This article will describe how to find broken links on a WordPress site and how to fix broken links. Later, I’ll look at what causes them, the consequences of having bad links on a site and why you should fix them as quickly as you can.
What Are Broken Links?
You website may link to external websites or other internal pages. Those links could be going to informational sites like Wikipedia, other sites in your niche or perhaps to product or service pages you’re offering on your site. On the other hand, the links might be going to affiliate offers (on external sites) that you’re promoting on your site.
A broken link occurs when that destination page is no longer there and some error is generated when an attempt is made to access that page.
At this point, I’ll show you how to find and fix broken links broken links on your site. Go further down the article to read about the cost of having broken links and why you need to fix any you find.
Finding Broken Links
This is actually a very simple thing to do (on WordPress sites anyway). Simply install the Broken Link Checker plugin. It’s a free plugin from the WordPress plugin repository.
Once activated, the plugin will appear in two places: in the WordPress Settings menu as Link Checker and in the Tools menu as Broken Links.
The Broken Link Checker Options
These are the default options on the Broken Link Checker settings page:
Depending on the types of link you have on your pages (e.g. old-style YouTube embed links), you may want to select additional options on the other settings tabs.
The Settings page for the plugin will show the number of broken links found on your site, but you need to go to Tools -> Broken Links to see the list of broken links itself.
Here’s a partial list from one of my sites showing some broken links to images and external sites. Server Not Found means that the site’s gone. Connection Failed could just mean that the site is taking too long to respond or that it too has been taken down.
The broken image links point to images that were included from external sites on some of the pages. This shows the downside in embedding images from external sites in your posts and pages.
You’ll lose that content if the source website goes offline. And it may not be possible to find a copy of such an image to upload to your own site to replace the missing image.
How To Fix Broken Links
When you hover your mouse over a broken link, five options appear under it: Edit URL, Unlink, Not Broken, Dismiss and Recheck:
Edit URL: Choose this option if you want to replace the broken link with a working one. The list expands to allow you to change the link:
All you need to do is replace the link in the URL box with a working link and click the Update button. All copies of that broken link on your site will be replaced with the working link. You don’t need to update every occurrence of that broken link individually.
The screenshot above shows a broken image link. The plugin has helpfully provided a link to a copy of the image on the Wayback Machine archive that can be used instead by clicking the Use This URL button. My recommendation would be to open that link in a new tab, make sure it’s the image you want, then download a copy to your PC and upload that into your blog’s media library and manually add that image into post/page. There’s no guarantee the image copy will remain on the WayBack Machine in the future so use it as a second chance option to find a missing image.
Unlink: This option removes the hyperlink from posts/pages. This is a permanent change. If you’re sure that the link cannot be replaced (e.g. links in comments), then use this option.
Not Broken: The Broken Link Checker may have failed to recognize that a link is in fact ok (e.g. if there was a timeout when checking the link or the destination site was temporarily offline) and has reported it as broken. Use this option if you know the link is correct. This removes the broken link from the list. It will still be rechecked when the plugin runs its next checks. If the link pops up again in the broken links list, then check the URL out yourself. Maybe a link you were convinced was not broken actually is.
Dismiss: You’re basically telling the plugin that you know the link is broken but that it doesn’t have to keep telling you about it and listing it. You’re telling the plugin to ignore the fact that the link is broken.
Recheck: This checks the link’s status again. Sometimes when you update a broken URL, the plugin doesn’t recognize the change. Clicking Recheck should show a 200 OK message once a bad link has been confirmed as having been replaced by a good link.
Using these options will allow you to clean up your broken link list pretty quickly. That’s all that there is to it. It takes a bit of time but repairing broken links is worth that time and effort.
The plugin defaults to checking links on your site every 72 hours and will email you a report if it finds any broken links. This way you don’t have to remember to manually check your site for them.
Now, back to the consequences of having bad links on your website…
Are Broken Links Bad?
Yes, they’re bad for several reasons:
- They lead to a bad experience for your visitors. It’s frustrating when a link just takes you to a 404 page or a site that’s no longer online.
- If a link to another page on your own site is broken, it may lead to your reputation being damaged, lost sales or you looking like an amateur in your field of expertise.
- Broken links can affect how your site ranks in the search engines.
What Causes Broken Links
There are three main causes for broken links, some of which are self-inflicted because you don’t pay enough attention to what you’re doing:
- Deleting a page or post. Sometimes you might want to delete an old post or page because the information on it is out of date, incorrect or maybe because a product or service is no longer available. However, you forget to remove any links on your site to that post/page. This can also happen if you’re linking to reports or images on your site that subsequently get removed.
- If you rename a post/page (change its slug), then all existing links to the original page web address will become invalid.
- Linking to an external site you have no control over and that site’s webmaster changes the page URL, deletes the page or post or the whole site goes offline.
Whatever the reason for a broken link, it’s in your own best interest to fix it as soon as possible.
How Broken Links Affect Your Site
Let’s take a look at three ways that broken links can affect your site:
The search engines will regularly crawl your site to see what’s on it. When a crawler encounters a broken link, it’s stopped dead in its tracks. If your link goes to another part of your site, the crawler may never get to that section (if all your links to it are broken, for example). That might be a reason some pages on your site never get indexed. And pages that aren’t indexed don’t get ranked.
User Experience and Ranking:
Another issue is the experience a visitor has when they come to your site. If they find lots of broken links, they’ll just find your site frustrating to use and will head off somewhere else. That reduces the amount of time they’ll stay on your site and that, in turn, will hurt how your site ranks in the search engines.
One of the metrics Google certainly uses to rank pages is the amount of time visitors spend on that page. Another metric is how many other pages on that site the visitor looks at. So that’s where broken links can impact how users interact with your site and the knock-on effect from that.
Whether your selling your own products or services or you’re an affiliate marketer promoting other people’s offers on your site, broken links mean fewer sales, especially if those links are to those products you’re trying to sell. All the effort you put into building those pages and links will be wasted.
And to make matters worse, here’s where word-of-mouth kicks in. Visitors who have bad experiences on websites tend to tell their friends about it. So a bad review of your site travels further than just that individual visitor.
If you’ve any questions or thoughts on this post, please leave a comment below…
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