It’s a good idea to regularly scan your website for broken links (nobody likes them!).
The plugin I’m going to show you has the ability to scan internal links (the ones pointing to your own pages) and external links (the ones pointing to other websites). You should be most concerned about internal links – sending people to pages that don’t exist creates a terrible impression and a poor user experience.
Checking your site for broken links is not the kind of task you need to do every day or every week (unless you’re constantly pumping out new content). Once a month is usually often enough.
Sadly, the plugin I’m going to show you doesn’t have the ability to automatically run scheduled checks. So this is something you have to do manually.
Before I explain how to use the plugin, let’s look at some of the ways links break.
You delete a page from your website that has links pointing to it
Depending on the size and age of your website, and your habits with regards to linking to your own content, deleting pages may have a minor or major impact on your site. If you never interlink, you can probably skip this section, but if you often link to your own content (which is good practice, by the way), keep reading.
From Google’s SEO Starter Guide:”…internal links can help users and Google navigate your site better.”
News articles, blog posts, landing pages, how-to guides and any other type of content will at some point become out of date, stale or irrelevant. When that time arrives, you have two choices – update the content to make it relevant again, or delete it from your live website (you could keep it in Drafts for editing later). If you choose the latter option, and you have links (on your own site or from other sites) pointing to that content, anyone visiting that page will get a 404 error (page not found).
There’s nothing wrong with deleting content. In fact, it’s a good way to keep your site lean and your content meaningful. But it’s important to understand what happens when you remove a page from your website.
You change the URL (permalink)
Say you decide one day to change the permalink. You might want to use a shorter one to make it easier to share pages or you might add a keyword or two for SEO. To all intents and purposes, what you’ve done is create a brand new page.
Any links pointing to the old one won’t work anymore. And any traffic coming from search engines will get the dreaded 404 page.
To fix this issue, set up a 301 redirect (this is the best plugin for setting up redirects). This tells Google the old page has permanently moved to the new URL and all traffic should be redirected to the new page. In theory, you shouldn’t lose any traffic or rankings if you do this properly.
There’s a spelling mistake in the link
This one is the easiest to fix. If you’ve created the link manually you may have added an extra letter or character somewhere within the URL. Once you notice the error, it’s easy to fix. If you don’t notice it, and the article hosting the link becomes popular and peeps click on the broken link, you’ll annoy your readers.
Do broken links negatively affect SEO?
It’s hard to know for sure. But as Google places more emphasis than ever on the user experience, it’s fair to say they probably do. Quite how much is anybody’s guess. I wouldn’t worry too much about a few broken links here and there (unless your intentionally using them to boost your SEO), but if your site is littered with broken links, it’s wise to do something about it.
How to use a plugin to find broken links on a WordPress website
The WordPress plugin we’re going to use for this task in WP Link Status. You can download it here or install it through your dashboard.
Once installed, you’ll need to create a new scan. You’ll see a page like this:
These are the default settings. The only thing I’ve added is the Scan Name. It’s optional, but I like to label stuff so I know what’s going on.
When I run this type of report, I like to check external links too. So, I leave the Destination Type set to All URLs. If you want to only check your site, choose Internal URLs from the drop down menu.
Next, click through to the Links Status tab.
As we’re looking for broken links, uncheck all boxes apart from 404 Not Found.
Not hit the Save and run crawler button.
You’ll see a message like this.
Click on the link that says crawler results page to discover the broken links on your site.
You’ll see a message like this one.
To see the results, refresh the page or move your mouse over the section of the above image that says “no results”. A link will appear that says “Show results” – click on it.
The results page looks like this.
In the right-hand column, you have a link to the post that contains the broken link. Move your mouse over the title to make the links appear, as shown in the image below.
Click on Edit to fix the link, click on Trash to move the post to the trash and click on View to view the article. In most cases, you’ll want edit the article so you can fix the link. Typically, you’ll either remove the link or fix the error. In my case, as per the above screenshot, I re-uploaded the broken image, removed the link pointing to The Renegade Writer and replaced it with another, and changed the URL of the other links. The “resources” page is now my “toolkit” page.
After I went through each page and fixed the links, I re-ran the plugin to make sure there were no more broken links. There aren’t!
I highly recommend going through this process every month or so to keep your site clean and user-friendly. If you need help checking your site for broken links, get in touch here.