You can use the Screaming Frog SEO spider to check for broken links (the http response ’404 not found error’) on your website. This is a question we get asked a lot by new users, so I wanted to put together a very quick and easy tutorial on how to use the tool as a broken link checker. First of all, you’ll need to download the SEO spider which is free in lite form, for up to 500 URLs.

The next steps to find broken links are –

1) Crawl The Website

Open up the SEO Spider, type or copy in the website you wish to crawl in the ‘enter url to spider’ box and hit ‘Start’.

crawl site for broken links

2) Click The ‘Response Codes’ tab & ‘Client Error (4XX)’ Filter To View Broken Links

You can wait until the crawl finishes and reaches 100%, or you can just view 404 broken links while crawling by navigating to the ‘Response Codes’ tab and using the filter for ‘Client Error 4XX’.

There are two ways to do this, you can simply click on the ‘tab’ at the top and use the drop down filter –

filter for 404 broken links

Alternatively you can use the right-hand window crawl overview pane and just click directly on ‘Client Error (4xx)’ tree view under the ‘Response Codes’ folder. They both show the same results, regardless of which way you navigate.

right hand window to find 404 errors

This crawl overview pane updates while crawling, so you can see there number of client error 4XX links you have at a glance. In the instance above, there are 5 client errors which is 0.63% of the links discovered in the crawl.

3) View The Source Of The Broken Links By Clicking The ‘In Links’ Tab

Obviously you’ll want to know the source of the broken links discovered (which URLs on the website link to these broken links), so they can be fixed. To do this, simply click on a URL in the top window pane and then click on the ‘In Links’ tab at the bottom to populate the lower window pane.

404 broken link

You can click on the above to view a larger image. As you can see in this example, there is a broken link to the BrightonSEO website (http://www.brightonseo.com/category/video/), which is linked to from this page – http://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/15-top-quotes-and-takeaways-from-brighton-seo/.

Here’s a closer view of the lower window pane which details the ‘in links’ data –

broken link in lower window

‘From’ is the source where the 404 broken link can be found, while ‘To’ is the broken link. You can also see the anchor text, alt text (if it’s an image which is hyperlinked) and whether the link is followed (true) or nofollow (false).

It looks like the only broken links on our website are external links (sites we link out to), but obviously the SEO Spider will discover any internal broken links if you have any.

4) Use The ‘Bulk Export’ & ‘Client Error (4XX) In Links’ Export

If you’d rather view the data in a spreadsheet you can export both the ‘source’ URLs and ‘broken links’ by using the ‘Bulk Export’ and ‘Client Error (4XX) In Links’ option in the top level menu.

bulk export 404 broken links

There’s a number of ways you can export data from the Screaming Frog SEO spider, so I recommend reading our user guide on exporting. But hopefully the above guide helps illustrate how to use the tool to check for broken links.

You can also read the Screaming Frog SEO spider FAQs and full user guide for more information.

screamingfrog (29 Posts)

Dan Sharp is founder & Director of Screaming Frog. He has developed search strategies for a variety of clients from international brands to small and medium sized businesses and designed and managed the build of the innovative SEO Spider software.