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.