When a visitor comes to a website they are often drawn toward an image as opposed to the written word, images can also be decorative or illustrative to support the content of a page. A website owner often has to embrace additional maintenance if they use images as they can cause some potential issues if not managed correctly. If at one stage a website showcased a specific image and something has happened that has either a) the file name has moved b) the image has been deleted or c) the incorrect source URL has been used, it can cause issues when it comes to SEO. A browser will often wait for an image to be sourced and loaded and when an image has a broken path it will delay the website loading speed, a ranking factor.
Broken images can be such a big issue with a website that all major site auditing software will pick them up. SEMRush, Screaming Frog, SiteBulb, Ahrefs and even Bing Webmaster Tools Audit will help you identify them. If you are working with a relatively large website, I’d encourage looking for broken images on a regular basis; this could be perhaps once per month – running a regular site crawl is always super helpful to understand what is going on at a granular level, especially if your website is too large to do this manually.
There are two ways you can resolve a broken image link, the first is if the image is still required but has moved, all that is required is for the webmaster to update the new image path via the HTML. The second option, perhaps available to webmasters who cannot change source code, is to manually put a file in the file location which will render on the front end of the site. So for example, if you had a missing image on /wp-content/uploads/tester.jpg, by going into FTP and adding an image called tester.jpg (in correct folders) it’ll render the image on the front end. You will need to check if this image is used elsewhere and the image dimensions are correct so it won’t break the template of the site or cosmetics. I’d also recommend fixing with webp filetypes where applicable.
There are some guidelines you can follow which will mitigate the risk of images becoming broken. If you try and link to images which are held on your server, this will give you more control, third party images can change and you won’t always know when or why. If you manage all the images you have on your website, it’s important to not change any filenames or filetypes without checking if the image is linked via HTML. Ensuring the path is correct too when using HTML, for example, if you are linking to an image on your local machine as opposed to a public-facing server, can make the image look correct on your local machine but not for any other user. The final step is to validate any references you make in HTML, for example, if you are writing a blog post, I’d suggest loading the page in a new tag over the internet (not locally) and validating all images are showing.
Additional comments about broken internal images.
- I’d suggest you never underestimate how many problems broken images can cause on your website. It is a perfect combination of hindering organic visibility and potentially annoying users. I’d get into the habit of running regular crawls on your website, one side note is that if you are running regular crawls, ensuring it is taking place outside of busy times. The crawlers can make your website go slower depending on how indepth it is, if you couple this with high users and high resources due to crawl, it can bring your site speed down temporarily. If you need any support with running regular crawls, please do have a read and drop me a line about my technical SEO audit services.
- I’d always encourage the use of webp files where possible, these are the new format for images and hits the right balance between compression, loading speed and quality. I’ve got a neat plugin called Imagify running on this site which will create webp files for me on the fly and compress.
- Proceed with caution if you are looking to do any changes to your FTP structure, renaming folders and images can cause havoc on the front end of your website – so proceed with caution and try and make it a last case scenerio if it has to be done.