Broken links can sometimes happen accidentally if a page or post on your website has been deleted, moved and not redirected or if an outbound link on another site no longer exists. They can be difficult to find and fix if you don’t regularly check your site so to save time, you can use a plugin, which checks your site and fixes the broken links automatically. Alternatively, you can outsource the task and systematise fixing the broken links on your site.
A broken link checker will search your entire site for issues and invalid web pages. This SOP will show you how to use both a plugin for your WordPress site, or to use a link checking site. Both options will help you find broken links and achieve the same positive results for your site.
Another method that we have added to the most recent version of the SOP is to use Google Webmaster Tools to find broken links. This is probably the most reliable and thorough method to use, although you do need to connect your site to Webmaster Tools, which you can do simply by following the SOP. The crawl will specifically show errors of bad searches or links that have clicked on your site that you can then correct. The console also provides a date for when the error was first seen and allows you to fix in bulk if you have a major issue on your site.
WHY ARE BROKEN LINKS SO BAD?
If you have affiliate or outbound links that are embedded into your blog posts or resource pages on your website, they may break without your knowledge, and could provide your customers with a bad user experience (ouch!).
This kind of thing has probably happened to you personally, even on well-developed websites. A blank screen or PAGE NOT FOUND message can be frustrating and distracting and may cause some of your customers to leave and not return. Apart from upsetting your audience, it will also affect your ranking within search engines such as Google and Bing.
You should always be aware of potential problems that harm your website’s SEO, as this is often one of the best ways to build your site through organic traffic, so that in the future you don’t have to rely on expensive advertising or marketing tactics.
Sometimes, a dead link can bring up a 404 page. If you see a 404 page it means that the URL you are looking for cannot be found. To prepare for potential 404s, (and sometimes they happen, even on the best kept site) some sites will create an attractive looking 404 page that might redirect a customer to another page, or offer them a free download.
You can also track how many times your 404 page has been clicked which may be a cause for concern. You can easily see 404s if you have the Redirection plugin installed on your WordPress website. From the Redirection dashboard, you can easily setup a redirect for defunct links.
HOW CAN I FIND BROKEN LINKS?
There are many different ways to find broken links on your site, and sometimes you may want to use more than one in order to thoroughly check your site. Having used all of these, I’ve noticed that some links are found by some services, but not in others.
Here’s a rundown of the different options detailed in this SOP for fixing broken links:
WordPress and Chrome Plugins to Fix Broken Links
Using a plugin will allow you to find broken links and instantly fix them within the WordPress dashboard and is therefore one of the most convenient ways to fix broken links.
For all those Google Chrome extension fans out there (like me!), there are now several extensions out there that can scan individual pages, find broken links and provide you with a short summary of problems. The one included in this SOP even highlights the page with traffic light colours (red for warning for example) and allows you to export the results as a .csv file.
This method is great if you want to check a few pages of a website, but not really feasible for checking a whole site with hundreds of pages and links.
External Broken Link Checking Sites
Using an external link checking site will provide you with URLs that you then have to fix manually. There is a space within the SOP where you or your freelancer can fill out the broken links and add the correct URLs to replace them with. If you’re using Google Webmaster Tools, you can also download the problem links in a .csv file.
Once you’ve checked your site to find broken links, there are several different options you can take to fix them, regardless of whether you use a WordPress plugin or use a link checking website. If the page no longer exists, you may want to remove the link completely, or link to another page.
Once you’ve downloaded this SOP from the top of the page, and decided on the method of fixing links, you can begin checking your site regularly. Set a reminder for yourself or your freelancer to check the site routinely. I personally check all of my sites at least once a week using one or more of the options above.