What to Do With the Broken Backlinks? Best Backlink Checkers

February 2, 2021
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Imagine that a webmaster wrote an article and linked it to Wikipedia. The page was deleted. The webmaster does not know about it. The link on their site is still there, but now it leads to a 404 page. Or imagine a webmaster who had moved a product to a new category but forgot to redirect from old URLs. Now, old product links lead to non-existent pages. Such links that lead to nowhere are called broken links. They can be internal – leading to your site’s pages or external that lead to a third-party project’s pages.

Broken Backlinks

Broken links are hyperlinks that lead to non-existent files or resource pages.

vPages give a 404 Not Found response code to the server, which means that the server itself is found, but the document at this address does not exist. The file name in the code and on the server does not match. For example, a file on the server was deleted or moved, and now it is available at a new address.

If the site is working properly and the system functions well, then the “200 OK” encoding is passed. It is not visible to users. In other cases, the server issues an “Error 404”.

Important! It is highly desirable that website users should not encounter non-existent components.

If there are a lot of such links on the site, it becomes interesting if this can negatively affect SEO and site positions. Let’s figure it out.

Why are Broken Backlinks Harmful to Your Site?

There are numerous direct and indirect reasons to reduce or eliminate broken backlinks. In general, broken links harm SEO by driving away visitors, worsening behavioral factors, and increasing bounce rates. The user hoped to get more information, but the link was an error – the expectations were not met. If they encounter a page with a 404 error, they are very likely to completely close the tab with the site and go to the competitors.

Broken Backlinks

Such links are involved in internal linking and violate link weight distribution, pulling over some of the donor’s authority.

Broken links are often credited with unnecessary negativity. There is information in articles about crawling that broken links negatively affect the crawling budget – the resources that the search engine allocates for site crawling. They write that the crawler will spend limits on useless bypassing broken links and, because of this, will ignore important pages. 

To better understand pages like “error 404, not found”, you should familiarize yourself with the reasons why they appear. The main ones are:

  • incorrect server operation;
  • the result of deleting a document from a web resource;
  • error/change in URL.

Read more about the causes of broken links

Removing Old Unnecessary Pages and Files

Within the site, there is a connection between all pages. If at least one of the pages is deleted, then the links that led to it automatically become inoperative. That is why it makes sense to automatically check the site for broken links to exclude such situations.

Do not forget that many pages on the site are created temporarily. When their relevance passes, they are deleted. Therefore, links to them should also be cleaned up.

External broken links can appear when the site is completely closed (for example, the company that owned it was closed). The domain was not upgraded, and the site automatically stopped working.

Important! Before deleting any page on the site, take measures to add a 301 redirect from the deleted page to the most relevant one.

Changes in the site structure

When the admin creates new subsections, existing web pages can be pulled to them. Re-linking can cause non-functional hyperlinks to appear. Therefore, we recommend that you regularly check the performance of all pages of the site.


Previously, the product was in the category “toys” and had a specific URL.

Later, the product was moved to another category, “toys for girls,” and received a different URL.

Important! Eliminating broken links is a particularly important part of promoting an online store. 

Errors of the webmaster / programmer / content manager

People tend to make mistakes sometimes. Therefore, programmers, content specialists, or webmasters can also make mistakes in the web addresses on which links are placed. For this, it is enough to confuse with just one minor symbol. As a result, the link will immediately lead to a non-functioning page. To eliminate the possibility of errors in the future, you need to check each link immediately after creating the page.

How to Detect Broken Links? Popular Services for Checking

Checking for broken links should become a regular and good tradition. The frequency of checks depends on the volume of traffic and the type of resource (content site, business card site, online store, news site).

Interesting! If the site is updated rarely, then such a check can be done every few months. A news site can be checked for broken links once a week. That is, the frequency of checks directly depends on the activity of adding or removing content on the site.

There are special tools that help you quickly and efficiently fix URL errors. All broken links found should be corrected or removed immediately.

Desktop Programs for Checking Broken Links

The search for broken links on the site can be carried out using desktop tool programs. The only caveat is that these programs work only on the desktop and require installation. Let’s take a look at a few popular tools:


Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool. One of the advantages of the program is the presence of a large number of various settings and its simplicity of use. Both paid and free versions are available. The latter has a number of restrictions in its settings. For example, it can scan up to 500 URL addresses.

Screaming Frog SEO Spider will not check a millionaire site, but it is quite possible to search for broken links with its help on a small website. Screaming Frog SEO Spider is suitable for Mac OS, Windows, and Linux operating systems.

