General maintenance of any website involves (among other things) verifying if each link in your website is still valid. Sometimes a link might be broken, either because it no longer exists or due to a change in the link’s source url. If a user were to click on a broken link, he or she would get a “404 Page Not Found” error. This would create a negative impression about your site in the mind of the user. Not only this, but broken links affect your website’s SEO. In any case we would want to list and resolve any broken links. As the number of posts in your blog or website grows, having to do this manually, is a cumbersome task. Thankfully there is a plugin available to help us do the same.
The Broken Link Checker is a very helpful plugin. When activated it immediately searches and finds any broken links (links or redirects which do not work or missing images). There are many settings provided to configure the link checker according to your preference.
The Broken Link Checker installs like any other plugin. Upon activation a ‘Link Checker‘ menu is created under Settings in the Dashboard. Here several options are provided to configure your plugin.
Any broken links are notified under the General tab in Link Checker. You need to click the Status notification to view further details. The link url, the status, the linked text and the page or post where the link is present is listed in a table.
You can click the error message (e.g. 404 Not Found) in the ‘Status‘ column to view more information about the broken link, such as when was the link last checked, how long has it been since this link has been broken, how many instances of this link are present and so on.
There are several options provided to resolve the link error. You can edit the URL, unlink the linked text (from all the posts), dismiss it as valid, or just choose to plain ignore the message. You can also select multiple URLs and perform the required option in a bulk. If you choose to edit a broken link, the plugin will offer suggestions. It will check if there’s an archived copy of the linked page available, and (if available) it will offer to update the link to point to the archive. Once you have resolved the broken links you can deactivate the plugin or leave it activated.
The default options for the plugin should usually be sufficient. But you could consider and review certain settings:
- Stop search engines from following a broken link: under Link Checker-> General tab, select the option under ‘Link tweaks’ to ‘Stop search engines from following broken links’ (basically sets the nofollow option for the link to true, to prevent search engines from following the link. Read how broken links can affect your site’s seo.)
- By default, a strike-through effect is applied to all broken links found by the plugin. You can disable this by turning off the ‘Apply custom formatting to broken links’ option under Link Checker -> General
- Verify that all links are tested: under Link Checker-> Which Links To Check, select ‘Link Types’ according to the kind of links (HTML links, HTML images, embedded YouTube videos, etc) you would have in your posts
Be sure to save any changes made. Also note that there is an option to force the link checker to recheck all the pages, under Link Checker-> Advanced-> Forced recheck. The Broken Link Checker once activated works on a timely basis to report any invalid links via email (optional) or notifications on your dashboard (any new links added are checked immediately). Alternately if you prefer, you could deactivate the plugin, but be sure to activate it on a regular basis to make sure your website is free of any link errors.