Find and Fix Broken Links in WordPress
Have you ever been in a situation where you were visiting a website to find your solution but ended up on a 404 error page?
We did a Google poll on what annoys you the most when visiting a website and look at the results!
Broken Links has the most votes that annoy users the most. They are not only annoying but can also hurt your SEO efforts as well. Not only the users but search engines hate broken links too.
When visitors stumble upon a broken link they do not want to continue to explore any other pages because they cannot do so.
And when visitors spend lesser time on your site – search engines will assume that your website is not providing a good user experience and eventually give you a lower ranking.
Broken links will chase your visitors away and hurt your SEO efforts.
Therefore it is in your best interest to fix them. No one wants broken links on their website but not many website owners are willing to spend their time to check the links and fix or remove them.
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What is a Broken Link?
A broken link also known as dead link – is a link that no longer works.
Broken links can happen for many reasons but the most common reason is when a page is either deleted or moved to a different location which causes the server to show a 404 not found error.
On WordPress sites broken links typically occur when moving a site to new domain name or when deleting a post or page without proper redirection.
Sometimes broken links can also happen due to a typo and they can go unnoticed for months if not years.
Having broken links on your WordPress site is bad news for both your visitors and your site’s SEO therefore learning how to fix broken links in WordPress is an important part of running a successful WordPress site.
In this post we will dive into a deeper explanation for why broken links are something worth seeking out and correcting.
We will show you different methods that you can use to find and fix broken links in WordPress without slowing down your site.
There are 2 types of broken links on any website:
1. Internal Links
The internal links refer to links that go from one page on your website to another.
These links are the ones that you have control on your website. For example here is an internal link that will guide you to read the benefits of internal linking our team has written.
Clicking on these internal links will direct users to the same website but a different page.
So whenever you update or make any changes to your website you should always check your internal links and make sure that the links are working.
2. External Links
External links or outbound links refer to the links that are pointing to another website.
However with external links – you will need to spend more time checking them because you would not know when the links will change as you are not in control.
So you would have to check it quite often to see if the link is still working and it will have to be done manually.
Let’s say I have linked to a particular website but a few months later the website owner took the link off their website. So when Google Spiders crawl my site and follow that link to the other website – it will read it as a dead end.
When Google Spiders detected too many 404 error pages then your website’s value will decrease from the search engines’ point of view.
So if you think that having broken links on your website would not damage your site then think again.
Why Broken Links Are Bad for WordPress Website?
Broken links are bad for your WordPress site for a few different reasons.
Firstly there is the effect on your visitors. If someone is clicks on a link and they are doing so because they are interested in the content that they were told the link will take them to. Makes sense – right?
So by sending them to a broken link instead of the content that you promised – you are creating a frustrating experience for your visitors and that is why it is a good incentive to find and fix broken links on your site.
Broken links are bad for robots too especially the crawler bots used by search engines like Google.
Broken links waste your crawl equity in Google and every 404 page that a Googlebot encounters as a result of broken links is a live page that Google could have crawled instead.
Another point – broken links are also a waste of link equity. For example say if you have a broken internal link from one blog post to another then you are not getting the SEO benefit of that internal link which is a negative for your SEO efforts.
Broken Links will also affect your business in the following ways:
1. Sales / Revenue
Broken links are roadblocks in the conversion process.
No matter how much time you spend in getting customers to your site if they cannot get to the conversion page then all of your SEO efforts will be a waste.
Other than losing revenues you are losing customers too and this is because when customers are unhappy they will let their friends know about it and you will end up losing more customers.
KISSmetrics research proves that 44% of users will tell the others when they have a bad online experience.
Just think how annoying it is to find a link that you were going to get more information about but ended up on a 404 error page that the solution does not appear or exist.
2. Bounce Rate
404 error page is not just frustrating but it could also influence your bounce rate.
The bounce rate is measured by the number of time visitors spend on your page and if visitors do not stay for a certain amount of time then they would be considered as bounced from your page.
When you have unsatisfied visitors on your site and each of them leave your website then it results in a higher bounce rate.