Netpeak Spider. It is another great program that allows you to check your site for broken links. The key advantages of this tool are the availability of various parameters and ease of use. The program is designed for Windows and Mac OS operating systems, designed to scan and analyze a website. It is a paid tool, but there is a trial in 14 days.

Xenu’s Link Sleuth. One of the main advantages of Xenu Links is the free use of the program. Among the shortcomings, this program is not the most convenient to use. Xenu’s Link Sleuth can slow down your site with frequent requests. Scanning a large web resource can take several hours or freeze halfway. Also, the program works only under Windows. The Xenu’s Link Sleuth utility was originally created to find broken links on sites. Over time, the tool has expanded its functionality and now performs other tasks besides finding links.

Important! For beginners, we recommend starting work with Xenu’s Link Sleuth program.

Online Services for Tracking Broken URLs

Let’s take a look at online programs for detecting errors in links and consider their pros and cons.

Google webmaster

Google Webmaster is a free online tool, and this definitely its main advantage. It provides data for all links where any type of an error had been detected.

For a list of errors, go to the “Scan” -> “Scan Errors” -> “Report”

Find Broken Links with Plugins

To find broken links, you can also use special plugins. For example, Broken Link Checker for WordPress or Check My Links for Google Chrome is suitable for these purposes.

If the site is operating on WordPress, we recommend the Broken Link Checker plugin. It provides a check for broken links, can start re-checking after a certain time and has flexible settings.

But the most important thing is that with the help of this plugin, you can not only check for broken links on the site but also delete the list of found hyperlinks with a couple of clicks.

There is also an analog of this plugin – Check My Links for Google Chrome. This is a link checking tool that scans a website page for broken links. First of all, it is an extension built for developers, content editors, and web designers.

Check My Links as a result of checking web pages shows which links are valid and which need to be removed or corrected. After installing the extension, an icon will appear in the browser in the upper right corner. Go to the required page, where you will analyze links and click on the icon. The extension will check links, display a counter, and color the links. Links leading to 404 pages will be red.

Dealing with Broken Links and Non-Existent Pages

So, with the help of the services, you found links that lead to inaccessible pages. Options for further actions depend on the link itself.

External broken link

A link from your site leads to a partner site, but the final page doesn’t work. Find such links and remove them if the content does not suffer, or replace them with actual ones. If this is a commercial link that cannot be removed and replaced, contact the partner and tell them about the problem with their resource.

By the way, one of the methods of obtaining backlinks is based on the search for links to 404 pages on other people’s sites. Webmasters track traffic articles on their topic, find links in the material that lead to 404, and write their posts on this topic. Then they write to the author of the blog and offer to replace the broken link with their material. Both sides win: the webmaster receives a link to his site, and the blog author closes the broken link with good material and does not send users to read a non-existent page.

By the way, if you still did not know simple and quick ways to get backlinks, take your time to read our guide about 10 Creative Ways to Get Backlinks.

Internal broken link

What to do with broken links inside your site? If you accidentally deleted the linked page, restore it. Replace the text’s broken link with the actual link to the page if there is a page with similar content at a new address. For example, if you moved a product to a different category with a change in URL, set up a 301 redirect. At the same time, remember that the abuse of internal redirects can lead to negative consequences for the site. So it’s better to provide users with relevant links without redirects.

What to Do with Inaccessible Pages

Even if you delete all links to non-existent pages, they will still appear. The user will make a mistake in the address, or there will be a technical failure or something else, so we recommend making the setting.

The error page should return a 404 (not available) or 410 (deleted) response code, but not 220 OK. The server sends a code 410 if the resource is deleted and unavailable, and the location of the copy is unknown. If the document can be restored, then it is better to send a 404.

The default 404 page prompts you to close the tab. Customize your 404 pages to return users to your site and direct them to landing pages. Place on it the navigation to the working sections of the site, a link to the main page, or something funny and interesting. This will bring users back to the site and leave a good impression of the company.

Final Word

In some cases, broken links can harm the site’s search engine promotion, so you need to search for and eliminate problem areas regularly. What is important to remember:

  • Many broken links negatively affect the credibility of the site among users and search engines and can also lead to loss of traffic and reduce link mass.
  • There are many available ways to find bad backlinks – you shouldn’t neglect them and preferably use them together.
  • The best way to deal with broken links is to replace them with relevant and useful links to users.

Use these simple steps as the basic guide and the advised backlink checker tools. You will significantly improve the credibility and trust of your resources on both technical and practical levels.

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