Eight Pointers on Finding and Fixing Broken Links

Improving Your On-Page SEO

Broken links, the bane of the Internet, can become more than an inconvenience for a visitor to your web site. They can affect the spiders crawling through your site and, as a result, lead to lower search engine rankings and, ultimately, decreased business.

Every business should periodically check its web site for broken links, primarily by using Xenu, a well-established software tool with a user-friendly interface created especially for this purpose. Here are some pointers on using the program.

1. Download and run Xenu.

Go to Google, type in “Xenu” and click on Xenu Link Sleuth. Download the program to your desktop. When ready, click on the Xenu icon, and then “file” in the top menu bar. Select “Check URL” in the dropdown menu.

In the new window, type in your web site address and click okay. The program can take about 15 minutes to run depending on the size of your web site. As it does so, it will type out your URLs as it checks them. Most of the addresses will be printed in green; red URLs could represent broken links.

2. Request a report.

After the program is done, it will ask if you wish to create a Link Sleuth report. Click yes and then cancel for any additional options.

3. Scroll down to the bottom of the report, and check your site statistics in the table, “All Pages by Result Type.”

This feature will provide an overview of your web site. You will see the number and percentage of pages with no problem, and the pages with a possible error will be separated by type. For fixing broken links, you need to concentrate on the “404” (not found) category.

4. Go back to the top of the report and click on “Broken Links Ordered by Page.”

This section will help you find broken links by showing you the page where they can be found. Each entry consists of two URLs, first, the URL of the page, and second, the non-existent URL, or broken link.

5. Find the pages with a 404 error, “not found.”

These are the broken links.

6. Access the source code of the web page (URL) at the top of each couplet.

You can use a program such as Ipswitch or Dreamweaver to help access the source code, or you can just right-click on the web page text and click “view source” in the dropdown menu.

7. Use control-F to find the broken link.

You want to search for the text in the bottom half of each couplet. This would be just about impossible to do by eye, given the amount of densely written code. Control-F lets you input any distinctive section of the broken link, and it will help you find it.

8. Resolve the problem.  

Once you find the broken link, you are 90 percent of the way to solving the problem. You can either eliminate the offending text all together or put in another URL you know is working.

Fixing broken links may seem an onerous task, especially with larger web sites. But Xenu makes it much easier and ensures your web site will impress visitors and search engines alike.