Broken links test

What is it?

A broken link is a link which fails to load a working page when visited, for example, because the web address is wrong, or because the page no longer exists. This test checks that all the links within a website work.

Why it matters

Broken links compromise user experience, and are commonly associated with:

  • Technical problems
  • Out of date content

Sometimes a link can be temporarily broken because the website is unavailable or overwhelmed, which is a serious problem that you should tackle immediately.

How to use it

Insites lists any links that appear broken a table.

For each word, you can click on:

  • Magnifying glass – this opens the Inspector, which shows you where the link appears on a page.
  • Ignore – this will ignore this broken link anywhere that it appears.
  • Number of pages – this will show you a list of all of the pages with this link.

If you open the Inspector, you will see the broken link on a specific page:

How to fix it

We recommend clicking on each broken link to see what happens when you use it. It will nearly always be broken, but there are edge cases which are worth understanding – see Broken links that are not, below.

For each link, we recommend:

  • If the link itself is wrong (e.g., say the web address should be example.com, but is written as examplee.com) you should update the page with the link on and retest it.
  • If the link points to a page of yours that is broken, you should fix that broken page. Usually this will be a technical issue, e.g., code on the website that is broken.
  • If the link points to a website you don’t control, you should decide whether you want to update your link to no-longer point to that website. This is a judgment call, but if you have older, obscure pages which contain broken links (e.g., old press releases), it is usually not worth the effort of updating them.  Users are relatively understanding, and it is not necessarily ‘better’ to remove the offending link as information is lost.
  • If the link claims to be broken, but appears to work for you, there are a number of explanations (see Broken links that are not, below).

Broken links that are not

It is possible for Insites to report a link as broken, yet the link appears to work when you test it. Here are the most common reasons, in descending order of likelihood:

  • The website might have been overwhelmed by being tested by Insites.
  • The website only allows the link to be viewed by certain people, or from certain locations. For example, perhaps the link can only be viewed in a given country, or by users within your office, or by logged in users. If you have the ability, you can try using the link on a logged out computer, outside of any private network you have.

You can always choose to ignore a broken link that you believe is incorrect. However, if you’re seeing many links like this, this website almost certainly have a problem with rate-limiting.

Internal and external links

This test distinguishes between internal and external links. Internal links are those which point to pages inside the website you are testing; e.g., if you were testing insites.com, then a link to insites.com/example would be an internal link. All other links are external.

Insites considers an internal link to be a more severe issue because internal links are under your control. Generally, if a user clicks on a link to a third party website and that link breaks, it is more likely to be perceived as a flaw with that third party; if a link to your own site is broken, this is more likely to suggest an internal problem with your own website.