Broken links are a common problem that has been present on the Internet since its beginning. There’s not a website that isn’t susceptible to broken links. Even some of the biggest tech monsters online such as Cisco have at least 5% of their links broken.
Broken links are something that can cause a serious damage to your WordPress site and to your reputation as a business.
If users get 404 errors, aka “Page not found” in their browsers when they want to visit one of your pages, don’t freak out! There are numerous ways to fix the broken links in WordPress, and in this article, we’ll be focused on the most practical ones.
Broken Links and SEO
A functional link is a guarantee of page quality. The internal links and the links that lead to your website can have a big influence on your search rankings. This is why cleaning up broken links adds quality to your content and makes your page scannable for search engines.
The Reasons Behind Broken WordPress Links
So, you have broken links on your WordPress site but you don’t know why have they appeared and you didn’t do anything that would cause them to appear, right?
The proneness of links to become broken over time is called link rot. One of the main reasons why links rot is because websites become unavailable or they get shut down.
There can be a number of other reasons why your target users keep seeing 404 pages:
- Failed migration to a new host.
- Linking to a third party that changed or removed the original link.
- Altered URLs of older posts.
- Linking to content that is removed.
- Switching to a new domain name.
- Updates that can break your permalinks.
- New plugins that can affect your permalinks.
The list could go on and on, and the errors above can cause serious effects on your WordPress site and your business:
- Bad UX: Users hate 404 errors and might not reload your page again. A creative “Page not found” design can patch things from a UX standpoint, but only temporarily. Fix 404 errors immediately instead of risking with clever designs.
- Lost Traffic: Without web traffic, having a website is pointless. To scale your website, attract, and handle web traffic, you’ll need a website with a healthy linking structure. Broken links can turn your readers away, you won’t be able to generate new leads, and in the end, will lose sales opportunities.
- Low Revenue: It doesn’t matter if you use some of the best marketing tactics and have the most valuable content on your blog. If the links that lead to your landing and product pages are broken, your potential customers will go straight to your competitors.
- Bad SEO: Google values UX as one of the most vital SEO factors. This means that if broken links on your site make the experience worse, automatically, you’ll slide down in the search rankings. Another thing is that Google wants to crawl and index as much of your content as possible, and a broken link would surely reduce your SEO potential.
Fixing Broken WordPress Links
When you spot broken links on your WordPress site, you need to fix them or remove them. If you have a small website with only a few links, you can identify the broken links manually. But, if you run a larger website with hundreds or thousands of links, you shouldn’t waste your time in digging manually and opening the links one by one.
One of the shortest methods is the W3C Link Checker, a tool that checks your website for broken links and more. When you locate the links, you have 3 ways to resolve them manually:
- Correct the Link: Perhaps you’ve entered an incorrectly spelled link. All you have to do is edit the broken URL and replace it with the correct one.
- Replace the Link: Sometimes it is better to replace a link with a functional one.
- Unlink: If the page that you’ve linked to doesn’t exist anymore, or it’s a resource that is no longer relevant, then it is better to remove the link from the page.
Use a Plugin
Here are 4 great plugins that you can use to deal with broken links, identify the reasons why those links broke, and learn how to fix them.
Broken Link Checker
Broken Link Checker is a plugin that checks if links work or not.
When you install and activate the plugin, it will automatically scan your WordPress site and monitor each link, page, post, comment, and custom field. You can check the scanning progress and the results by going to Settings > Link Checker.
Here, you can see the links that the plugin detected and you can filter them out by whether they’re broken or not. You can choose to edit the links directly or go to the page and fix it manually. The plugin also provides you with an option to remove the link, mark it as unbroken, dismiss it, and recheck it.
WP Broken Links Status Checker
This is a broken links checker plugin that is organized through entities called scans, with each one containing its own set of configurations and results.
Once you install the plugin, you need to create a new scan.
Next, go to the ‘Links status’ tab and uncheck each box except ‘404 Not Found’.
Click ‘Save and run crawler’. You’ll be redirected to a ‘Crawler results’ page that looks like this.
From here, you can see what the status is and if there are broken links, edit them or click the Trash button to delete. So typically, you either remove the link or fix the error.
After you fix your broken links, re-run the scan to make sure that there are no more broken links on your site.
WordPress Broken Link Manager
This plugin detects broken links on your WordPress site and archives them. As soon as a new broken link is detected, the plugin will notify you via an email message. You can also choose to direct the links to a default page or enter a different redirect for the broken link.
Link Checker is a plugin that uses an external server to crawl your website and find broken links and images. Link Checker doesn’t care if the links are internal or external, if they’re broken, the plugin will find them.
This plugin does most of the legwork for you. It crawls your internal and external links just like a real user would.
Reset Your Permalinks Settings
The number one thing that you need to do if you have broken links on your website is to reset your permalinks settings. Log in to your WordPress dashboard, and go to the Permalinks Settings.
Change your settings to something different from the standard, and click on “Save Changes”. Go back to your site to see if “Page not found” or 404 error still appears. If everything is working fine, the problem may be due to a minor bug.
Use .htaccess File to Fix Broken Links
If the problem is not solved through the Permalink settings, you can use the .htaccess file, you’ll need to access it through an FTP client. Login, head to the root folder of your WordPress site, and right-click on your .htaccess file, where you’ll see the option “file permissions.”
Set your file permissions to 644 and go back to the Permalink Settings on your WordPress dashboard, change the settings again, and click “Save Changes”. The problem should be resolved unless you have a corrupted plugin that causes 404 errors.
If you don’t have too many plugins on your WordPress site, you can spot the corrupted plugin by disabling each one, one by one, and reloading the page with the broken link. However, you need to be careful because in some cases, corrupt plugins can work in tandems and mess up your permalinks.
If the plugin is a tool that your business relies on, then you might be better off with an alternative that is safer and premium, instead of a free version that is vulnerable and can destroy your UX in any moment.
If you’ve made it this far, you officially know the drill of finding and fixing broken links on your WordPress website. Fixing broken links will inevitably result in a better user experience and increased web traffic, and ultimately, a better conversion rate for your company.
If you’ve followed the steps above and still encounter problems, feel free to contact us to help you out with the issue. We can always dive into the core of your WordPress site and help you successfully deal with problems that are more complex than 404 errors.