Why You Need To Fix Those Broken Links
Day 12 of the A-Z challenge.
L is for Links
Does this happen to you?
You’re reading a page on a website or a post in a blog and notice a link that directs you to some other interesting sounding content. You click the link only to get this message:
Annoying isn’t it? It’s particularly irritating when you get that error message but then can’t find any way to get to the content you wanted. So you give up and go and find something else to do with your time.
Now let me ask you a question.
Have you thought to check your own blog site for any links that don’t work?
Unless you have a tool installed that screens your site for broken link, you probably won’t don’t know you have a problem until you find it yourself or a reader gives you a heads up.
If your readers see the occasional error, they’ll likely forgive you, particularly if they are regular readers. But a site with multiple broken links, doesn’t fill anyone with confidence.
It can also hurt your ability to rank with search engines. Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines for example, use broken links as one way fo them to determine the quality of a site. If their web crawler finds multiple broken links, they consider that a sign of a neglected or abandoned site.
Why Do Links Break?
Broken links can happen for a variety of reasons:
- Simple human error: you entered an incorrect URL when you set up the link. You misspelled a word or mistyped the URL. For example typing htp:// instead of http:// or putting dot org instead of dot com.
- Blog reorganisation: you may have changed the structure of your site since you added the link so it’s directing people to a URL (usually called the destination page) that no longer exists. This is a problem I ran into when I re-organised the page where I list all the books I’ve read and reviewed. Every link (about 200 + was broken)
- Change of post title: I tweaked some posts last year and republished them. But didn’t realise that when I changed the post title, I changed the URL . So every link on my site that pointed to that post, was now broken. Ugh….
- Deleted content: the link was to a piece of content – such as a video, a PDF or a blog post– that you have since removed. But you forgot to update the link
- External site changes: Your link may have been to a website that has since been deleted or the particular page has been removed or the content is no longer available.
How to Find Broken Links on Your Blog
You could do this the hard way – reviewing every page and every post you’ve created on your site and checking each link. A very time consuming and laborious task even for a relatively small site. Not one I would want to undertake unless absolutely necessary.
The easier way is to get someone else to do the job for you. There are several tools available – a few are mentioned in this WordPress guide but they look very complicated.
The other option is to install a plugin. Help on how to find and install plugins for WordPress is available here.
However you can do this only if you have a self-hosted wordpress.org site or you have purchased a wordpress.com business package. In other words, if you just use the free WordPress.com option, then you cannot install plugins. In which case you should skip to the section here headed ….
One plugin mentioned by Wordpres is called “Broken Link Checker“. I recommend you avoid that one – it’s not stable, can cause your blog to slow and is a pain to install.
I’m currently testing two plugins.
One is called “Link Checker” Once installed you direct it to begin crawling your site and check the HTML pages. The report then shows on which page the broken link occurs so you can then fix the problem.
There’s a limit to its effectiveness however – the plugin will only search a proportion of your pages. To get it to search everything, you need to pay.
There’s another one I’m playing with called Link Manager. This looks more comprehensive and easier to use because it runs in the background and emails you if it detects broken links.
How To Fix Broken Links
- If the problem is the result of a spelling error or a typing mistake it’s a simple fix. You just correct the error.
- If the destination page for the broken link no longer exists, you should change the link to direct readers to an alternative page. If there is no relevant page, you could remove the link entirely.
- If the link is to another website or blog, you could reach out to them and request a fix. Most bloggers would be happy to do this since your link is actually helping to boost their traffic.
Join The Discussion
I’ve learned the hard way that broken links can materialise on a blog site without the blogger’s knowledge. It’s taken me a lot of time to fix the problems I encountered but I hope these tips help make. it easier for you in a similar situation. If you’ve found these tips helpful, let me know by leaving a comment below.
33 thoughts on “Why You Need To Fix Those Broken Links”
Hi Karen, I find this particularly interesting, as I have spent the last half hour roaming your site to find a way to contact you to tell you about a broken link 😆. Is there no contact form or other ways to get in touch?
In case anyone else is reading this, Marit and I have been exchanging emails on the topic and she’s kindly helped me see where the broken link occurred so I could fix it. She’s also helped me see that the current ‘contact me’ info is buried on my About page making it hard for people to find. So I’m going to make a change.
This shows you the power of having independent pairs of eyes on your site and also the generosity of bloggers who spend time to tell you if something ain’t working 🙂
I think I will experiment with plugins too. In the absence of that, to minimise the effort of doing it manually, I think it will help to build and maintain a list of all of my posts and pages that have links. It will probably also help to categorise by which have only internal links and which include eternal links. Since most do not have any, it will save time checking time. Then it should hopefully be a matter of checking routinely.
Have to admit the topic of broken links never entered my head!
I was alerted to it only when I was doing some upgrades to some old posts and found the links were not working
I hope there aren’t too many broken links on my blog but honestly, I don’t have time to check them out.
According to WP stats, not so many people click on those links anyway.
It does take time unfortunately Emma
Oh, interesting! I tend to either link to other bloggers or the odd music video. But I may have to go back over posts and check. Unfortunately I’m on the free wordpress so no easy way…
You have so much content on your site that I can’t imagine its going to be an easy task. But you could always do it slowly, one month at a time
I reckon this would be like we say in Australia, painting Sydney Harbour Bridge! As soon as you get to the end you’d have to start again.
