The internet is in a constant state of evolution with new websites and blogs are being created every day. At the same time, many older websites are also being abandoned and left to die.
It is frustrating for anyone to click on a link on a website and be taken to a page that is no longer online. A link that links to a dead page is known as a broken link or dead link. The actual process of a link dying is sometimes referred to as link rot.
Broken links can be created for a number of reasons, such as:
- The Website no longer being live
- The article being moved to a private area
- A change in the permalink structure that causes the URL’s of all pages to change
- A 404 error
- Someone linking using an incorrect URL (sometimes the person who wrote the link is to blame!)
Broken links are not good for visitors; and anything which which is not good for visitors is not good for website owners. Google’s Webmaster Guidelines states that website owners need to check for broken links and correct HTML. This means that having broken links on your website can hurt your website’s search engine ranking.
To address this issue, it is important to locate broken links and then correct them. If the article or website has simply changed URL, you can update the link with the correct URL. If the website is no longer online, it is best to remove the link from the page.
How to Check for Broken Links
You may be wondering how you can check for broken links. Obviously, it is not practical to go through hundreds or thousands of articles and check to see if each link is still valid. That is why website owners use broken link checkers.
W3C Link Checker may take a few minutes to analyse your website if you have a lot of pages. It will then display a report of broken links together with links that could not be checked as they were blocked due to robots exclusion rules. The report highlighted to me that YouTube recently changed the URL of my channel, which meant that dozens of references to it on my blog were incorrect.
Another great option is Broken Link Checker. The WordPress plugin not only checks broken links, it also advises you of missing images and stops search engines from following broken links.
The plugin will scan your website and email you whenever it finds a broken link. In addition to links and images, the plugin will highlight broken links from comments and allow you to unlink the broken link directly through the admin area. It also corrects redirected URL’s with their name URL.
Checking for broken links is not something that you need to do every day. I normally do a quick check for dead links every month or two to make sure no websites have done offline. If you keep on top of it and check every few months, you will not find it to be an inconvenience as you rarely have more than a few links to correct.