As careful as you may be to keep your website or blog up to date and free from dreaded 404 pages and links that go nowhere, it’s fairly safe to say that almost all websites have dead or broken links somewhere.
Mistakes happen, file names change, content changes – not to mention the minefield that is external links, over which you have no control. You might be super careful not to change anything that might jeopardise the existing links on your site, but if you link to an external web page where readers can find more information – and that web page is then taken down for whatever reason – you’ll end up with a dead link on your site.
Link checkers are very similar to search engine spiders, in that they ‘crawl’ your website searching for internal and external links that are broken or not working as they should. A simple way to understand it is if you imagine your site or blog as a spider web, all of the different threads in that web represent all of the interweaving links across your website.
If the link-checking spider comes across a broken thread – or link – during their crawling mission, they’ll put it in their report to you so you can fix it, or remove it entirely.
Of course, if your site is small you can always go through and check each manually, but this painstaking process isn’t feasible for most bloggers and business owners. If you’d rather automate the process, or use a quick, online tool for regular web checkups, these are some of the most popular options.
Google Webmaster Tools
Did you know Google’s spider frequently crawls your website while indexing all of the content on the web to determine rankings? Well, it does – and in doing so, Google Webmaster Tools also reports the link errors it finds on your site under the web crawl errors section of the overview, found in the dashboard. Simple.
Online Broken Link Checker
The free version of Online Broken Link Checker is currently limited to checking 3000 links, but this is still is a great option for small websites and blogs, and is simple to use – requiring only the domain name to be checked before proceeding.
Check My Links
Check My Links is a free Google Chrome page checking plugin is a link checker that crawls through your webpage and looks for broken links. This tool is slightly different, given that it only checks links on the page you are viewing at that moment in time. You’ll need to have Google Chrome downloaded to use it, but it’s a popular tool for those regular users of Google’s other online tools, such as Google Analytics.
Of course, there are a number of WordPress plugins designed to automate the link checking process. Some of the most popular, according to user reviews, include:
- Automatic Link Checker, which has a 5/5-star user rating and is designed to scan your site for links, and to remove any links which are no longer indexed in Google.
- Broken Link Checker, which has a 4.1/5-star user rating and monitors links in your posts, pages, comments, blogroll, and custom fields and notifies you when links and missing images are detected (among other cool features).
At the big end of town, for the serious webmaster and/or professional SEO there are tools like A1 Website Analyzer. This is a very comprehensive tool which does much much more than simply check broken links. As a result of it’s functionality there is a learning curve associated with it. If you can spend the time to learn the application then it is really very powerful.
Another popular desktop tool is Screaming Frog which doesn’t do the range of things that A1 does, and is oddly more expensive. But, on the plus side it is a fair bit simpler to use right out of the box.
What online or download-based tools to you use to check the links on your website or blog?