When search engines see high bounce rate on your pages -it will raise a red flag and it will class the whole site as irrelevant to the search engines.
Therefore it is absolutely crucial to keep your visitors happy when browsing your site by providing a good user experience – never lead them to any broken links.
3. Google Ranking
As mentioned above a high bounce rate can actually lead to lower ranking in Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)
When Google sees that visitors are leaving your page within seconds of landing – they will assume that users did not find what they are looking for. Google will lower the ranking on SERPs since it is flagged as less credible and reliable.
Google uses a technology called Spiders to crawl through your website to gather valuable information that tells the search engines what is your page about.
A broken link is all it takes for Google Spiders to stop the indexing process which can ruin your chances to get a higher rank.
Now you can see how broken links can harm and potentially ruin your website.
What Does Error 404 Not Found Actually Mean?
Basically it means that the client or your visitor’s were able to connect to the host which is your website’s server but it was unable to find the actual resource that was requested like a specific URL or filename.
For example if someone tries to access yoursite.com/post-name but you do not have any content with the slug post-name.
Note that this error is not unique to WordPress alone. It can happen on any website.
The visitor will then see a 404 error because even though your web server is functioning normally the resource that was requested does not exist.
If you see this error on your entire site’s content then it is typically due to an issue with your WordPress site’s permalinks.
If you only see it on individual pieces of content then it is most likely because you changed a piece of content’s slug without setting up a redirect.
Additionally the 404 error is not always a bad thing but it is only bad when it is interfering with usability. And sometimes things are just out of your control!
Sometimes a person might just type the wrong URL in their address bar. In that case they will still see a 404 error but there is no actual problem with how your site is configured.
This is actually the desired response and you can create your own custom 404 page to help get visitors to the right spot.
Because different browsers display error messages differently so you might see a different message for this error.
Other common variations include:
- Error 404
- Not Found
- Page Not Found
- 404 Not Found
- HTTP Error 404
- The page cannot be found
- We cannot find the page you are looking for.
- The requested URL was not found on this server. That is all we know.
- The requested URL was not found on this server.
How to Fix Broken Links in WordPress
Now we are aware that broken links are bad for your WordPress site. It is time to answer the important question – how can you fix broken links in WordPress?
In the next sections we will cover ways how to fix broken links in WordPress.
1. Update Your WordPress Site’s Permalinks
If you are experiencing site wide 404 errors when trying to access content then the most likely cause is an issue with your permalinks or your htaccess file accessible via c-panel on your hosting server.
The easiest way to fix this is to update your permalink settings through the WordPress dashboard.
All you need to do is go to Settings → Permalinks and click Save Changes you do not need to make any changes – clicking Save Changes is enough.
If you are experiencing 404 errors on a specific piece of content then the issue is likely that you:
- Changed the URL slug for that content.
- Moved that piece of content manually like deleting the existing post and pasting it into a new post.
Users then try to access the content at the old location and see a 404 page instead of the resource they were expecting.
The best way to fix this is to automatically redirect anyone who tries to access the old location to the new location.
That way they will make it to the right spot without any 404 errors. It is also good for SEO.
If you move or rename a post without adding a redirect then you lose all the domain authority attached to the backlinks pointed at that post.
WordPress by default will attempt to redirect changed/moved content. But it does not always work and you should never rely on WordPress for this functionality.
But do not worry there are several easy ways to set up redirects in WordPress.
First you can use the free Redirection plugin to manage redirects from your WordPress dashboard.
Once you have installed and activated the plugin go to Tools → Redirection and enter the 404 page URL in the Source URL box and the new location of the content in the Target URL box:
The first way to find broken links in Ahrefs Site audit tool. Simply set up a new project then input your WordPress site’s address and let it scan your site.
Depending on the size of your site this could take a good 20 minutes or so.
After the scan has completed click into the reports section and you will find a list of all the 404 errors on your WordPress site.
You can then see all the broken links on your site and the internal pages they are appearing on. You should then update the broken links with the correct ones.
