What is a broken backlink? Definition & examples (2024)

Learn the significance of backlinks, discover what a broken backlink is, and understand why fixing them is crucial for SEO success.

Written by
SEO.AI's Content Team
Calendar Icon - Dark X Webflow Template
April 8, 2024

What are backlinks?

A backlink is an incoming hyperlink from one web page to another website.It's essentially a reference comparable to a citation, which signals to search engines that other websites vouch for the content on your page.

Backlinks are crucial for SEO because they represent a "vote of confidence" from one site to another, indicating the linked content's value and credibility.

The quality and quantity of backlinks can significantly influence a website's ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs), making them a key factor in search engine optimization strategies.

What is a broken backlink?

A broken backlink is a hyperlink pointing to a webpage that is no longer accessible, often resulting in a 404 error and negatively affecting a website's SEO and user experience.

Study shows that almost 7 out of 10 links pointing to websites have errors. Addressing these broken backlinks is a significant opportunity for SEO improvement, as fixing them can restore link equity, enhance user experience, and potentially boost search engine rankings.

A broken backlink is essentially a link that leads nowhere; it's like a road sign pointing to a path that has been closed off. When you click on such a link, instead of reaching the intended content, you're met with an error message because the target page has been deleted, moved, or the URL has been changed without updating the link.

The different types of broken backlinks

Broken backlinks can occur in various forms, typically indicating that the content originally linked to is no longer accessible.

Here are the different types of page errors you might encounter:

  • HTTP 404 (Not Found Error): This is the most common type of broken backlink. It occurs when a page that was linked to is no longer available on the website, and no redirect has been set up.
  • HTTP 400 (Bad Request Error): This type of broken link happens when there is a bad request made due to a typing error in the URL or a problem with the link structure.
  • HTTP 410 (Gone Error): This indicates that the content on the linked page has been permanently removed from the website.
  • HTTP 500 (Internal Server Error): A broken backlink of this kind suggests a general server error that prevents the linked page from loading.
  • HTTP 503 (Service Unavailable Error): This occurs when the server is temporarily unable to handle the request, which could be due to maintenance or overload, potentially leading to a broken link if not resolved.
  • Timeout Errors: If a webpage takes too long to respond, the server may time out, resulting in a broken link.
  • DNS Errors: When the domain name cannot be resolved to an IP address, this can lead to a broken backlink.
  • SSL Errors: If a website has an SSL certificate issue, browsers may block access to the page, causing the link to appear broken.
  • Broken Redirects: If a page was moved and the redirect was not set up correctly, or if it was removed, the link pointing to it will be broken.
  • Removed Content: When content is deleted without a proper redirect, any backlinks pointing to it will break.Understanding these different types of broken backlinks can help SEO marketers identify and fix issues to maintain a healthy link profile.

What is the cause of the broken link?

Understanding the root causes of broken links is crucial once you've identified them. Here's a breakdown of why broken links happen:

URL Modifications often lead to broken links when a website's URL structure is changed or content is moved. The original links that directed users to specific pages may stop working because the paths have been altered. Without proper redirection, these links will result in error pages. Website owners need to implement redirects or update backlinks to ensure a smooth user experience and retain SEO value.

Vanishing Content is another cause of broken links. When content is removed or deleted, any links pointing to it will no longer function, leaving users with nowhere to go.

Site Overhauls can also result in broken links. During updates or renovations, some links may become temporarily inactive, disrupting the user's ability to navigate the site.

Limited-Time Offers have a natural lifespan, and links related to such events or promotions will become obsolete once the time period has expired.

Human Slip-ups, such as typos in URLs, are a common source of broken links. These errors can prevent users from accessing the desired information, leading to frustration.

To avoid these issues, it's important for businesses and content creators to routinely check the integrity of their links and employ link management systems. This proactive approach helps maintain a seamless experience for the audience and prevents the common pitfalls that lead to broken links.

Why you should fix broken backlinks

Fixing broken backlinks is crucial for enhancing your site's SEO and overall functionality.

