Call us 7am - Midnight 0207 855 2055My.Tsohostshopping_basket0 Item(s): £0.00
menuMenu

keyboard_backspaceBack to the Blog

How to Find and Fix Broken Links in WordPress

How to Find and Fix Broken Links in WordPress

Posted 21st May, 2019 by William

It can be easy to get caught up in the big-picture parts of running a website and overlook the little things that matter just as much. In particular, by getting so involved in content generation and design, you may forget about important housekeeping issues such as broken links.

Any site that’s been around for a while is likely to end up with some links that no longer work. This presents a poor image to visitors and can have a negative impact on their trust and engagement. Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can fix broken links.

In this post, we’ll explain why it’s vital to clean up the broken links on your site periodically. Then we’ll explore a number of ways you can do so on your WordPress site.

The problem of broken links and why it matters

When you create content for your website, you’re always careful to ensure that all the links you add work properly. However, the internet is a rapidly changing place and those links may not stay functional forever.

There are plenty of reasons a link can stop working: the page or site it links to may no longer exist; it might have been moved or had its URL otherwise altered, or it could have even been placed behind some type of firewall. In these scenarios, a functioning link can become broken immediately, without warning.

It’s worth noting that this can be an issue both for internal and external links. Internal links are easier to manage - you simply need to be aware that if you move or delete a page on your site, or alter a URL, any links leading to it will probably no longer work. You can then immediately rectify the issue.

External links are a bigger issue, however, since you have no control over them. This can result in broken links going under the radar and remaining on your site for days or even years. This is a problem for many reasons, including:

  • Visitors will be unable to follow the links, blocking them off from important content or resources.
  • People may lose trust in your site as broken links appear unprofessional and even suspicious in large numbers.
  • Broken links can hurt your site’s search engine optimisation, since search engine bots won’t be able to follow them. Many search engines also interpret broken links as a sign of low quality, causing your rankings on results pages to drop.

In other words, it’s vital to ensure that all the links on your website work properly. This is a small maintenance task that can have big consequences – so it’s wise to avoid putting it off.

How to find and fix broken links in WordPress

Broken links can occur on any platform. Right now, however, we’re going to focus in on WordPress, the most popular content management system on the web.

In the following sections, we’ll explore a few potential methods for cleaning up broken links on your WordPress site. How often you need to do this will depend on your site. In general, the larger your site is, the more often you’ll want to check for broken links. A good minimum to shoot for is twice a year, using whichever of the following methods you prefer.

1. The manual approach

Let’s start with the simplest approach – fixing broken links manually. This requires no special tools or technical knowledge and is a task that can be easily performed on any site. In theory, all you need to do is click on every link that exists on your site, find out if it’s working properly, and fix the ones that are broken.

Of course, there is a significant downside to this approach. Unless your site is very small, it can be incredibly time-consuming. If your site has more than a few pages, it can have hundreds or thousands of links, which makes checking each one individually impractical.

Still, this method works well for small websites such as one-page sites, business brochure sites, and portfolios. With a half-hour’s effort, you can check that every link on your site leads exactly where it needs to go. If the task is likely to take you longer than that, however, it’s probably worth trying out one of the other methods on this list.

2. Using a WordPress plugin

So many tasks in WordPress are made simpler by using a dedicated plugin, and searching for broken links is no exception. Far and away the most popular tool for this job is the aptly-named Broken Link Checker:

Broken  Link  Checker

This plugin does exactly what it says on the tin. It scans your site for links that no longer work and lets you know about them so you can remove or replace them. It also has a few handy bonus features, such as checking for missing images and redirects.

What's more, in addition to checking links on your pages and posts, it will also keep track of those in comments sections and custom fields. This should provide a fairly well-rounded overview of the status of your site’s links.

Once the plugin is installed, you can configure its options under Settings > Link Checker:

Broken  Link  Options

You can determine how often it will perform scans, set up email notifications, prompt the plugin to suggest alternatives for the broken links it finds and more. To actually view the results, you’ll need to go to Tools > Broken Links:

Broken  Links

Here, you’ll find a list of each broken link, including key information about where it’s located and what’s wrong with it. All you need to do is check out each link in turn and determine whether it should be corrected, removed or replaced.

3. Via Google Search Console

What if your site is too large for a manual link check but you don’t want to add a new plugin that could potentially affect your site’s performance? Fortunately, there are other ways to find broken links that don’t require installing a new tool on your site.

One of the best solutions is to use Google Search Console:

Google  Search  Console

This is a particularly developer-friendly option, as there’s a good chance that you’re using Search Console already to monitor traffic and performance, manage your SEO and so on. What you may not realize is that the platform also includes a few ways to check your site for broken links and similar issues.

If you haven't already, you’ll want to add your site to Google Search Console as a new property. Then, you’ll find yourself in a dashboard with multiple options:

Google  Search  Console 2

It should be clear of data to start with – Google will need a few days to crawl your site and populate the Search Console with information. Give it some time, then come back and visit the Coverage section. This is where you’ll find the Index Coverage Status report, which includes a list of all the URLs on your site that Google has crawled.

Within this list, you’ll see if any links resulted in some kind of error when Google tried to follow them and exactly what error was triggered. This way, you can quickly identify broken links, find out where they are and learn what’s wrong with them. After that, all you need to do is visit your site and resolve each one.

Conclusion

Leaving broken links on your site is not only unprofessional – it can actually harm your site’s rankings in search engines like Google. Therefore, checking for broken links at least twice per year is a task you’ll want to make part of your regular maintenance routine.

As a WordPress user, you have a few ways to check your site for broken links:

  1. Check each link manually, if your site is very small.
  2. Install and use the Broken Link Checker plugin.
  3. Review Google Search Console’s Coverage section for crawl errors.

Categories: WordPress, Tips, SEO, Blogging

You may also like:

The 7 commandments of writing words for your website or blog
8 of the most googled questions about WordPress
WordPress hosting sale – but why choose managed WordPress hosting?
Taking social media lessons from America’s fastest growing companies
How to write better calls to action – latest research
How to create custom post types in WordPress the right way