How to find & fix broken links
What is a broken link? A broken link is a link to a page on your website or a blog post that doesn’t exist. This happens sometimes when a blog post or page is removed and the old page is not redirected.
Why does it matter if I have broken links? There are a lot of reasons. First, it interrupts your user’s experience if they land on a page that doesn’t exist, or try to click a link that doesn’t go anywhere. If the user can’t find what they are looking for, they are much more likely to leave your site rather than convert. It’s also bad for SEO, because the search engines use links as a map to crawl through your site.
So it’s important to find and fix your broken links to keep your site in top shape. So how do you find them? There are a variety of ways to find broken links on your website. You can use online link checkers, Google search console, and even WordPress plugins.
Finding Broken Links in Google Search Console
Login to your account with Google Search Console and navigate to Coverage in the navigation menu. Here you’ll find a list of any 404 pages on your site that Google has found. You’ll get a list, and after you fix them all, you can mark them as fixed and ask Google validate the fixes.
Additionally, you can connect Search Console to the Yoast Plugin and it’ll pull in all the 404 pages that Google finds and present them to you right in your website. AND, if you have the premium version of Yoast, you can create redirects right there on the spot. It’s pretty handy.
Finding Broken Links with Online Checkers
I’ve never actually used any of these online tools, but they exist and probably because they are useful. You enter your URL into their search box and it spits out a bunch of broken links at you. A few you can try include:
Finding Broken Links with a plugin
There are a number of plugins you can use on your site which will collect and report broken links.
Any of these methods will work to help you find your website’s broken links. The next step is to fix them!
Fixing Broken Links
Once you know which links are broken, then the next step is to fix them. Making the process as seamless as possible for the user. What that doesn’t mean is redirecting all broken links to your homepage. If someone was clicking through in a search result to learn about something specific you once had on your website, probably the homepage isn’t going to have that information and they’ll leave your site frustrated.
You really have two options when it comes to fixing broken links. You can restore or recreate that page/content or redirect that old link to a related or relevant page.
Redirecting is simply the process of making sure that anyone who arrives at a link on your site that no longer exists lands on another page of your site instead of landing on an error page.
I typically go the route of redirecting dead links to new pages. You can do this a number of ways, but the easiest is with a plugin. If you don’t have the premium version of Yoast (which lets you create redirects as you delete or change content), then I recommend one called Redirection. It’s fairly easy to install and use, just paste in the broken link and then paste in the new link to where it should go.
Tips for Redirecting Content
- Don’t redirect everything to the homepage. Try to find something relevant or related.
- Sometimes a link is broken simply because you changed your slug or permalink, which means you only need to create a redirect that goes to the updated page.
Most sites with a larger amount of content are going to run into error pages from time to time, which means it’s important to set up a great error page as well. Read our blog post on creating a great 404 error page.
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