Imagine this, you’re browsing a website, reading a blog post, when suddenly there’s a link that points to much-needed useful information, and you click this link – but you’re met with a 404 page.
Now, you probably don’t have to imagine this, as we’ve all had this happen to us once or twice when browsing a website.
While the feeling isn’t great to be on the receiving end of this, this also has a profound effect on website SEO. Having broken links within your pages can cause you to fall lower on the search engine results.
Why you should fix broken links
To maintain your site in a healthy state at all times, you should be monitoring for any broken links and fixing them as quickly as you can.
Having broken links on your website contributes to a bad user experience, which means visitors that face this issue are less likely to come back to your website, thus lowering visitor retention.
Typically, broken links happen because a page was moved or deleted, and a redirect was not placed from that page. Since this page will still appear in search results for some time, visitors will be brought to a 404 page.
Since this can impact your WordPress SEO rankings, it is extremely important to fix any broken links and ensure they’re correct or redirected to an existing page.
How can you detect broken links before fixing them?
Before you can get to fixing broken links, you need to find a method to detect them all. Let’s look into a few methods to detect broken links.
Google Search Console
Google’s webmaster tools provide functions that scale far and wide. Search Console is one of the tools focused on helping you improve your SEO and ultimately helping you rank higher on Google.
Once you open the Google Search Console, you’ll see the coverage tab on the side, click into it, and you’ll be able to see all links on your website that lead to a 404 page.
If you click on “Not Found (404)” from this screen, you’ll be able to see all the separate links which are not being indexed.
While this is not the most perfect method of checking for broken links, Google’s already doing it without you having to enable it, so you should always take advantage of this tool if you can.
Broken Link Checker Plugin
Since most websites are built on WordPress, we’ll provide this one method of monitoring your website for broken links, which works wonders. Once you install this plugin, it will check your links at an interval that you set to determine if they’re working or broken.
This plugin will also let you custom-choose which post types or taxonomies get checked for broken links. It’s recommended to exclude as much as you can to reduce the resource usage by this plugin.
While it can greatly help you improve your WordPress SEO, there’s a downside to this plugin – it uses extensive resources when performing the checks. Due to this, some hosting companies do not allow it to be installed – fear not, you can use it with Eltris.
How can you fix broken links in WordPress?
Once you’ve found all the broken links that need fixing, now you want to know how to fix the broken links to make sure they do not impact your website SEO.
The best method to keep in mind for fixing a broken link is to correct it – if there’s a type in the link – or to redirect it to another page.
You can create 301 redirects to other pages from cPanel, or WordPress.
With WordPress, you can use a plugin that comes with a 404 Monitor that records visits to pages that are returning a 404 error, and saves it in the logs. This feature is usually included in SEO plugins such as Rank Math.
With Rank Math, you can open the 404 Monitor, find a link that you’d like to redirect, and simply click “redirect”.
This will open up a new page where you can better set up the redirect and point it to the page you want that link to go to.
Using this method to redirect might be the most cost-efficient method, as you will only be redirecting links that are getting active hits, and not links that show up on the 14th page of Google and do not get any clicks.
However, bear in mind that irregular inks can show here as well, so make sure to choose carefully which links you redirect.
The “Lazy” method
While this is not usually recommended to do, it can work nicely in many cases. We call this the “lazy” way because all you have to do is install a plugin, set it up and all the redirects will be taken care of.
One of the plugins which can do this job is called “404 Solution”.
Setting up this plugin is as easy as installing it. Once you install it, go to its Settings page, and set the default page for links to be redirected to. Usually, this should be set to your home page.
The way this plugin works is when a 404 page should be returned, it will try its best to find a link that is very similar to the one that was being used, and if found, it will create a redirection to that. In the case that a link is not found, the visitor will be redirected to the set page.
All the created redirects are stored in the plugin’s settings, and you can always see, edit, or delete them if needed.
While this works for many websites, be careful of incorrect redirects coming up, so make sure to check it periodically.
Since website SEO is one of the more important factors you need to work on to attract more traffic to your website, it’s natural that you’ll have to fight with broken links at some point. It can happen to any website.
We hope this article helped you to improve the SEO on your website and fix your broken links so that your visitors can have the best experience all around.
Keep in mind that the speed of your website is another huge factor that can improve your SEO and visitor retention, so make sure you are using quick hosting and have implemented many performance optimizations.