Every WordPress website owner should check for broken links in WordPress from time to time. A broken link is a link that directs visitors to a page or file that no longer exists. Broken links are annoying, and they create bad user experience.
Most websites contain broken links. They are unavoidable. Over time, their number increases. Considering that the usability of your links is a large factor in your site’s credibility, keeping them checked is critical. You’ll also be happy to know that broken links are very easy to fix.
There are a number of reasons that cause broken links in WordPress:
- The website owner you were linking to changed the post slug of a page
- The website linking to has been restructured resulting in pages with different URL
- The website owner has removed the page
- The website no longer exists
- The website has transferred to a new domain and the owner has not set up a redirect
- You made URL changes on your own site (if broken internal links are in question)
The above reasons assume that a link has become broken because of a website owner changing a URL or removing the page. However, sometimes the fault lies with you, not them.
The management of broken links is an integral part of good WordPress maintenance. Thanks to a number of plugins and tools at our disposal, it has become easy to automate the process of link maintenance.
Why Should You Check for Broken Links in WordPress?
How do you feel when you click on a link and end up with “404 page not found” error? You probably most of time click back and go to next site/link. There are many benefits of fixing the links that are broken on your website. Most important benefit is that you will give your visitors a better user experience.
Broken links can hurt your website’s SEO. Especially if those broken links are internal links to your own site. Do you know how many internal links you have and if any are broken? Internal links play a huge role in determining search engine results when linking to highly related content on another page.
The search engines look for related content from your linked blog posts that use related keywords in your content. They do this to determine how important you content is for the search results page that comes up after someone types in a search query.
How To Check for Broken Links in WordPress?
First thing you need to do is install and activate the Broken Link Checker plugin. Broken Link Checker is available for free download from WordPress.org repository. This plugin acts like WordPress broken link checker and monitors your blog looking for broken links and let you know if any are found.
Broken Link Checker plugin features:
- Monitors links in your posts, pages, comments, the blogroll, and custom fields (optional)
- Detects links that don’t work, missing images and redirects
- Notifies you either via the dashboard or by email
- Makes broken links display differently in posts (optional)
- Prevents search engines from following broken links (optional)
- You can search and filter links by URL, anchor text, etc.
- Links can be edited directly from the plugin’s page, without manually updating each post
- Change the frequency at which existing links are checked (new links are checked immediately)
- Apply custom formatting to broken and/or removed links
- Stop search engines from following broken links
You can manage more advanced settings from the Advanced tab.
Broken Link Checker WordPress Plugin
Once installed, the plugin will begin parsing your posts, bookmarks (AKA blogroll) and other content when looking for links. The plugin will look for broken links on your website in the background. Time to scan broken external and internal links will depend on how much content you got on your site.
When parsing is complete, the plugin will start checking each link to see if it works. You can monitor the progress and tweak various link checking options by going to Settings -> Link Checker.
The broken links, if any are found, will show up in a new tab of the WP admin panel Tools -> Broken Links.
The “Broken Links” tab will by default display a list of broken links that have been detected so far. You can use the links on that page to view redirects or see a listing of all links.
You can also create new link filters by performing a search and clicking the “Create Custom Filter” button. For example, this can be used to create a filter that only shows comment links.
There are several actions associated with each link. They show up when you move your mouse over to one of the links listed:
- “Edit URL” lets you change the URL of that link. If the link is present in more than one place (e.g. both in a post and in the blogroll), all occurrences of that URL will be changed.
- “Unlink” removes the link but leaves the link text intact.
- “Not broken” lets you manually mark a “broken” link as working. The marked link will still be checked periodically, but the plugin won’t consider it broken unless it gets a new result.
- “Dismiss” hides the link from the “Broken Links” and “Redirects” views. It will still be checked but won’t be reported again unless its status changes.
You can also click on the contents of the “Status” or “Link Text” columns to get more info about the status of each link.
You can edit a URL right from broken links page, or you can edit the post they belong to. Alternately you can also perform bulk actions like Unlinking all broken links, fix redirects, mark as not broken, etc.
Dealing with broken links is very simple. Just hover over a URL and your options will appear. From left to right you have the URL of the broken link, the status of the broken link, the anchor text of the broken link, and the source (i.e. the page, post or comment on which the broken link exists).
