Check Your Site on Webmaster Tools for Broken Links

by Vanessa on January 13, 2012

Broken links are links that lead to pages that do not exist. When clicking on a broken link, the page you land on is called a 404 error page, and that indicates that the requested URL doesn’t exist.

Even the most diligent site-owner can have broken links on their site. Whether the broken links are a mistake or because a page has legitimately been removed, it’s still frustrating for users to suddenly come across a 404 error. Most of the time, the immediate response would be to simply leave the current site in favor of another one because both people and search engines consider broken links an untrustworthy sign.

There are many tools online for checking and removing invalid URLs. If you have a Google Webmaster Tools account, they offer an easy to use diagnostic tool that will check this for you. Webmaster Tools provides a Remove URL tool, which allows you to remove invalid pages from Google search results. First things first, sign up for a Webmaster Tools account if you don’t already have one. It’s free to sign up. Once you add your site, you will be prompted to verify the site (to prove that you have ownership of the site).

1. In the left-hand side navigation menu, click on Diagnostics
2. In the Diagnostics menu, click on Crawl Errors.
3. At the top of the list of “Issues Google encountered when crawling your site”, click on the Not Found category.
4. To make sure that the URL is indeed indexed in Google, copy and paste the URL into Google’s search and see if any result comes up.
5. To remove URLs from Google’s search results, click on Site Configuration in the left-hand navigation menu, and select Crawler Access.
6. Select Remove URL (which will be the third option in the Crawler Access menu at the top of the new menu window that appears).
7. Click on New removal request.
8. You will be asked to enter the URL of the address you would like to completely remove from Google search results. You can copy and paste the address from the list of broken URLs that Google previously provided.
9. Click on Next. The URL to be removed should now appear in the list of requested. If you would like, you can add more pages for removal.

There are a variety of reasons why a link might appear with a 404 File Not Found error, including links to a product that you have sold out of and hidden. Webmaster Tools doesn’t provide an explanation for why the links appear in the broken list. If you created a blog post and then changed the address of the post after Google had already indexed it, this could result in a File Not Found error. If you are using a system that recommends items “If you like, you may also like this…”, a link might appear broken if a suggested product is hidden. The link checker tool is a valuable resource that can help you uncover problem with the way that your site is indexed that you might not have been aware of. An example might be a broken link to a contact form. If people are trying to contact you but the form doesn’t work, you may never know, because they may just give up.

While pages that repeatedly return 404 errors will naturally fall from the index over time, there may be a case when you want to remove something quickly. For instance, private content that was accidentally posted, such as credit card information, could be removed using this tool.

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  • Hi Vanessa, 
    Thanks for link checker and web master tool information. You saved my valuable time.

  • Very Interesting post here, but can you tell me if I don't remove broken links from webmaster tool then what google can take steps for my website? I mean I can penalize for that?

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