Creating and maintaining a website or an online store is a laborious process and has many nuances and pitfalls. One of the most common problems is the appearance of an error such as “Page not found” or 404. Users can simply be annoyed by this problem, especially if the site is popular. Because of this, the traffic is lost, but for the owners, this is not good. The problem lies in the presence of a large number of so-called “broken links” that spoil the statistics.
Broken links can be found and fixed on your own using various methods manually, or using online services.
What are “broken links”?
In simple terms, broken links are those addresses that lead to non-existent pages on the site. This issue indicates to the user that a site page has either been removed or the URL has been changed but does not fix the menu navigation for visitors.
Broken links are divided into external and internal. Internal links are links that take the user to a page within the original site. While external, they redirect users to third-party web resources. As a result, a disappointing 404 server response code appears.
The 404 code is a typical service response to a user request with a non-existent page. Before opening the page, the browser makes a request to the server. It, in turn, checks the original document for functionality and opens a header containing the necessary information. During normal operation of the site, the code 200 OK is displayed. Its difference is that it is invisible to users, and the 404 error code is visible and leads some to a stupor.
Ideally, the site should have almost no broken links. Only then will traffic and visitors grow steadily, as will the reputation of the resource itself.
How do broken links appear on the site?
To better understand the specifics of the 404 page, you should study the main reasons for their occurrence.
- incorrect server operation;
- deleting a document from the portal;
- errors or changes in the original URL of the address.
To understand all the pitfalls of each reason, it is recommended to consider each of them separately.
Removing unnecessary pages
Experts know that there is navigation between pages on any site. This can be either a site menu, a site map, or content linking. Therefore, if you remove at least one of them, then all the pages that led to it or were associated with it will show users a broken link and a 404 server response.
Therefore, it is recommended to regularly monitor your site for the presence of such broken links.
Also, the pitfall lies in the fact that many pages are created for specific news, promotions, discounts, etc. After the relevance time expires, they are removed from the site or online store.
Broken links of the external type may appear if the site is closed or the page to which they lead is deleted. After the termination of the extension of the domain, the links also automatically stop working. Before deleting a page, it is important to carry out a set of procedures for adding a 301 redirect from the one that is being deleted to the most suitable and existing one.
Services for checking broken links on the site
General checking for broken links is a kind of tradition. The frequency of such events is influenced by factors such as the type of resource and the amount of traffic. There are many programs and services to check for broken links on the site.
With a rare update of the site, the check can be carried out quite often. If the site is a news format, then broken links are recommended to be checked more often – once a week or two. That is, the main factor in the frequency of checks is the speed of adding new content to pages.
There are several resources on the Internet that can help you find these kinds of broken links in a short time. After checking, in order not to forget, all found errors and links are recommended to be corrected or deleted.
Desktop programs for checking broken links:
- Screaming Frog
- Netpeak Spider
- Xenu’s Link Sleuth
Online broken link checker services:
- Google Search Console
Plugins for finding broken links:
- Broken Link Checker (for WordPress)
- Check My Links (Google Chrome browser)
Correct elimination of broken links
To remove non-existent links, you can use two main methods:
- fixing the current link to the correct one. The disadvantage of the method is that you will have to make changes manually;
- configuring a 301 redirect. In the process of changing the engine or URL, it is recommended to reconfigure the permanent 301-page redirect in the file.
It is worth remembering that an excessive number of redirects on the site can negatively affect its work. Still, if the resource is small, it’s not worth the risk. By spending more time, you can get a better result.
The problem of broken links is not the main pitfall in working with your own site. However, it is undesirable to ignore them, since such an approach can lead to service failures and loss of traffic.
And in order to maintain the loyalty of the audience, you can develop a creative design of the 404 page and fix the problem in a timely manner.