JavaScript: How to Extract all Links from Raw HTML (3+ Approaches)

Updated: February 1, 2024 By: Guest Contributor Post a comment


Extracting links from raw HTML is a common task in web scraping, data analysis, and web development. JavaScript, being the language of the web, offers several methods to achieve this. In this tutorial, we’ll explore how we can use JavaScript to extract all links from a given HTML string and address some nuances of working with the Document Object Model (DOM) and regular expressions.

Understanding the DOM Parser

Before we dive into code examples, it’s crucial to understand that HTML documents are represented by the Document Object Model (DOM) in browsers. The DOM is a programming API for HTML and XML documents, providing a structured representation of the document as a tree and defining methods to access and manipulate its nodes.

Using the DOM Parser to Extract Links

The DOMParser interface provides the ability to parse XML or HTML source code from a string into a DOM Document. Here is how you can use it:

const parser = new DOMParser();
const doc = parser.parseFromString(htmlString, 'text/html');
const links = doc.querySelectorAll('a');
for (let link of links) {

This code takes a string containing HTML, parses it into a DOM Document, and then uses querySelectorAll to select all the anchor elements. It then logs the href attribute of each link to the console.

Extracting Links Using Regular Expressions

If for some reason you cannot use the DOMParser, maybe because you are in a non-browser or restricted environment, regular expressions can be an alternative.

const htmlString = 'your HTML string';
const regex = /<a[^>]+href="(.*?)"[^>]*>(.*?)<\/a>/g;
let match;
while (match = regex.exec(htmlString)) {
    console.log('URL:', match[1], 'Anchor Text:', match[2]);

This regular expression looks for the standard structure of an anchor tag in HTML and captures the value of the href attribute and the anchor text. Note that this method is not as reliable or flexible as using a DOM parser, as HTML can be quite complex and not always well-formed.

Working with the fetch API

In a real-world scenario, you often work with remote HTML content. In such cases, you can use the fetch API to retrieve content and then extract links. Here’s a simple example:

.then(response => response.text())
.then(htmlString => {
    const parser = new DOMParser();
    const doc = parser.parseFromString(htmlString, 'text/html');
    const links = doc.querySelectorAll('a');
    links.forEach(link => console.log(link.href));
.catch(error => {
    console.error('Error:', error);

We fetch content from a URL, use the response’s text method to get the HTML string, parse it into a DOM Document, and then query for links as shown earlier.

Working with Node.js and jsdom

In a Node.js environment, you’ll need an implementation that simulates the browser DOM. One such widely-used library is jsdom.

const jsdom = require('jsdom');
const { JSDOM } = jsdom;

const htmlString = 'your HTML string';
const dom = new JSDOM(htmlString);
const links = dom.window.document.querySelectorAll('a');

links.forEach(link => {

This script mimics the browser environment within Node.js, enabling you to parse HTML and utilize DOM methods.

Considerations and Best Practices

  • Keep in mind that when working with regular expressions to parse HTML, it won’t work well with malformed HTML and it’s usually error-prone and not recommended for complex HTML structures.
  • The DOM-based methods are generally safer and more accurate, although they can be heavier on resources.
  • When scraping websites, always respect robots.txt and terms of service agreements.
  • Regularly check your code, as web pages can change over time, potentially breaking your scraping logic.

Extracting links from HTML is a powerful capability in JavaScript, allowing developers to analyze and process web content efficiently. By using the methods detailed in this guide, you can incorporate link extraction into your projects, be it for scraping, data mining, or automating web interactions.