal Link Audits: Your SEO Handbook

7 min read

Broken internal links within your website can have detrimental effects on both user experience and search engine visibility.

However, amidst the extensive array of technical SEO enhancements available, identifying and repairing broken links can sometimes be overlooked. This oversight is widespread when dealing with websites encompassing thousands of webpages. Thankfully, conducting routine audits and utilizing a wide range of SEO tools can render the issue of broken links easily manageable, even without requiring extensive technical knowledge.

This guide provides an overview of the process of addressing broken internal links on your website.

 

What Are Broken Internal Links?

 

As the name suggests, broken internal links direct users to non-existent pages within your website.

Internal links become broken when they lead to pages that generate errors, no longer exist, or cannot be located.

Causes of Broken Links

Broken links can arise due to various reasons. Depending on the number of individuals involved in managing your website and the website’s size, these errors can quickly be noticed.

Here are the primary causes of broken links that you should be aware of:

  1. Deletion or removal of the linked page from the website.
  2. Typographical errors in the link’s URL.
  3. Modifications were made to the page’s URL without updating the redirect.
  4. Changes in page structure or alterations to naming conventions during a site migration.

It’s crucial to exercise extra vigilance with your links if you have plans for a site migration shortly. A comprehensive 301 redirect map can prevent the loss of search equity and save you considerable time by averting widespread broken links across the site.

 

The Significance of Repairing Broken Internal Links

 

SEO Implications

Broken internal links can have significant SEO implications. Primarily, search engines like Google employ internal links with robust anchor text as a ranking signal.

When broken links are present, they can hinder the proper indexing of a website by search engines. Pages that lack correct internal linking or are inaccessible may not be indexed at all, resulting in missed opportunities for search visibility.

Moreover, a well-established internal linking structure distributes link equity across a website. Broken links disrupt this flow, potentially reducing the value of individual pages or even the entire domain.

User Experience (UX)

Ultimately, the primary objective of any website is to enhance the user’s experience. Regardless of your role in marketing or web development, ensuring smooth and gratifying navigation for website visitors should be a shared goal.

Facing a broken link or a 404 error can swiftly lead to user frustration, potentially discouraging them from further exploring your website. Repeated encounters with broken links can erode a user’s trust in your site.

Both users and search engines may perceive a website filled with broken links as neglected or outdated, raising doubts about the quality and legitimacy of its content. Over time, this distrust can result in decreased repeat visits, reduced long-term on-page engagement, and even impact the site’s ability to rank effectively.

While broken internal links might appear as minor oversights, their far-reaching implications on user experience and SEO can detrimentally affect a website’s overall health and performance. Fortunately, there are various solutions available to identify and rectify these disruptive errors.

 

How to Detect Broken Internal Links

 

The initial step in addressing broken internal links involves identifying their presence on your website.

Manual Inspection

Manual checking entails systematically examining each webpage to determine whether any internal links are leading to incorrect destinations. Although this method is comprehensive, it can be extremely time-consuming and impractical, particularly for large enterprise websites containing thousands or even tens of thousands of pages.

Due to these limitations, most SEO professionals opt for specialized tools designed to tackle the issue of broken links on a larger scale.

Leveraging Online Tools

Google provides various tools to help you discover and address incorrect links and 404 pages within your domain.

  1. Google Chrome Inspection Feature: Use the Inspection feature in Google Chrome by right-clicking on a webpage and selecting “Inspect” from the dropdown menu. The Console tab will display any 404 errors, indicating broken internal links.
  2. Google Search Console: Visit Google Search Console to identify all 404 error pages within your domain property. The presence of these errors suggests malfunctioning internal links on your website.
  3. Google Analytics (GA4): GA4 automatically tracks 404 error responses, and this data can be accessed in the Pages and Screens report section. You can search for the error page directly.

