Checking your WordPress website for broken links

July 9, 2012 / WordPress / By Kathy Alice

Since WordPress takes care of a lot of details under the covers, that we are often lulled into a sense of complacency. If you decide to rename a category, you don’t have to worry about updating your links and URLs for the change – the underlying WordPress CMS takes care of that. However, it is a good idea to periodically check your WordPress site for broken links especially if you link out or have comments on your blog.

Xenu's Link SleuthOne of the better link checking tools, is Xenu’s Link Sleuth. It’s free, but Mac users are out of luck, it only runs on Windows. You can download it from CNET or the project home page. It’s easy to use, you just type in your site’s domain and run it. You might have some problems discerning where the broken links are – as it doesn’t report out the parent URL, however you can usually tell by looking at the report which page it was looking at.

I have a fair number of comments on my blog, and I was particularly surprised at how many commentor links (where their name links to their site) were now broken. Seems like bloggers come and go. What I do is just remove the link and leave the comment if it is valuable. However you’ll find that quite a few of the comments with broken links are spammy comments that have slipped through Akismet. Those you should remove.

Some SEO checks you can do with the Xenu report

This brings up another thing you should do with the Xenu report which is to look for comments that link out to questionable sites. When the report is done search it for all usual suspect phrases (don’t forget “viagra” and “poker”) and if you find any, get rid of the comments, or at least the links. I found one “bad” site this way, I would have never guessed by just looking at the comment. Linking out to “bad neighborhoods” is a one way to get on the bad side of Google’s quality algorithms, so nip that in the bud, even if they are nofollow links.

Another really useful column in the Xenu report is the “title” column. This gives you the contents of the title tag of your html page or the alt tag if it is an image. The “type” column tells you which type of file it is (“text/html” or “image/jpeg” for example). The report can be exported out into excel and sorted by the type column; and with some persusing you can see whether you have been doing a good job with your titles, alt tags and link anchor text (for the outbound links) or whether you have some work to do. You will also find a “description” column that contains the meta description tag for the html page.

About the Author Kathy Alice

Kathy Alice Brown is a SEO expert specializing in Technical SEO and Content. In her spare time she loves to get outside.

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    1. The link in your comment went to a site rather than a plugin reference – so I changed the link to point to the plugin. However one thing about the Broken Link Checker plugin is that it has been reported as slowing down your site, so if you use it – turn it off most of the time. This is why I like using Xenu over a plugin.

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