Once you are done fixing the broken links, you can deactivate and remove plugin and move on and only install every couple of months for regular maintenance. I recommend using this plugin once every six months.
Fix Broken Links in WordPress Without Plugin
Here are some alternative ways to fix broken links in WordPress if you don’t want to install another plugin. Below tools will require more work than Broken Link Checker plugin.
1.Google Webmaster Tools (FREE)
Google Webmaster Tools is a great way of finding 404 errors and broken links. You will find this information in the Crawl Errors page which is located in the Crawl section of the main menu.
The page displays site errors and URL errors for desktops, smartphones, and feature phones. URL errors are categorized, with server errors, soft 404 errors, and normal 404 errors (not found), all being shown separately.
2.W3C Link Checker (FREE)
W3C, or the World Wide Web Consortium, has a link checker that checks broken links and more. Since W3C is responsible for maintaining standards for the web, their link checker is recommended by many website owners.
I am not a big fan of this way. It is more of a pain to detect broken links and resolve errors than other solutions available.
3. Link Valet (FREE)
Link Valet is a basic link checking service that highlights the HTTP response codes of links on your website. It can take a while to scan your whole website, and while the color coding does help you spot broken links, there is not an easy way to see all broken links together at a glance.
4. Other Tools
Here are other resources that you may want to use to check for broken links on WordPress website. They are all free to use:
- iWebTool Broken Link Checker – A basic link checker that scans your website links.
- Check My Links – A Google Chrome extension that scans a page for broken links.
- Online Broken Link Checker – A simple website scanner that will highlight broken links on your website.
Fixing Your Broken Links
Once you have created a list of broken links on your website, you can proceed to repair them. There are a few ways in which you can do this.
When the broken links are on your own website, you can do one of the following:
- Correct the link – If you linked to a website incorrectly, all you need to do is edit the URL and replace it with the correct one. Sometimes, correcting a link requires more investigation, such as when a page you linked to has been moved to a new location or the website has completely changed their domain.
- Replace the link – There are times when it makes more sense to replace a link. For example, when you have link to a page/website that no longer exists, is no longer supported, or has not been updated in years. The idea is to replace the website you link to with an alternative resource.
- Unlink the link – If the page you linked to no longer exists, or is no longer relevant, you may want to completely remove the link from the article. This may also mean removing any content that refers to the page you referenced.
Restructuring your website, or changing the post or page slug, can cause 404 errors on your website (not found errors). This will make your internal links to the old URL invalid. It can also reduce the traffic your website receives from other websites.
The most practical way of resolving the issue is to create a 301 redirect from the old URL to the new one. This ensures that traffic, and search engine juice, is transferred to the new URL.
If you have found that another website has linked to one of your pages using an incorrect URL, you may want to consider contacting them and notify of their mistake.
Do not be concerned if the website owner does not comply with your request, as you can always configure a redirect to handle incoming traffic to the correct URL.
Alternatively, if you have set up a good 404 error page on your website with a search bar and links to your archives, visitors should still find the page in question.
Whether fixing broken links helps search engine rankings or not is irrelevant. Repairing broken links on your website will ensure your articles remain useful to your readers. That alone makes it worthwhile.
Check for Broken Links in WordPress Final words
Unfortunately, the natural decay of links occurs all too often. Link rot happens for any number of reasons. Domains expire, websites are abandoned, incorrect URLs are used, and websites are restructured using new URLs. This happens to both outbound and inbound links.
Broken Link Checker plugin has routine scans, nicely organizes broken links into a user-friendly table, detects missing images, and flags missing YouTube videos.
While the plugin doesn’t always play nice with other plugins and some users complained about resulting load lag, the tool is still effective and most convenient way to check and fix internal and external broken links on your WordPress website/blog.
You can always deactivate and remove it after you are finished. Or you can check for other link-checking plugins in the official WordPress directory.
While there are many options for finding broken links, plugins that enable you to schedule scans are probably preferable to link checking tools where you’ll need to initiate the process.
Automatic and scheduled checks are vital because links can and probably will die when you’re not expecting them to.
Remember, the time and attention you put into maintaining your links isn’t just improving your site. It’s laying the groundwork for a valuable visitor experience.
DISCLOSURE: Posts may contain affiliate links. If you buy something through one of those links, I might get a small commission, without any extra cost to you. Read more about it here.