Dangers of Broken Backlinks and How to Fix Them

Discover the risks of broken backlinks for your site's SEO. Learn how to find and fix them to boost your rankings.

Dangers of Broken Backlinks and How to Fix Them
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Broken backlinks are a common problem that can have serious consequences for your website's SEO and user experience.
A broken backlink is a link from another website to your site that no longer works, usually because the page it points to has been deleted, moved, or had its URL changed.
When users click on a broken backlink, they get an error message like "404 Page Not Found" instead of the content they were expecting.
Broken backlinks are bad for several reasons:

Poor User Experience

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When visitors encounter broken links, it creates a frustrating experience.
They may associate your brand with the annoyance of hitting a dead end, damaging their perception of your site's quality and credibility.
Broken links cause users to leave your site quickly, increasing bounce rates which can hurt your search rankings.
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Backlinks from other sites pass valuable "link juice" that helps your pages rank higher in search results.
But broken backlinks provide no SEO benefit - that link equity goes to waste.
You worked hard to earn those links, but if they break, you lose the authority they once provided.

Wasted Crawl Budget

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Search engine bots have a limited amount of time and resources to crawl your site.
Broken links consume this crawl budget without providing any value.
Too many broken links may cause search engines to view your site as poorly maintained or lower quality.
Finding and fixing broken backlinks should be a regular part of your SEO maintenance routine.
Here are some ways to identify them:

Google Search Console

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Check the "Coverage" report in Google Search Console. You can find this in the SettingsCrawl StatsOpen Report.
You will see a list of 404 pages that Google has crawled on your site:
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It will show you any broken pages that Google has discovered when crawling your site.
However, this only finds broken internal links, not external backlinks.
SEO tools like Ahrefs, Semrush, and Majestic can scan your site's backlink profile and identify broken links pointing to your domain. Look for their "Broken Backlinks" reports:
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In SEMrush, go to Backlink Analytics, enter your domain, open the Indexed Pages tab and toggle the “Broken Pages” checkbox to see a list of broken pages sorted by the amount of backlinks they received.
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For example, in Ahrefs, go to Site Explorer, enter your domain, and check the "Broken Backlinks" report under "Backlink Profile". This will show all the referring pages linking to 404 errors on your site.
You can also use these tools to find competitors' broken pages that have lots of links.
These present opportunities to create similar content and reach out to those linking sites to point their links to you instead - a tactic called "broken link building".

Crawling Tools

Website crawlers like Screaming Frog and Sitebulb can scan your site and generate reports showing broken outgoing links, including both internal and external URLs. Some of these tools have free versions for smaller sites.
Once you've identified pages with broken backlinks, here are the steps to take to remedy the situation:

1. Restore or Replace the Content

The best solution for SEO is to put content back at the URL that has incoming links.
You can either:
  • Restore the original page if you still have it
  • Create a new, similar page to replace the old one
  • Improve and republish the old content at the same URL
This preserves the link equity and user experience as intended by the linking sites.

2. Set Up 301 Redirects

If you can't restore the exact page, the next best option is to redirect the old URL to a relevant new page using a 301 permanent redirect. This passes link authority to the new page.
Avoid redirecting to irrelevant pages or your homepage, as this provides a poor user experience. Only use a homepage redirect as a last resort.

3. Reach Out to Linking Websites

For high-value links, it's worth contacting the linking site owners directly to ask them to update their link to the correct URL
Politely explain the issue and provide them the new link. Emphasize how fixing it helps their users and their own site's SEO too.
As a last resort, if the above methods aren't feasible, you can simply remove the broken links from your site.
This is the easiest approach but means losing potential link equity and traffic. Save this for low-value links not worth the effort to fix.
Proactively avoiding broken links is better than fixing them later. Here are some best practices:
  • When deleting or moving pages, always set up 301 redirects to relevant new URLs
  • Use descriptive, user-friendly URL slugs that are less likely to need changing
  • Regularly audit your link profile to catch broken links early
  • Monitor your backlinks with tools like Links Report to get alerted to new broken links
  • Carefully vet pages you link out to and avoid linking to unstable sites
By making broken link checking part of your regular SEO hygiene, you can provide a better user experience, preserve your hard-earned link authority, and show search engines that your site is well-maintained and worthy of high rankings.
Prioritizing the user is always a winning SEO strategy.

Written by

Ilias Ism

Ilias Ism is the founder & CEO of Links Report