Web Marketing: How to Deal with Broken Links

By John Arnold, Michael Becker, Marty Dickinson, Ian Lurie, Elizabeth Marsten

Broken links stop search engines in their tracks. As a web marketer, dealing with these broken links may help ensure the success of your site. If a search engine reaches a broken link, it can’t find the page you intended (obviously) — but it might also give up on your website or reduce the relevance of your site. So you need to find those busted links and fix’em.

Find broken links

You can find broken links by using Xenu (on the PC) or Integrity (on the Mac).

After you run the tools, put your results in a list. Then, using your list as a guide, find all the broken links that you can fix and correct errors so that each link is once again functional.

Use a 301 redirect

Sometimes, though, a link is broken because it points to a page that is no longer there. In that case, you can use a 301 redirect.

301 — the code the server sends to visiting browsers and search engine crawlers — means “This page isn’t here anymore — go to this other page, instead.” When a search engine sees that, it follows the redirect, applies all the link relevance of the old page to the new page, and replaces the old page with the new one.

It’s very important that you use a 301 — not a 302 — redirect. A 302 redirect says, “This page isn’t here, but it’ll be back soon.” If a search engine sees that, it doesn’t pass any link relevance and doesn’t replace the old page with the new one.

You can set up a 301 redirect on either of the most popular web servers out there — Internet Information Server (IIS; Microsoft) or Apache. If you don’t know how to do this, talk to your webmaster for instructions. This isn’t something you can do yourself if you aren’t familiar with these web servers.