As you continually increase the content of your website the chances are you will find yourself creating more and more links, internal and external, to help your visitors navigate seamlessly through your site. Before you know it you could have hundreds of links, which is great for your user experience, but how would you know if any of these links were broken?
What are Broken Links?
Broken links, or dead links, are links that do not reach their intended destination. This happens, for example, when an external web page you have linked to has been removed, or when you have been working on your links and made a typo. Whatever the reason, when your readers click on a broken link they will most likely end up viewing a 404 error page or a connection time out message.
It doesn’t take many broken links before you or your website start to lose credibility. Think about the last time you visited a website which had broken links. How many dead links did you click on before you decided to leave? The fact is, losing a reader in this way is likely to be permanent – they probably won’t return.
Another consideration often discussed, is that if a search engine bot finds any dead links on a website it could have a negative effect on ranking. This may be true, but in my view this is secondary because, unlike the readers you have lost for good due to broken links, search engine bots are forgiving and will always be back to recrawl your site. So as far as the search engines are concerned, you will always have a second chance to redeem yourself.
How to Find Broken Links
The good news is you don’t have to manually check every link on your site. There are many free broken link checker tools available and below are four different types of tools that you might want to consider using.
1 – Xenu’s Link Sleuth – To use this free website link checker program you need to be running Microsoft Windows. I personally use this tool and I can say is it is very thorough.
2 – BrokenLinkCheck – This is a free online broken link checker that I use. Although you can run a broken link check for free this tool does have some limitations unless you are willing to pay a fee.
3 – WordPress Broken Link Plugin – I do not use this plugin and am not recommending it. However, I thought it would be handy to let you know it is available. I did come across a few reviews that said this plugin could slow your website down. So be sure to have a read up on this plugin before using it.
4 – Google Webmaster Tools – Google will report any broken links (pages it cannot crawl) in the Crawl Errors page. This tool can also warn of any other potential problems that a site may be experiencing. I highly recommend using this tool.
To keep on top of any broken links I recommend using Google Webmaster Tools in conjunction with at least another two tools that suit you. The more tools you use the more chance you have of identifying all your broken links.
Between the three tools I use: Xenu’s Link Sleuth, BrokenLinkCheck and Google Webmaster Tools, I have managed to track down and repair my broken links with ease.
Photo © Depositphotos.com/Alina Kudinova