Finding Broken Links and Redirects – The Easy Way
Imagine this scenario: You’re reviewing the most popular articles on your site, you click on the call-to-action (CTA) only to discover that it comes up with a 404 error. “How is this possible?” you ask yourself. Then you remember changing the target URL a few months back. However, you forgot to update the link in the CTA and now it’s a broken link. Thoughts flood your mind: “How many sales did I miss out on?” “How many more broken links are in my site?”
There is no reason to panic. Although broken links are one of the 6 notable web mistakes, you can easily fix this situation. In addition to fixing broken links, it is also important to fix the redirects and any other links that don’t come back with a 200. There are a couple reasons:
- User Experience: It’s only right to optimize your site for visitors. They deserve the best experience when visiting your site. After all, there are other sites out there, so make yours stand out in more ways than one by not having errors.
- Page Speed: Think of it like you walking to one side of the house looking for your car keys only to remember at the last minute that they’re upstairs. This is an unnecessary detour, much like when the server has to go looking for pages and links. With good web user experience you don’t want to keep your site visitors waiting. Also, keep in mind that page speed is a ranking signal. The longer pages take to load, then Google will correspondingly rank them as less relevant.
In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to find broken links and redirects using Screaming Frog. You can try out their free version, but I recommend comparing it to the pro version. The free version includes features such as 500 URL limit, limited custom crawl configurations (if you only want to crawl one page instead of the whole site), and the ability to save crawls, among others.
Getting Acquainted With The Tool
Screaming Frog is awesome in its functionality, but you may not find it very intuitive when you start using it. For the more advanced features, there’s plenty of documentation to help with whatever you want to do. For now, let’s focus on the task at hand.
At the top is the URL entry bar. You can check URLs at the site level or page level, and you can configure the depth of your search.
Below that are tabs that allow you to segment your crawl by any parameters you choose. To the right is something similar, but in tree form. Below the tabs are where the URLs will be gathered. Lastly, below that is a section where your URL information will be displayed when it’s selected above. You have a few different tabs that allow you to see the information in more easily digestible rations, such as URL Info, Inlinks, and Outlinks, among others.
Configuring Screaming Frog
The default settings are just fine if you want to essentially crawl everything that there is to crawl, however, you may want to limit your crawl, depending on what you’re looking for.
First, click Configuration, then click Spider. This will bring up the Spider Configuration menu. After clicking it, you’ll be brought to this tab:
For the sake of this article, I limited my search depth to one page only. All you need to do is click the Limit Search Depth box, then type in 1 if you’re looking to only crawl that page. Keep it unchecked if you want to scan the entire site.
Scanning For Broken Links and Redirects
Now comes the fun part.
All you need to do is type your desired URL into the URL bar and click Start. Depending on the depth of your scan, how large the site is, and other factors, there’s no average time that it’ll take. So if you’ve set a scan for your entire ten-year old blog, go prepare a cup of coffee – it’ll be a while.
If you want to see all redirects, click the box next to Filter, and choose the 3XX status code option. Otherwise, if you want to save that for after you export, simply leave it at All.
Choose any link, and click the InLinks tab at the bottom. In the From column, you’ll find the page on the site that came up with having the broken or redirecting link. In the To column, you’ll find the broken or redirecting link in question. As an added treat, there’s an Anchor Text column, so you don’t have to go searching for that link in the source code – simply find the link by searching by anchor text and fix the link.
Rinse and repeat until you’ve fixed all links.
If you’ve got more than a couple links that aren’t coming back 200, then you may want to export your project into a spreadsheet so you can chip away at it little by little.
All you need to do is click Bulk Export at the top, and choose All Inlinks. You’ll then be able to export as a csv file that allows you to edit and sort the results as you please.
It may be extremely time consuming to find all the links that need fixing on your site, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Follow these steps and you can always be on top of your link status. You can check out our friends at Donovic Media for more SEO tips like these. And contact Executionists for a free SEO review and online marketing services.