In addition to Google’s tools, several popular SEO tools can detect and resolve issues like broken links. Here are a few examples:

  • Screaming Frog: This desktop website crawler, primarily designed for SEO professionals, can swiftly scan a website and identify broken links. During the crawl, use the Response Code option to pinpoint 404 pages and filter for inlinks to isolate internal issues.
  • Ahrefs: A backlink database tool, Ahrefs offers a Site Audit feature that thoroughly examines a website, highlighting various issues, including broken internal links. The detailed report categorizes links based on their HTTP status codes, making it easier to locate and rectify 404 errors.
  • Semrush: Semrush’s Site Audit tool is designed to uncover on-site issues that may impact a website’s performance. This tool also detects broken internal links. After running an audit, navigate to the Issues tab to view the links that require immediate attention.

Incorporating these tools into your SEO toolkit can streamline identifying broken links, ensuring your website remains free from disruptions caused by broken internal links.

CMS-Specific Solutions

Finding a solution for broken links may not require searching beyond your current setup. Many popular content management systems, as WordPress and Drupal, offer integrated or supported plugins and modules designed to detect and address problematic links.

These plugins seamlessly integrate with the CMS’s core functionality and are user-friendly, eliminating the need for advanced development skills to manage your website’s SEO health.

 

Steps to Fix Broken Internal Links

 

One of the most effective methods to rectify broken internal links while preserving SEO benefits is to implement 301 redirects. A 301 redirect informs web browsers and search engines that a page has permanently relocated to a new location. Importantly, this type of redirect maintains the transfer of PageRank to the redirected page.

Utilize 301 redirects when a page on your website has been permanently moved or deleted, but you can redirect users to a similar page.

For instance, if you have merged an “About Us” and a “Meet the Team” page into a single URL, you can redirect all previous links to these individual pages to the new combined webpage, ensuring that users still access the expected content when clicking the link.

It is crucial to refrain from implementing a 301 redirect to an irrelevant or unrelated page, as this can negatively affect user experience and subsequent site rankings.

Content management systems like WordPress provide redirection plugins that simplify and automate this process.

Removing or Replacing Links

There are instances where a 301 redirect may be more extensive than necessary, mainly when a simple typo is the root cause of a broken link, rendering a redirect inapplicable.

In such cases, after identifying broken links through one of the previously mentioned tools or methods and locating the anchor point for the link on your site, replace the old URL with the correct or updated URL. Verify the updated link to ensure it redirects users to the right destination.

If the linked content is outdated, irrelevant, or no longer in existence, it’s typically best to either remove the link entirely or replace it with a more pertinent resource.

For links leading to outdated content, assess whether a newer version or a more recent resource on your site is available. Subsequently, replace the old link with the new resource.

If no suitable replacement is accessible, consider linking to a credible and value-adding external resource that is relevant. If neither of these options is feasible, eliminate the link to uphold content integrity.

Preventing Future Broken Links

To proactively prevent the accumulation of broken links on your site, establish a routine of conducting regular link audits. This practice will help you catch and address broken links before they become a significant issue.

You can use tools as Screaming Frog or CMS-specific solutions to set up automated scans of your site at specified intervals. This approach ensures that broken links are promptly detected and rectified in real time.

Training and Guidelines

It’s undeniable that, regardless of the website’s size, a portion of broken links can be attributed to human error. These errors may occur during the creation or updating of content. Therefore, it’s crucial to provide training and guidelines to content creators and those responsible for managing your website’s backend. This training should put efforts on the importance of proper internal linking.

As an SEO professional, consider offering best practices for content upload, including the following key aspects:

  1. Instructions on how to create and repair links tailored to the CMS used by the site.
  2. Emphasizing the need to double-check URLs for accuracy.
  3. Highlighting the importance of updating links when pages are moved or deleted.

By instilling this awareness and providing guidance, many potential broken link issues can be proactively addressed, ensuring a seamless user experience and enhanced SEO performance.

 

Proactively Managing Broken Links on Your Website

 

Although individual broken links may appear inconsequential, their cumulative impact can significantly harm your user experience, search engine ranking, and overall SEO health.

By adhering to the guidelines provided here, you can efficiently identify broken links and, more importantly, implement preventive measures to mitigate the future impact of broken links on your website.

If you’re still perplexing and challenging, consider exploring our monthly SEO packages and allowing our experts to assist you.

Shilpi Mathur
[email protected]