Picture this: you’re excitedly exploring a website, eager to uncover valuable information. With a click, disappointment sets in – “Error 404: Page Not Found.” Broken links, like little potholes on the information superhighway, disrupt the user journey and leave a negative impression of your website. What’s more, these seemingly minor glitches silently damage your website’s search engine rankings.

A broken link occurs when a hyperlink on your website points to a page or resource that no longer exists. It could be due to a mistyped URL, a deleted page, a website migration gone wrong, or even a server issue on the target website. No matter the cause, broken links create a frustrating experience for visitors and signal to search engines that your website might need to be better maintained. This can lead to lost “link juice” (the valuable authority passed between websites) and hinder your website’s ability to climb the search rankings.

The reality is that as websites naturally evolve and change over time, broken links are virtually unavoidable. That’s why proactive website maintenance and regular broken link checks are crucial. Think of it as spring cleaning for your website’s health!

Luckily, finding and fixing these pesky broken links can be a manageable task. With the right tools and strategies, you can keep your website running smoothly and safeguard your search engine reputation.

Method 1: Web-Based SEO Audit Tools

When it comes to identifying broken links with precision, web-based SEO audit tools are your best friends. These powerful platforms, such as Ahrefs, SEMrush, and others, meticulously crawl your website, analyze its internal and external links, and produce detailed reports highlighting any cracks in your link structure.

Let’s walk through how to use these tools to hunt down broken links:

Setting Up an Audit

Start by creating a project within your chosen SEO tool and entering your website’s domain name. The tool will then begin crawling your website, mimicking how search engines explore it. Depending on the size of your site, the crawling process can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.

Broken Link Reports

Once the crawl is complete, navigate to the sections within the tool dedicated to link analysis. Look for reports labeled as “Broken Links,” “Link Errors,” or similar. These reports will present you with a list of URLs that return errors, such as the dreaded 404 codes.

Pinpointing the Problem

SEO tools provide valuable information beyond just the broken URLs. They often display:

  • Source Page: The page on your website where the broken link exists
  • Target URL: The intended destination that’s no longer accessible
  • Anchor Text: The clickable text used for the broken link
  • HTTP Status Code: The specific error code (e.g., 404, 410, server errors)

Prioritizing Fixes: Depending on the number of broken links, it’s helpful to prioritize. Focus on fixing links on your most popular pages, links pointing to high-value content, and external links to reputable websites (since these contribute to your own site’s perceived credibility).

Method 2: Google Search Console 

Google Search Console is a treasure trove of free insights directly from the source – Google itself. This invaluable tool provides a detailed look at how Google sees your website, including how it interacts with your links. Let’s harness its power to uncover broken links:

Accessing the Coverage Report

If you still need to verify your website ownership with Google Search Console, it’s a quick process. Once verified, navigate to the “Coverage” report within the Search Console’s sidebar.

Filtering for Errors

The Coverage report presents a summary of crawled pages, along with various categories like “Valid,” “Warning,” and most importantly for our purposes, “Error.” Click on the “Error” tab to view a list of pages returning errors.

Identifying 404 Errors and More

Search Console will display specific 404 errors (pages not found) but can also reveal other link-related issues like server errors (usually in the 500s range) and redirect errors.

Understanding the Details

For each issue, the Search Console offers helpful information:

  • Affected URLs: The URLs on your website with broken links.
  • HTTP Response Code: Specific error codes to pinpoint the issue.
  • Crawl Date: When Google last encountered the broken link.
  • Referring Page: Where the broken link is located on your site.

Just like with web-based SEO tools, prioritize fixing broken links according to traffic potential and importance. Google Search Console gives you insights into which pages Google attempts to crawl most frequently. Often, these are your most popular pages, where fixing broken links will have the highest impact.

Method 3: Desktop Software 

Sometimes you need the power and flexibility of software installed directly on your computer. Desktop software designed for link analysis, such as the renowned Screaming Frog SEO Spider, provides granular control and deep customization options.

The Crawling Process

Similar to web-based tools, desktop software initiates a crawl of your website. With Screaming Frog, you can fine-tune settings such as:

  • Crawl Depth: Determine how many ‘levels’ deep the software follows links.
  • User-Agent: Simulate different browsers or search engine crawlers.
  • Following Specific Link Types: Focus on internal links, external links, images, etc.

