Broken links or navigation on your site are a sign of negligence. You don't want to look like you don't care! This is a round-up of the best tools photographers can use to check their site for bad links.
Both visitors and search engines obviously hate running into pesky 404 error pages. It is your responsibility as the site owner to prevent this, otherwise you risk losing their trust (and patience).
Broken links on your site are usually caused by:
- poor testing when launching the site
- forgetting the “http(s)://” prefix for external links
- integrating two or more platforms
- changing domains or TLDs
- removing (old) content
- (spam) comments
For photography websites, where each image has its own page, the risk is even greater. It’s very easy to embed images into blog posts and then, after a while, forgetfully re-structure your galleries, leaving a lot of image links invalid.
Broken links are frustrating your users, not to mention sabotaging your search engine rankings.
Thankfully, you don’t have to manually browse your site to detect broken links (and it would be impossible to do it page-by-page for large sites). There are plenty of powerful (yet free) tools online to help check your entire site, here are some of the best:
1. Google Webmaster Tools
Google already does the hard task of crawling your entire site frequently, so why not let it notify you of any broken links? The “Crawl Errors” page in Google Webmaster Tools lists any such site problems, while also providing details about each error so you know where to fix it.
2. Google Analytics
Since Google Analytics already tracks your site, you can simply filter your statistics based on the page title of your 404 error page. With a little more work you can even find out the referring pages, to better track down the problem.
While on the topic, don’t forget to also set-up a custom alert for 404 pageviews to be notified via email:
This topic is actually covered in the free PDF guide I've written for subscribers: 60+ Photography Website Mistakes, get it now for free:
3. Broken Link Checker (WordPress plugin)
If you have a WP site, this is probably your best option to track down and fix broken links. It will even check for bad links in your posts’ comments. The plugin however is known to put a strain on hosting servers, and top WP hosting providers like WPEngine have actually disallowed the plugin.
4. Broken Link Check (online)
A robust free online tool that scans your entire site to find internal & external broken links: http://www.brokenlinkcheck.com/
The advantage is clear: nothing to install, you can run it from any device or location. Disadvantage: it’s limited to 3000 pages in the free version, although most people won’t run into this limit. Another similar online tool you could use is W3C Link Checker.
5. LinkChecker (Windows/Mac/Linux)
Great functionality, completely free, does its job well: http://wummel.github.io/linkchecker/
6. Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool (Windows/Mac/Linux)
Much more powerful SEO-oriented tool (better suited for power users), it has a ton of features: http://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/seo-spider/
7. Check My Links (Chrome extension)
Making good use of these tools should ultimately give you a clear list of tasks to improve your website: manually fix all broken internal links, add proper redirects where you’ve changed domains or permalinks, and notify site owners for any broken external backlinks.
What is your preferred method of checking for broken links?