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The Dreaded 404 Page Not Found Error

There are many reasons you may end up on a “404 Page Not Found” screen but a broken link on your site shouldn’t be one of them. Having broken links, whether internal or external, can affect your search engine placement. My favorite way to avoid this issue on my sites is to use the Broken Link Checker plugin.

Broken Link Checker Features

This plugin will monitor your posts, pages and comments for broken links, including missing images and redirects. You can be notified on your WordPress dashboard and / or by email. You can also choose to show broken links differently in posts. The default is a line-through the text.

Broken Link Check Settings

Because broken links can affect your SEO, you can also choose to stop search engines from following broken links. I highly recommend you keep this checked.

The plugin will also suggest alternatives to the broken links but so far, I’ve only seen suggestions from the wayback machine so I’ve never used them.

Broken Links? Now What?

While this plugin finds the broken links for you, it is still up to you to fix each one. Sometimes this can be quite a challenge. Besides reporting broken links, Broken Link Checker will also display problems and warnings. You will get these if the linked website is down when the plugin is doing its checking. For links that I’m sure are still working, I just select “Recheck.”

Broken Links Screen

Two “broken” links on my site. One was from a comment and needed to be all lower-case and the second was now https.

For others, I open the URL of the “broken” link in a new tab to see if I get to a real page (not a 404 page) and if I am successful, I copy the URL of the page and enter it as an Edit URL on the Broken Links screen. If the link truly is broken, you will need to decide if you will look for a replacement or remove the link.

If the domain is still active, I will search the site for the page I need or just link to the homepage. If the domain is no longer active, I usually unlink the text or image.

Normally you will not have broken images on your site unless you inserted a link to an external image. Most sites do not want you to “borrow” their images in this way. For one thing it uses their bandwidth and for another it is technically illegal unless you have permission.

Preparing for the Worst-Case Scenario

Every website should have a 404 page. Here’s what mine looks like:

IWD 404 Page Not Found

Mine isn’t very fancy but it does have a search box where users can try to find the page they were hoping to find. There are tons of articles written on examples of fun or interesting 404 pages. Here’s one of my favorites:

404 example

Have fun exploring!

It’s important to keep your site up-to-date, including plugins. If your site needs updating but you either don’t have the time or confidence to do it yourself, we’d love to help.

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