In-Depth Reports

Once the crawl is complete, Screaming Frog generates intricate reports about your website’s link structure. Head to the “Response Codes” tab and filter by client errors (4XX codes) to isolate broken links. You can further sort and analyze links based on their status codes.

Pinpointing the Sources

Screaming Frog’s “Inlinks” tab is a goldmine! For each broken link identified, it shows you exactly which pages on your website contain the faulty link, making it remarkably easy to jump in and fix them.

When Desktop Software Shines

Let’s consider when desktop tools might be a better choice than web-based platforms:

  • Massive Websites: For extremely large websites with thousands of pages, desktop SEO crawlers may handle the scale more efficiently, especially if you have a powerful computer.
  • Advanced Technical Analysis: Do you need to analyze specific link types, simulate different crawlers, or customize rules extensively? Desktop software often provides a greater depth of control than web-based counterparts.
  • Offline Work: Planning to work on a project without a reliable internet connection? Desktop software can still function as long as you’ve performed a crawl beforehand.

Note: While Screaming Frog is a popular choice, it does have a free version with limited features. Exploring other desktop SEO tools may be worthwhile, depending on your specific needs.

Method 4: Online Broken Link Checker Tools 

Do you need a quick and simple way to scan a smaller website or a few specific pages for broken links? There’s an array of free online broken link checkers to the rescue! Popular options include Dead Link Checker, www.deadlinkchecker.com, and others.

How They Work

These tools generally have user-friendly interfaces. Simply paste in the URL of the webpage or website you want to analyze, and they’ll initiate a scan. Within minutes, you’ll receive a report listing any detected broken links.

Understanding the Limitations

It’s important to be aware of the constraints often associated with free online tools:

  • Crawl Depth: Most free checkers only scan a limited number of pages or levels within a website. Other methods are better suited for comprehensive analysis of larger sites.
  • Limited Features: You will have customization or in-depth reports that are different from those you’d get with web-based SEO tools or desktop software.

Use Cases for Online Checkers 

Despite their limitations, these tools can be helpful in certain scenarios:

  • Small Websites: If your website is relatively small, with only a handful of pages, a free online checker suffices for basic broken link detection.
  • Quick Spot Checks: Need to quickly verify whether a specific page or section of your site has broken links? An online tool can be a speedy solution.
  • Troubleshooting External Links: If you suspect a few external links (links to other websites) might be broken, an online checker can be a convenient way to confirm.

Word of Caution: Exercise caution when using broken link checkers on your website that require you to upload your website’s sitemap. Not all services adequately protect your privacy. Whenever possible, stick to tools that let you paste in individual URLs instead of sitemaps for greater control over what data you share.

Method 5: Manual Link Checks 

Sometimes, the most effective way to find those sneaky broken links is with good old-fashioned manual investigation. While automated tools are amazing, there are specific situations where a hands-on approach is essential:

Targeted Page Checks

Have you just made significant updates to a cornerstone piece of content or a high-traffic page? Manually clicking through links is the best way to ensure nothing was inadvertently broken during the editing process.

Checking Links Within Content

Broken links can lurk within the body of your blog posts, articles, or product descriptions. Automated tools might only sometimes catch these if the links are clearly formatted as hyperlinks. A careful review of your core content is a good practice.

Verifying Outbound Links

Links to external resources have a tendency to change or disappear over time. Periodically clicking through your outbound links, especially those to crucial resources or partners, helps maintain the value you provide to your visitors.

Helpful Browser Extensions

To streamline manual checks, consider installing a browser extension designed for broken link detection. These often add small icons to your browser’s toolbar, visually indicating broken links as you navigate the web. Some popular options include Check My Links and LinkMiner.

Prioritizing Your Top Pages

Due to the time-consuming nature of manual checks, it’s helpful to focus on your website’s most important pages. You can use Google Analytics to identify your pages with the highest traffic or those generating the most conversions. Keeping these pages free of broken links is essential to ensure a positive user experience where it matters most.

Fixing Broken Links

We’ve spent time identifying the broken links plaguing your website. Now, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and implement the fixes. Your main options boil down to redirects, updating links, or removing them altogether. Let’s explore each:

Redirect Options

The Importance of 301 Redirects

When a page has permanently moved or been deleted, the best way to preserve its hard-earned link equity is a 301 redirect. This redirect signals to search engines (and users) that the old URL has a new permanent home, seamlessly transferring value to the new destination.

