Let’s say you’re working on optimizing a client’s website, and during the process, you decide to run Xenu or Screaming Frog on the site, only to discover hundreds upon hundreds of broken internal links. This means that each of these broken links are giving a visitor a “404 – Page Not Found” message instead of the site page. Let’s not even get started on the broken external links that you would find using Webmaster Tools. That just compounds the list of links to work on.
There’s got to be a way to fix all of these lost, poor souls that are broken links. With all of the ways you could go fixing them, you want to know which links to work on first. Do you work on the external links first, and then deal with the internal links, or vice versa? Old to new?
1. Finding a 404 Page on the site
A way that you can begin dealing with your list of broken links is by using the “Page Title” Dimension in Google Analytics. The best way to do this is by typing a few characters randomly after the domain, such as www.example.com/fjfkdjai.
Then, magically, it will be sorted!
2. Checking the Analytics tracking code and seeing if it’s in the source code of the page
To do this, you can Right click, and then click on View Source and do a search for “UA-“ in the code.
3. Take note of the title tag of that page
In many case, when you get a 404, the title of the page won’t always give the normal “404 – Page Not Found” message. You may see “Page Not Found”, “We couldn’t find that page”, or “Oops, nothing here”.
At times, there are sites that will default to the hompage title when a 404 page is clicked on. This can be frustrating. Also, this means that you will be out of luck for this particular strategy for finding 404’s.
4. In Google Analytics: Checking site content and all pages
Simply put, all you need to do for this tip is go into Google Analytics, and then navigate to Content, then Site Content, and finally, go to All Pages, and voila!
5. The Primary Dimension: Page Title!
Again, all you have to do is make Page Title your Primary Dimension in Google Analytics.
6. A unique search
When you are searching for lost pages, or anything on a document for content for that matter, you want to search for something unique. In the case of our Page Not Found pages, search for 404. You’ll certainly find something you are looking for.
Even searching for Page Not Found would work. Use whatever comes up for you whenever you get a 404.
7. You can click on the page title to drill into the URLS!
And finally, your prioritized list of 404s that need your attention. All of them will be in descending priority order.
By fixing broken URLs in descending order of page views should, in theory, be able to take care of both User Experience and SEO power.
By fixing these broken links that are seen most frequently by people is a high priority because you don’t want the site to lose credibility for looking shoddy. It will also affect your site’s perception and conversion potential.
By restoring broken links, you will also restore the link equity to the site. The reason for this is that the most visited URLS are obviously visited by the highest amount of human traffic through the site. They are, the most internally and externally visited pages on the site. Hence, this is why they are being visited most often.