Broken links on websites. Nobody wants them.
People visiting your site get frustrated when they come across a broken link. Website visitors may think, “Can I trust this website if it has broken links?”
Website owners don’t like broken links. They’re tedious to fix and it takes time.
Search engines don’t like broken links, either. Without correct links, search engines can’t easily navigate and index your site.
And as you add more content to your site, it seems the number of broken links keeps increasing.
What’s the cause? Broken links could be due to:
- Redesign with new URLs that haven’t been set up to redirect to the new page
- Site that no longer exists
- Move to another website domain
- An honest error when you added the link to your content
Whatever the reason, you want to stay on top of broken links. And the best way to do that is with a link checker.
Link checkers are programs or online tools that crawl your website pages, verify links, and provide you with the list of URLs with broken links.
Some link checkers have advanced features including recommendations for fixing the link and the ability to easily update the link within the program, while others will only list the page and the broken link.
Here are a few of my favorite link checkers I’ve used over the years.
W3C Link Checker
The W3C Link Checker free online tool has been around for years, and is one of the better known link checkers for validating the links on a page, or an entire website.
You have several options in the tool, including how many levels of linked documents to check. If you have a large website, you’ll want to be careful with the levels settings.
Google Webmaster Tools
Once you’ve authenticated your website with Google Webmaster Tools (GWT), you’ll be able to view the crawl errors (broken links) Google encountered as it indexed your site.
You’ll get a listing of all the broken links, the cause of the error, and what page the broken link is linked from. For more information, visit Google Webmasters Tools crawl errors.
Broken Link Checker
If your site is running on WordPress, take a look at the free Broken Link Checker plugin. It’s one of the more popular WordPress plugins, with over 2 million downloads.
Broken Link Checker offers more advanced options than other link checkers I’ve used. It monitors your site and provides a list of the broken links and what pages the broken links are found on.
It also offers the ability to fix the link from the plugin interface; you don’t have to return to the actual page/post. One of the features I really like about the plugin is the ability to make broken links display differently in posts.
The plugin is highly configurable and has many helpful features. However, it may cause performance and speed issues for your website. You’ll want to carefully review the plugin settings to determine how frequently it runs.
Depending on your website host, the plugin may not be allowed. One of my colleagues recommends you install it, fix the broken links, and then delete the plugin.
Online Broken Link Checker
The Online Broken Link Checker is another tool, offering a free and premium version for validating links on your website. Both versions are run manually online.
Once you enter the website URL, it will quickly crawl your site and produce a list of broken links with the page where the link was found. According to their website, the premium version allows you to
check over 3,000 pages, check subfolders, export results to Excel or access web-based reports on a later date.
Xenu’s Link Sleuth
Years ago, I used and recommended Xenu’s Link Sleuth, a downloadable program for scanning your website and validating links.
Unfortunately, the program only works on Windows and hasn’t been updated since 2010. I’m not sure it’s being maintained.
It’s been a while since I ran a link checker, and I discovered I have some work to do this week.
Which link checker do you use? Share your recommendations in the comments.