Everyone’s trying to get a leg up when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO) for their website. Or, if not a leg up, then at least they don’t want their Google rankings to slip. Having broken links on your site can result in just that — an undesired drop in search engine results.
Google and other search engines look unfavourably upon websites with broken links. It’s one of the many factors that determine their ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs). Broken links look unprofessional and can make your site slow. These are characteristics you don’t want humans or search engines using to describe your site. When someone clicks on a link in your site — whether that link is supposed to take them to an external website or to another page within your own site — and a “page not found” error shows up instead of what they were expecting, they’ll be frustrated and unimpressed. Why take a chance of that happening?
How to find broken links on your WordPress site
If your website is a few short pages, then scrolling through each page and clicking on each link is a pretty simple exercise. However, if your site contains several (or hundreds of) pages and blog posts and/or long pages and posts, manually checking each link could be a daunting and tedious task. Not to mention that you might still miss a few links. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were an automated way to check all the links on your site? Well, like the cousin of “there’s an app for that” goes: there’s a plugin for that!
One of the best and most popular WordPress plugins for finding broken links is Broken Link Checker by WPMU DEV. Once you download and activate it, you can then go to Tools (in the left side column in the WordPress admin area) > Broken Links to see a list of the broken links in your site. Then, of course, you can locate and fix or delete those links.
As well, you can go to Settings > Link Checker and have notifications of broken (or potentially broken) links emailed to you on a regular basis (the default being every 72 hours). Then when you receive a notification you can log in to WordPress and correct the links.
There are other methods to find out which links on your site are broken. I won’t mention them all here, just one.
Not surprisingly, Google offers a way to view the status of the links on your site. By going to the Google Search Console then clicking on “Coverage”, you can see which links are valid, valid with warnings, or have errors.
Regardless of which method you’ve used to find the broken links on your site, make sure that you fix them all. Some might have just been a simple typo on your part. Those are quick and easy to fix. Others may require doing a search in the external site (if it has a search function) to find the new URL or contacting someone associated with that website and asking if the page still exists and what the new URL is. If you discover that the page has been permanently removed from the site (or if it’s just not worth the effort to find the new version), you’re best off simply removing the link from the text (if doing so makes sense) or, if the text clearly states that it is a link (such as the dreaded “click here”), then you’ll need to remove or reword that text accordingly.
If you want your WordPress website to do well in terms of SEO and to impress your human visitors, you need to make sure everything in it is running smoothly and that the information within it is kept up-to-date. Checking the links on a regular basis and correcting any that are outdated should be a part of that maintenance routine.