Here are some reasons to address broken backlinks:

  1. Preserve Link Equity and Domain Authority: Broken backlinks interrupt the transfer of link equity, which is vital for boosting domain authority and climbing the search engine rankings.
  2. Maintain Traffic and User Satisfaction: A 404 error can deter visitors, leading to decreased traffic and a tarnished brand reputation due to a subpar user experience.
  3. Prevent Competitors from Benefiting: If you neglect broken backlinks, competitors might use them to their advantage, redirecting valuable link equity to their websites.

Guide to fix broken backlinks

Fixing broken backlinks is essential for SEO and user experience.

Here's a guide to address these issues:

  1. Identify Broken Links: Use tools like Google Search Console or SEO.AI to find links leading to error pages.
  2. Analyze the Source: Check if the broken link originates from your site or another. If it's yours, update the URL or implement a redirect. If it's from another site, proceed to the next step.
  3. Contact Webmasters: For links on other sites, reach out to the webmasters with the correct URL to replace the broken one.
  4. Set Up 301 Redirects: If the content has moved, use 301 redirects to guide users and search engines to the new location, preserving link equity.
  5. Monitor Regularly: Keep tracking your backlinks and address new issues promptly to maintain a healthy, navigable site.

Bonus: Use broken link building as a tactic

Broken link building is a method where you identify broken links on other websites and offer your own relevant content as a substitute.

This tactic is beneficial because it helps webmasters replace dead links, which can improve their site's user experience, while also providing you with a backlink that can enhance your SEO.

The process begins with using tools to find pages with broken links that are related to your content. Once these are identified, you reach out to the site owners and suggest replacing the broken link with a link to your own content. If they agree, it results in a win-win situation: their site regains a valuable resource, and your site gains a backlink.

Engaging in broken link building can help grow your site's backlink profile over time. It's a proactive approach that not only aids in improving your site's authority and search rankings but also fosters relationships with other site owners in your niche.

Here's a guide on how to leverage the broken link building tactic:

  1. Find broken pages with backlinks: Use SEO tools to discover dead pages with existing backlinks. Our Broken link checker is particularly useful for this, allowing you to input any domain and view a list of all broken links associated with it.
  2. Analyze the backlinks: Assess the quality of the backlinks pointing to these broken pages. High-quality backlinks from relevant and authoritative sites are the most valuable.
  3. Create a Replacement Page: If you don't have existing content that aligns with the broken link's topic, consider creating a new page that provides similar or better value than the original. This new content should be relevant and valuable enough for webmasters to want to link to it, thereby replacing the broken link with a resource from your site.
  4. Do outreach: Contact the owners of the sites linking to the dead page. Politely suggest your content as an alternative, providing them with an easy way to update their site and maintain a good user experience.


Here are the frequently asked questions about broken backlinks answered:"

What is a broken link?

A broken link is a hyperlink that leads to a webpage that is no longer accessible. This can happen when the target page has been deleted, moved, or the URL has been changed without updating the link. Broken links negatively impact a website's SEO and user experience.

Why should I fix broken backlinks?

Fixing broken backlinks is important for maintaining your site's health and reputation. It can help prevent loss of link equity, traffic, and improve the user experience. Additionally, addressing broken backlinks makes it harder for competitors to exploit them for their own benefit.

How do I find broken backlinks?

To find broken backlinks on your website, you can use tools like Google Search Console, Ahrefs, or our Broken Backlink Checker. These tools scan your site and provide a list of URLs that return errors like "404 Not Found."

How do I fix broken backlinks?

Fixing broken backlinks involves several steps. First, you need to identify the broken links using tools like Google Search Console or Ahrefs. Once identified, analyze whether the links are internal or external. For internal links, you can directly fix the URL or set up a redirect. For external backlinks, reach out to the webmaster of the linking site and provide them with the updated URL.

What are the best tools for managing broken links?

Numerous tools are at your disposal to identify and resolve broken links, safeguarding your website's link profile and overall health. Select a tool that aligns with your requirements and financial plan to prevent broken links from undermining your site's SEO and user experience.

What is a broken backlink? Definition & examples (2024)

This is an article written by:

The Content Team is comprised of several SEO.AI staff members, augmented by AI. We share a deep passion for all things AI, with a particular emphasis on SEO-related topics