How to tell when your website is broken - and why

TL;DR - Takeaways for the impatient

Need more information?

As we say in a number of places on, we believe small business owners do better by working on their businesses, rather than trying to become experts on web technology. We provide information like this page for those owners who need to understand a bit more before they are ready to improve their website and to hire a consultant to assist them. We are constantly updating our site and adding to the information about creating more productive websites. If you still have questions, please feel free to email us (webhelp at or call us (817.500.4501 9-5 Central).

Why are web errors important for my website

Errors associated with your web pages can affect your business in several ways:

If users experience errors on your website, they may not return. Errors reflect on your company's reputation and reliability. If a potential buyer cannot get to the information to make a purchase decision, or, perhaps worse, can't get to your shopping cart to complete that purchase, your odds of closing the sale are greatly diminished.

As we discussed in Search Engine Friendly, problems that make for a bad user experience will probably result in lower results in the search engines. If a search engine 'bot encounters errors on your site, that will be ground into the value the search engine places on your site.

What are web errors, how do I test for them and can I fix them?

Errors experienced by visitors trying to download (see) one of your web pages can be caused by a number of different factors:

You can test for website errors simply by working your way through your website, from the index page through all of your navigation links. If you have landing pages - pages that are linked to from advertising, social media or other websites, you should check these as well. Some errors are obvious - a blank page, a partial page, a page with empty image spaces, and so on. So are those that return an error message to your browser, such as 404 - not found, or 500 - server error. You can also use Google's Webmaster Tools (see your Google account, or create one) to have Google crawl your site and identify errors.

There are also paid and free tools that will scan your website for errors. For example, Xenu's Link Sleuth1 will scan your website for broken internal and external links, including calls to files, images and videos. Google's Webmaster Tools (aka Search Console) 2 checks for a number of errors, including backlinks. The challenge for these and paid tools is that they tend to identify problems, but do not tell the lay user how to fix them.

Finding errors is not the same as solving them. As the list above indicates, errors can be caused by mistakes in your HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, or even in how your website is set up. Just as an example, the 500- Internal Server Error can be produced by an error in the PHP in a web page. Calling the hosting provider will not produce a fix; a PHP-savvy developer must locate and repair the error. The important thing for a website owner is to know when their is an error on your website, so you can use a consultant to solve the underlying problems.

Most website errors occur when a site is updated. Typos that we might shrug at in a written document can make a web page unreadable, or undeliverable. A common failure is to forget redirects from old page names to new names. Even adding higher security to your site with an SSL certificate can harm your search engine rating, if not done carefully. For this reason, your site needs to be tested by someone knowlegeable, and preferably not your designer/developer, as soon as the site update is complete. For example, one of our services, The Watchdog, monitors your site 365 days a year, checking for errors, server slowdowns and other problems affecting your site. Read about our Watchdog site-monitoring service.



2see your Google profile (or create a new Google ID)

3 Acceleration Partners, "Why Error Pages Negatively Impact Your Site’s SEO" (2013),

4 Aukash Chauhan, "Redirect SEO Guide: Impact of Redirection and Domain Authority" (2016),

5Cyrus Shepard, "301 Redirects Rules Change: What You Need to Know for SEO" MOZ (2016), 301 Redirects Rules Change: What You Need to Know for SEO

Last updated: April, 2017