December 20, 2016

Broken LinksLinks are an important part of the web, but they’re fragile. Every link is a pointer to a fixed location, and the web is constantly evolving, which means links break all the time — a process called link rot. When a user clicks on a broken link they see an error instead of the content they expect.

Why should you care about broken links on your WordPress site? One reason is that they cause a poor user experience. It’s no fun to be reading, click on a link, and get an error. That’s bad enough when it’s a link to an external resource, but it’s even worse when it’s an internal link that results in an error.

When you publish a blog article that contains calls-to-action with links to a product page, you want users to be able to click the links and reach the product page. If the link is broken, they’ll see a 404 error instead. Every visit to a website is a journey. Broken links are like collapsed bridges: they stop users getting where they want to go and where you want them to go.

There’s a lot of debate in the SEO world about whether broken links hurt a page’s ranking. The popular wisdom used to be that broken links are harmful, but Google has indicated that they have no impact on ranking. Even though broken links probably don’t hurt search engine ranking, they can limit the effectiveness of crawling. Google’s crawlers only know a page exists because of links that point to it. Without links, the crawler probably won’t find the page.

There’s also a more subtle SEO issue. Google carries out topic and relevance analysis of pages, and the anchor text and context of incoming links impact Google’s understanding of a page. The effect is probably small, but combined with the crawling problem and the user experience problem, there’s no reason not to spend a few minutes finding and fixing broken links every couple of months.

Find And Fix Broken Links On WordPress

The Broken Link Checker plugin is my preferred tool for winkling out broken links and fixing them. It will monitor your WordPress site for broken links, missing images, and redirects. Broken links can be edited from the plugin’s admin page, which makes it really easy to quickly get rid of all the broken links on your site.

While Broken Link Checker is sufficient for most link-fixing purposes, sometimes I want a more comprehensive view of the link structure and health of website. For that, I turn to Screaming Frog, a web crawler used by many SEO professionals. Screaming Frog will crawl a site and report any 404 errors and redirects, but it will also find duplicate content issues, problems with page titles and meta data, and it can create XML sitemaps.

My usual workflow is to use Screaming Frog when I begin work on a site, and then use Broken Link Checker every few weeks to catch any new 404 errors.


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