Option 2 – Find Broken Links with Ahrefs Site Explorer
Simply put your WordPress site URL into Ahrefs Site Explorer -go to the Backlinks report and click Broken to see the strongest broken backlinks of your website.
Alternatively you can also go to Best by links report and apply the 404 not found filter in HTTP codes.
Option 3 – Find Broken Outgoing Links with Ahrefs Site Explorer
Fixing internal broken backlinks on your WordPress site is number one priority and do not forget about broken outgoing links too.
When you link to broken content or resources on other people’s sites this is also frustrating for the user. High-quality outgoing links also play a part in your SEO.
Simply put your WordPress site URL into Ahrefs Site Explorer – go to the Outgoing links report and click Broken links.
You can then see the post or page on your WordPress site where the link resides and the broken external link.
3. Desktop Software
Beyond the web-based SEO audit tools you can also find broken links using desktop software as well.
The most popular option here is Screaming Frog which is a well-known SEO tool that is free to use to find broken links.
Screaming Frog works on Windows, MacOS and Ubuntu.
Once you download and install the program here is how to use it to find broken links.
First add your site’s URL to the box at the top and click Start:
Next you can use the Response Codes option to filter out 404 pages and then use the Inlinks feature at the bottom to find links to those 404 pages:
If you are using a Mac – Integrity is also another good desktop SEO tool that you can use to find broken links in WordPress.
4. Online Broken Link Checker Tool
If your site is not very large then you might be able to use a free online broken link checker tool to find broken links.
A good option here is the creatively named Online Broken Link Checker which lets you check up to 3,000 pages for free.
It is also really easy to use –
- you just head to the website
- plug in in your URL
click Find broken links:
You can decide whether to report distinct broken links or all occurrences – all occurrences is more thorough but may take more time:
Next the tool will list out all of the broken internal and external links as well as provide links to the page where the broken link appears:
Then all you need to do is go in and fix the offending link/s.
5. Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a helpful tool from Google that helps you monitor, maintain and troubleshoot your site’s presence in Google Search results.
To get started you will need to verify your site with Google Search Console then you can start benefiting from its features including broken link detection.
As part of its functionality Google Search Console includes a Crawl Errors report that lets you see all the pages that returned a 404 error to Google:
Clicking on any one of those links will open a popup where you can see which pages link to that 404 error page which lets you correct the broken link on those pages:
6. Broken Link Checker WordPress Plugin
We do not recommend using a WordPress plugin to check broken links because they can be a big drag on your site’s speed and performance.
From a performance perspective it is much better to off-load these duties to a separate tool via any one of the methods above.
If you absolutely must use a WordPress plugin to check broken links – do not leave it active and running all the time.
Instead run the plugin once and then delete it from your site after you have fixed the broken links.
Once again – our recommendation is to just use one of the other tools above and skip the plugins.
When it comes to broken link checker plugins the most popular option is the free Broken Link Checker plugin at WordPress.org.
Once you install and activate the plugin, go to Tools → Broken Links to view the report with all of your broken internal and external links:
To quickly fix any broken links that the tool finds – you can hover over the link and choose Edit URL to edit the link without needing to open each individual page.
Features of Broken Link Checker –
- The plugin monitors your blog post, pages, comments and custom fields etc.
- You can easily filter and search links by URL and anchor text etc.
- You do not have to edit links from that particular edit post page as it can be directly edited from plugin’s page.
- The plugin notifies you either through the dashboard or via email notification.
- It gives the facility to prevent search engines from following broken links.
Manage Your Links Smartly
Having broken links on your WordPress site is bad for both user experience and SEO so you want to periodically check for broken links and fix as many of them as possible.
For the most performance-friendly way how to find broken links in WordPress – we recommend using an off-site solution.
While WordPress plugins like Broken Link Checker make it easy to find broken links on WordPress we do not recommend them because of the negative performance aspect of this plugin.
It is definitely not recommended to leave broken links on your site so it is important that you fix, remove or replace any of the broken links you find immediately.
But it is important to remember that you can actually fix these broken links yourself.
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