A long time a go I think you could enter your site into a google page and it word point to broken links. I did that a few times but that was a long long long time ago. I don’t have a self-hosted blog, so I’m just going to have to wear the issue. I do notice them occasionally old posts but I must admit don’t always bother to fix them. Clearly I should. My bad.
That issue of changing the title is really tricky. I learnt that the hard way. Now I make sure that if I change a title (say I did a copy and paste and left 2018 in for an Award announcement and it should have been 2019), I make sure the URL is left alone. It means the URL is a bit different to the title (eg it will say blah blah blah-2018-copy) but the link is still right and that’s the important thing I’ve learnt!
I’m using free WordPress so using a plugin isn’t an option. However your post got me thinking, slightly at a tangent, about posts I’ve done for blog tours that include a giveaway. They usually have a link to Rafflecopter but of course will no longer be valid as the giveaway is closed. I really should go back and update those posts, I guess…
The question is whether you even need to keep the post if it was just announcing a giveaway.
Good point. I might think about deleting those posts that are just a giveaway and not accompanied by a review, guest post, etc.
I’m still learning about WordPress and muddling my way through (despite having a bit of a neglected blog for a number of years!) this blog post is really helpful, I’ll think twice before renaming posts and will be sure to check my links when I publish a post!
Hi Ellie, most of us were in a muddle to begin with. But we got there…. Did you know that wordpress has a lot of tutorial material and I think a free course? This article is helpful – scroll to the bottom to find info about their facebook group and you tube videos
I didn’t know that, thanks so much I’ll go and take a look!
Hope all works out Ellie. If you find yourself struggling, just send me a message to bookertalk at gmail dot com
Thank you, that’s really generous!
Thanks for your suggestions! I think I’d even be willing to pay for Link Checker….because Broken links are such a big deal! For now, my project for the year is to update my first year’s blog posts that are sorely lacking in SEO, formatting, etc….so I’m also manually checking every link on those posts. But I need to invest in a plug in that will help me monitor my entire site. I’m fearful of a plug in that will slow down my site or cause other problems that I won’t know how to fix. I think I’ll add this to my list of questions for my technical advisor! I hope you’ll give us an update with your final recommendation!
it’s good to be wary about some plugins. I read yesterday that if you have too many it will affect your site load time. Avoid that Broken Link Checker for that reason! It may be a while before I can report back on my experiment
I would like to say I have time to fix broken links on my blog (or even the time to test different plug-ins!) but I simply don’t. I find that the links that break most commonly are those to YouTube – I fix them when I come across them, which is a very ad hoc approach!
It’s not the most fun job for sure. I had to spend a lot of time on one page which had links to all my review posts – every one of he links was broken
YES! This is such a small thing that can make a HUGE difference to a reader’s experience! I’ve got a plug-in, can’t remember which one off the top of my head, and I check it frequently. A friend once asked me for help with his blog and he’d never checked for broken links – I installed the same plug-in, and he had over 1,000. Eeeeek! Good work spreading the word 😉 And I’m loving this whole series, so much good advice!
If you remember the name of that plugin let us know Sheree. I’ve just created a 404 error redirect page so if a link gets broken that I don’t detect at least it will divert to that page with a search box included,
I never thought about broken links….!!! Thank you for the information….
You’re welcome Nabeela. Few of us have the time to dig into WordPress or blogging in any detail …
I think the first take from this is don’t change the name of your posts. Earlier on we discussed reposting, and I think if you have a post that you want to freshen up, reposting with a new name is the simplest way to do it. Of course you then have to go back and link to the new post rather than the old one, but at least the old link is still there until you do. (I really should go back and bring all my Miles Franklin links up to date).
You CAN change blog titles as long as you keep the slug ((the text in the url) the same.
On further reflection, the file name for the post ends with the date followed by the slug. So I have two questions: If you edit the title and press update, does the slug change; and
if you edit the title, then edit the slug (back to what it was), does the date change?
I assume from what you’re saying that the answers are: Yes, No.
I did an experiment where I changed the title of two posts – the slug (also called the permalink) didn’t change. The explanation of permalinks on wordpress is very confusing – see if you can make more sense of it https://wordpress.org/support/article/writing-posts/#post-field-descriptions
One thing I did notice was that you can change how your slugs show – go to your admin toolbox/select settings the permalinks. It gives you options on how your permalinks are shown. Mine is set to “post name” yours might be set to “numeric”
Let me know how this goes…you’ve set me a challenge now to try and find a simple answer 🙂
Thanks Karen, I didn’t mean to create any more work for you. I followed the link and mucked around a little bit without achieving anything. I’ve never really attempted to stretch myself with the editor, and I prefer the Classic. Following some tips from Grab the Lapels a few years ago, I do shorten my slug and determine what goes in my excerpt but that’s about the extent of it (though Melanie did introduce me to widgets).
Don’t fret at all about this Bill. I do like a challenge and I want to know the answer for my self anyway – may not get around to it until this A2Z month is over but I won’t forget