How to Implement Redirects

The process of creating redirects varies depending on your website setup:

  • WordPress Redirection Plugins: Several WordPress plugins simplify the redirect process. Popular options include Redirection, Rank Math (which has a built-in redirection module), and others. These plugins often offer easy interfaces to specify the old URL and the new destination.
  • .htaccess Redirects: If you’re comfortable editing files on your server, you can create redirects directly in your website’s .htaccess file (for Apache servers). This requires some technical knowledge, and caution is advised since a mistake in the .htaccess file could break your website.
  • Server-Level Redirects: Your hosting provider may offer tools within their control panel to manage redirects.

While Elementor itself doesn’t directly create redirects, it often streamlines the process. Some WordPress redirection plugins integrate well with Elementor’s editor, making it easy to find and fix broken links within Elementor’s visual interface.

Furthermore, Elementor Hosting’s focus on speed and reliability indirectly minimizes the likelihood of broken links due to downtime or configuration issues, creating a more stable foundation for your website in the long run.

Updating Links

Fixing Simple Typos and Errors

Sometimes, a broken link is simply due to a mistyped URL. In these cases, the solution is as simple as editing the link within your content and correcting the mistake.

The Value of Prioritization

With several broken links to address, prioritize based on the importance of the target page. If the broken link points to a high-traffic page or a key resource on your own website, fixing that takes precedence.

Removing Links

Obsolete External Links

If an external link points to a resource that’s no longer available or relevant, there’s little value in keeping it. Removing it ensures visitors avoid a frustrating error page.

Low-Quality Links

Were you too enthusiastic with outbound links in the past, or were you linking to any remotely connected resource? Evaluate those links. If they don’t genuinely add value for your visitors or associate your website with low-quality content, it’s often better to simply remove them.

Internal Links to Removed Content

Suppose you’ve intentionally deleted a page on your own website, and there’s no suitable replacement to redirect to. In that case, the best option is to remove the internal link pointing to that deleted page.

A Word of Caution: While removing broken links can be the right call, do so judiciously. If you have a strong backlink profile, sometimes even a broken link to a highly relevant page on your site can still pass some value. Thoroughly evaluate and consider reaching out to the website owner of the broken backlink to see if they can update the link to the correct resource on your site before outright removing it.

In specific situations, if a page has been removed and there’s no suitable replacement, consider creating a custom 404 page that’s helpful and aligns with your brand voice. This can soften the blow of a broken link by providing guidance to visitors, suggesting alternative content, or even offering a search function.

Prevention and Best Practices

As with any aspect of maintaining a thriving website, preventing broken links from cropping up is far easier than fixing them after the fact. Here’s how to create a maintenance routine that minimizes broken links:

Proactive Website Maintenance

Scheduled Link Checks

The frequency of your broken link checks depends on how often you update your website. For active sites, consider monthly checks with your preferred tool (web-based SEO suite, desktop software, etc.). Less frequently updated sites might opt for quarterly or bi-annual scans.

Habits Before Publishing

Make a habit of double-checking links whenever you create new content or update existing pages. A few extra minutes of vigilance upfront saves headaches down the line!

The Power of Link Monitoring

Many SEO tools offer ongoing link monitoring. This feature alerts you of new broken links as they are detected, allowing you to fix them promptly.

WordPress-Specific Considerations

Plugin Conflicts

WordPress’s strength lies in its vast ecosystem of plugins, but sometimes plugins can clash, causing unintended consequences like broken links. Keep your plugin list lean, choose well-maintained plugins, and always test thoroughly after installing or updating plugins.

Theme Compatibility

Just like plugins, outdated or poorly coded themes can introduce link problems. Opt for reputable WordPress themes and keep them updated to maintain compatibility.


Broken links might seem like minor inconveniences, but their insidious impact on user experience and search engine rankings highlights their importance. By understanding the various ways broken links occur, employing effective detection methods, and implementing appropriate fixes, you maintain a healthy, well-connected website.

Remember, broken link maintenance is an ongoing process, not a one-time fix. Integrating regular link checks into your website’s routine is crucial. Tools like web-based SEO suites, desktop software, Google Search Console, and even careful manual checks act as your powerful allies in this endeavor.

By dedicating time and effort to combating broken links, you demonstrate a commitment to providing a seamless experience for your visitors. This translates into increased trust, better search engine visibility, and, ultimately, a thriving online presence.