It’s safe to say that most of us have encountered a broken link. That familiar “Oops! This page can’t be found” notice is something that’s all too common when browsing online. It can be frustrating, as you followed a link wanting to view that page, right?
Broken links might be common, but that doesn’t make them any less annoying as a customer. If you want to avoid your customers feeling the same, you need to stay on top of your broken link management.
Today in SEO 101, let’s look at what broken links, how they happen, and how to fix them.
What are broken links?
Broken links happen when a user follows a URL, and is met with an error page instead of the content they expected. These are also known as 404 errors, dead links, or link rot. These can result from internal or external links. An example of a broken internal link might be if you link to a resource from your product page that’s hosted elsewhere on your site, but the link is broken. An example of a broken external link would be if another site links to a page on your site, but when clicked leads to a 404 error page.
There are a few different types of broken link:
- 404 page not found - this is likely the most common for ecommerce sites. The page no longer exists at that URL.
- 404 Bad request - The server doesn’t understand the URL requested, can be due to a misspelling.
- Timeout - The link request has timed out during the link check.
- Bad URL - The URL has been put together wrong, often this will be extra slashes or something else causing the link to be read wrong.
- Bad Host - The server with that name is unreachable.
However, there are also a number of reasons why 404 errors or broken links can happen, which are important for understanding their importance and how they affect your store’s SEO:
The URL was mistyped - This is easy enough to do, in a number of scenarios. For example, a customer might have mistyped something, or they’ve followed a link from another website where something was misspelled.
A page has been updated without a proper redirect - This can happen if for example, you’ve changed the product name so updated the URL without a correct redirect.
Links or resources have been removed or deleted - If a page or resource (e.g. a PDF) has been removed entirely, and there hasn’t been a redirect set up.
The domain has been moved without a proper redirect - This can happen during the migration process with older links that may be floating around from before a migration.
It’s important to have an understanding of different types of broken links and the reasons why they happen. This can help you better manage them in relation to your store, and if there are any recurring issues you can more quickly figure out how to solve them.
Are 404 errors bad for your store’s SEO?
The simple answer is that 404’s result in a poor user experience, and they don’t satisfy search intent. That in turn can be bad for your store’s SEO. If a user clicks on a link in search, it’s because they feel the content on that page may have what they’re looking for. If they’re instead met with an error page, then of course that won’t satisfy their query. A broken link is a dead end - the customer won’t know where to go instead on your site, so they may just leave. This increases bounce rates, and loses a customer.
If your site has a couple of broken links, it won’t affect your store’s overall SEO, but it will impact the ranking for those pages. However, if there are lots of broken links on your site then this can start to impact your store’s SEO as it could indicate to Google that it’s not being maintained properly. After all, lots of broken links means lots of potentially disappointed users leaving with a poor experience. It also wastes crawl budget - instead of search engine bots crawling important content, they’re wasting time on irrelevant pages that won’t rank.
How to easily fix broken links on Shopify
There are a number of different ways to find and fix broken links using tools such as Google Search Console then manually fixing those links in Shopify Admin. However, there is an even easier way that will also automatically detect broken links for you.
SEO Manager is available in the Shopify App Store, and one of its many handy features is 404 error notifications and repair tools. The app will automatically scan your site for broken links regularly, meaning you can catch and repair them before they start to have any impact on ranking or SEO.
When it comes to repairing links, the app has a broken link dashboard which will summarize the number of active broken links, redirects, and broken links over time.
From this dashboard, you’ll be able to quickly edit broken links and add the link it should redirect to. SEO Manager will then set up the redirect for you. By selecting multiple links at once, you can export these as a CSV file, add the correct links to the file, then reupload.
This way, you can manage broken links in bulk, which is especially useful if you have a large store or multiple historical links to fix. You can then view any redirects you have in place, if you want to review or edit those.
You can also turn on broken link notifications, which means SEO Manager will send you email alerts when it discovers a 404 error.
This tool makes quick work of managing and repairing broken links, saving your team time and ensuring your site meets the expectations of every visitor who comes to you from search.
A great user experience makes for a happy potential customer. By finding and repairing broken links as they appear, you can maintain a store that’s always ready for customers and gives them a satisfying experience. You’ll also be rewarded with a healthier site that search engines will love to rank.