If you want a working, user friendly website, you can’t have it filled with broken links. That’s a fact. But it’s not always easy to find broken links on your WordPress site, especially if you’ve published a bunch of content.
Never fear – in this post, I’ll show you an easy, and free, broken link checker plugin that you can use to quickly find and fix all of the dead links on your WordPress site. Even beginners should have no problem using this tool.
And if you’d prefer a cloud-based tool, I’ll also suggest a couple of those at the end of the post.
Why You Need to Find Broken Links
Broken links are the worst. Think about it from the perspective of a user:
They clicked on a link because they’re interested in the content that it has to offer. They’re chugging along, excited to browse the content. Then…bam – 404 page.
It might seem like a small thing to you, but it’s a massive knock to your site’s user experience if you have broken links.
Beyond user experience, broken links can actually directly cost you money. Imagine if you’re trying to send people to an affiliate link that’s dead. You’re not gonna make any money that way, are you?
Affiliate programs come and go or change their link structure fairly often, making this problem much more common than you might think.
Search Engine Robots Don’t Like Broken Links, Either
Broken links aren’t just bad for you and your human visitors, either. Google and other search engine robots hate them, too.
That’s because search engines work by “crawling” all the links on a page (and then the next page, and so on). If a search engine crawls a broken link, it’s essentially reached a dead end, which makes it crawl your site less efficiently than otherwise (that’s not good for SEO!).
Google even has a whole webmaster tools report dedicated to telling you about the crawl errors that it runs into:
How to Use Broken Link Checker for WordPress
Ok – broken links suck. You’ve got it by now.
But how can you actually find broken links on your WordPress site? Do you have to manually click on every single link to find out which links don’t work?
No! Don’t worry. Nothing that time-consuming.
Instead, there’s a free plugin called Broken Link Checker that helps you automate the process of finding and replacing broken links.
Here’s how to use it…
Step 1: Install and Configure Broken Link Checker
Broken Link Checker is available at WordPress.org, so you can install it directly from your WordPress dashboard:
Once you activate the plugin, head to Settings → Link Checker to configure the plugin.
There’s not necessarily anything that you need to do to configure the plugin. The only tabs you really need to look at are:
- Look for Links In
- Which Links to Check
True to their names, these two tabs let you configure what content Broken Link Checker searches for broken links in, as well as if you want it to also search out broken YouTube videos and more.
There are also a number of settings regarding how frequently Broken Link Checker checks for broken links, but I’ll recommend a best practice that makes these settings moot.
Step 2: View the Broken Link Report
Once you finish configuring the plugin, you can head to Tools → Broken Links to actually view the report for broken links on your site.
Broken Link Checker will list out every single broken link on your site, as well as the reason why it’s broken and which post/page the broken link is located on:
To fix a broken link, you have a few options that you can take directly from the Broken Link Checker dashboard.
If you hover over a specific broken link, you can:
- Edit it
- Unlink the text
- Mark it as “Not Broken”
- Dismiss the notification
For example, if you hover over a link and choose Edit URL, you can make your changes right there in the interface:
That’s all there is to it!
Best Practices for Using Broken Link Checker
While Broken Link Checker is a helpful tool, it can also be a resource-intensive tool. For that reason, some people complain that it slows down their WordPress dashboard.
To avoid that issue, I recommend only activating the plugin when you want to check for broken links. Otherwise, leave it disabled. You don’t need to continuously check for broken links – looking once every couple of weeks should be fine for most users.
Other Helpful Broken Link Checker Tools
If you’d rather not use a WordPress plugin to find broken links, there are also some cloud-based tools that you can unleash on your site’s broken links.
Here are a couple of my favorites:
- Dead Link Checker – the free package lets you run manual checks. You can also pay for automated checks with email reports.
- Broken Link Check – just enter your URL, click Find Broken Links, and you’re off to the races. Only allows up to 3,000 pages without paying, though.
And if you’re willing to download a piece of software, the popular SEO tool Screaming Frog can also help you find broken links on your WordPress website.
Don’t Live With Dead Links
Dead links drag your site’s user experience and SEO down. Even worse, they’re a natural consequence of the changing Internet landscape.
As your site ages, you’ll invariably start accumulating broken links. For that reason, you need to be proactive and use a broken link checker tool to find the broken links on your site and replace them with links that actually work.
Colin Newcomer is a freelance writer for hire with a background in SEO and affiliate marketing. He helps clients grow their web visibility by writing primarily about digital marketing, WordPress, and B2B topics.