Dead Link

A dead link is a hyperlink on a website that points to a page that is no longer there. A dead link is also known as a broken link or a 404 error.

A dead link is a hyperlink on a website that points to a page that is no longer there. A dead link is also known as a broken link or a 404 error.

You may not be aware of how detrimental dead links are to your SEO efforts, but know this, dead links or broken links will seriously harm your website and your business reputation. 

Website users are notoriously fickle creatures. We all love it when a website works well. We don’t comment when the links are all intact and we can move through said website like a hot knife through butter, but as soon as we come up against something that throws a spanner into the works, that’s it, we are out of there. Because if a website owner can’t be bothered to maintain their links, what else are they letting slide in their business? 

But it isn’t just us humans who browse websites. Google’s autobots will be trying to crawl your website and if they come up against a dead end (aka a dead link), they won’t be able to index your site.

dead link

What is a dead link?

A dead link is a hyperlink on a website that points to a page that is no longer there. A dead link is also known as a broken link or a 404 error.

How do dead links affect SEO?

Quite simply, dead links negatively affect your search engine ranking position (SERP) because search engine autobots can’t follow deadlinks, making them dead ends. And Google only wants to provide its users with a user friendly experience, and so if you aren’t giving your users that winning UX, Google won’t reward you with a high rank. But it isn’t just your SERP that is affected by dead links. 

No, each broken link also negatively affects a user’s experience of your site, meaning increased levels of bouncing from your site and pushing users towards a competitor’s site where they can access the information they are seeking freely and unhindered. Resulting in fewer conversions for you and/or sales. 

What causes broken links?

Broken links are a result of:

  • A page being deleted (or the whole website has been taken down).
  • A page being moved.
  • The website owner has put in an incorrect URL for the hyperlink. 
  • Your computer has software in place that is blocking you from accessing the destination website. 
  • The hyperlink is to a site that doesn’t allow outside access.

How do I fix dead links?

Make sure you are routinely going through the links on your site and checking that each of them still works. There are a number of free tools you can use to help you identify dead links, such as Google Analytics or Google Search Console. 

Google Analytics

This great free tool will help you find dead and broken links. 

  • You need to be logged into your Google Analytics account first, so once in, set the evaluation period you want to check broken links for. The best thing you can do is check for broken links monthly, to stay on top of any errors. 
  • Next, go to the “Content” tab and select “Content by Title” on your dashboard. Load the page. 
  • At the bottom of the page create a filter that includes your website’s 404 error page in the box after “Filter Page Title” and “Containing”. 
  • Click on the “Go” button. Then select the page title to view all the details. This brings up how many times your 404 error page was visited and via what pages – meaning you can see instantly what page has dead links on. 

If you want to stay on top of the broken links, Google Analytics offers you the option to set up email alerts that will email you these findings on a regular basis. This is great if you’re prone to letting ‘checking for broken links’ slip down your to do list, as this way it brings any dead links right to the top of your email pile again. 

How do I find 404 errors on my website?

You can find 404 error pages on your website using Google Search Console (or if your site is a WordPress site you can install a plugin such as broken link checker, which will also help you find your 404 errors and broken links, though if you have a large site, this plugin can slow your server down.)

But Google Search Console will help you find all of your 404 error pages and it can also help you fix them too. 

  • Simply log into your Google Search Console account. 
  • Click on the “crawl errors” button under the diagnostics link. 
  • Click on the “not found” button at the top of the page and underneath you will be presented with a list of links with a 404 error. 
  • If you then click on any of the broken links, you will be given the option to manually edit the broken link, allowing Google’s autobots to once again crawl your website.