By now, you’ve probably encountered a 404 error while browsing the Internet. And if you’ve had your website for a while, you’ve either found that one of your pages leads to a 404 page or a loyal reader pointed it out to you in the comments.
Those 404 pages usually crop up when a visitor follows a broken link. Broken links are bad news for both your visitors and your SEO so you need to make sure this task is included on your website maintenance checklist.
In this post, I’ll explain why you need to fix broken links and show you three different ways of fixing broken links on your WordPress website.
2 Reasons Why You Need to Fix Broken Links On Your WordPress Website
A broken link usually happens when the original page the link points to has been moved, deleted or if you’ve changed the page URL. Broken links can also happen when you’re linking to a third-party website that either deleted, moved or changed the URL of the original page. When a user clicks on the broken link, they will be taken to a 404 page.
Regardless of what the reason is for broken links, there are two good reasons why you need to fix them on your website.
Broken Links Hurt Your SEO
One of the reasons why you need to fix broken links on your website is that they can hurt your SEO. When Google crawls your site and sees that you have a lot of outbound broken links, they will rank you lower in the search engines because they will conclude that you’re linking to low-quality content.
The same principle applies to inbound links or broken links on your website. Google will notice that your visitors are leaving your site in frustration after encountering a broken link and will rank your website lower as a result.
Broken Links Lead to Poor User Experience
Broken links also lead to poor user experience. When someone clicks a link to your site, they expect to find that content there. Instead, they are greeted with a 404 page. Most people won’t stick around to investigate why they landed on a 404 page and will leave your site frustrated. Not only that, but the chances of them returning to your website decrease the more broken links they encounter.
Three Ways to Find and Fix Broken Links on WordPress
Now that we’ve covered why you need to fix broken links on your website, let’s take a look at how to fix them. Below are three easy ways that will help you find broken links and fix them.
Google Search Console
The first method for checking broken links on your website is to use Google Search Console. If you’ve set up your Google Analytics account, you’ve more than likely gone through the process of verifying your site with the Search Console. If you haven’t, you will need to do so before making use of this tool.
However, once your site is verified, you can start taking advantage of its features, including the broken link checker.
To see all the broken links on your site, log into Google Search Console and then navigate to Index > Coverage. You will then be able to see how many broken links Google indexed.
You can click each link to check if it’s indeed broken and request Google to fetch it again. If the link is broken, go back to your site and update it to point to the correct location. Then, go back to the Search Console and click the Validate Fix button so Google can reindex those links and validate them.
Online Broken Link Checker Tool
If Google Search Console is not your thing, you can use an online broken link checker tool like Broken Link Checker. This tool is as simple as they come. All you have to do is enter your website URL and the tool will analyze it and return all the broken links you have.
Broken Link Checker will also show you which page has the broken link so you can easily go back to your site and fix the link yourself.
Both the Search Console and the Broken Link Checker are useful tools but they do have one downside: you have to manually fix the broken links yourself. If you only have a few broken links, this shouldn’t be a problem, but if you have dozens of broken links, fixing them manually turns into a time-consuming task. Luckily, there is a plugin that can help you speed up the entire process.
Broken Link Checker Plugin
The Broken Link Checker plugin is the go-to plugin for checking broken links on your website. The plugin is simple to use and allows you to monitor your website for broken links and get notifications when they are found. The plugin was developed and is maintained by ManageWP, boasts a 4-star rating, and over 700 000 active installs.
Once you install the plugin, it will start analyzing your site. Depending on the site size, this can take anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours. When the scan is complete, broken links will show up under Tools -> Broken Links. A notification will also appear in the “Broken Link Checker” widget on the Dashboard.
From there, you can decide what to do with the link. You can edit the link and point it to the right page or post on your site, you can unlink it, and you can recheck the link once you’re done fixing it.
The best part about the plugin is that you can download it for free from the official repository.
What to Do When You Have External Broken Links
Fixing internal broken links on your website is easy. All you have to do is point the link to the correct page or a post. But if you have a number of external broken links, you need to fix those too. Here are a few options for dealing with external broken links:
- Visit the site’s homepage and use their search option to see if the page has simply been moved or had its URL changed. If that’s the case, point the link to the correct page.
- If the original link has been deleted and doesn’t point to a new, relevant page, replace it with a different source. For example, if you linked to a study or a research, can you find a different study that backs up your claim?
- Remove the link altogether if it’s not relevant to the content or the context of the article.
Having broken links on your website is not uncommon if you’ve had your website for a while. However, if you want to make sure your website remains healthy when it comes to SEO and provides the best user experience for your visitors, you need to fix those broken links as soon as possible. With the tips in this article, you now have three different ways of checking for broken links so be sure to put them to good use.
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