If you have ever searched the internet for anything, you are likely to have occasionally come up against a screen that reads ‘Page Not Found' or ‘Error: Link Not Found'. This is commonly referred to as 404 error.
Why does this happen? For quite a few reasons, including:
- When a site is moved from one domain to another, links can get broken.
- External links may lead to pages that do not exist any more.
- The domain may no longer exist.
- Proper hosting may no longer be maintained.
- The firewall settings may be different.
- URLs may be written wrongly.
There are many tools for checking broken links on your site and most of them are free.
Broken Link Checker
We will discuss one free plugin from the WordPress Directory, Broken Link Checker. This plugin checks all the URLs in your website to find the broken links, so that you can fix any broken link problems.
Using Broken Link Checker, you can rid your website of broken links in just 3 steps:
1. Download the plugin from the WordPress Directory, install and activate the plugin.
2. Click on Link Checker > Settings. The plugin will start the search for broken links in your WordPress. This may take time, depending on how much content you have in your website. The results will be displayed in a neat table. You can click on each result to view the broken link.
Broken Link Checker will also detect missing images and videos.
Using the Settings option, you can adjust the frequency of checking, set email alerts for broken links and stop search engines from following broken links.
3. You can set the broken links right by editing the URL, editing the post to which the URL relates or undertaking a bulk action to unlink all broken links.
From a practical point of view, more attention must be paid to the Comments section as most of the errors are likely to occur there. Assuming you allow links in comments, users will often offer external links which may not be correct. So, make sure to check the Comments option.
Alternate Options To Fix Your Broken Links
There are other plugins also that can fix broken Links.
- W3C Link Checker is free and is a script that can be downloaded from Github and run on your server. It does a thorough job of searching for broken links.
- Xenu's Link Sleuth can search for broken links and provide a report that can be exported as a CSV file.
- One more free plugin for fixing broken links from the WordPress directory is Broken Link Manager. This plugin constantly searches for broken links in the background and can send you email alerts when a broken link is found.
Some plugins can schedule scans. If your website is a big one with a load of content, you should look at one such plugin. But if you are a smaller website, you can disable the plugin after one scan is completed and reactivate it for the next scan. Very small websites can even do a manual check.
Avoiding 404 Errors
It can be annoying for a user to come up against such a 404 error screen. Broken links must be set right as soon as possible so that:
- SEO is not affected and bounce rate is minimized
- User experience is not compromised
- Your site's credibility is not affected
One small tip for users to avoid or minimize 404 errors – while typing the URL always include http:// at the beginning of a link. If you forget to do so, the browser will try to access a location with reference to your current page only and may not look further.
A link that leads nowhere is bad publicity for the website. So, ensure that your website is kept free of broken links by regularly checking for them using any plugin.