Checking for broken links is probably one of the most tedious tasks, especially when you run a huge WordPress site. Yet, if you want to keep your site in good health, you do need to perform such checks. Fortunately, there are a few good WordPress plugins to check for broken links that do the heavy lifting for you.
If you expected dozens of plugins to check for broken links, you will be disappointed – there aren’t that many of them, free or paid. There are a few really good ones, but this is all you need. While all these plugins check for broken links, they are not exactly clones of each other. They do have different features, and in different situations you will need a different plugin.
1. Broken Link Checker
Broken Link Checker with its 400,000+ active installs is the most popular WordPress plugin to check for broken links. In fact, I assume that being the most popular one, it’s the first (and last) plugin a user gets, tries, likes, or keeps, and doesn’t even bother to look for alternatives. The plugin is available in English and dozens of other languages, which is great if English isn’t your strength.
Broken Link Checker is a complete link checking solution. It checks for broken links not only in posts and pages, but also in comments, the blogroll, and custom fields (optional). It also detects missing images and redirects.
When a broken link is found, you are notified via the Dashboard or by email. If you want, you can configure it to tell search engines not to follow a broken link. One of the best features of Broken Link Checker is that you don’t need to manually open each post and fix the link – you do this directly from the plugins page.
2. WP Broken Link Status Checker
While you can’t deny Broken Link Checker is a great plugin, in many aspects WP Broken Link Status Checker is better. The low number of its active installs (5,000+ only) is surprising, but I believe this is so because it’s not as well known as Broken Link Checker, and simply users don’t know what they are missing by not installing it.
WP Broken Link Status Checker has more advanced features, and I would label it more technical than the other two. Nevertheless, you don’t need to be a WP pro in order to run it.
What’s special about this plugin is that it allows you to create the so-called separate scans and scan only parts of your site. This is very cool because you can choose to check only those parts you suspect broken links might be hiding instead of the whole site. Just think of the server load you are avoiding by not constantly scanning unnecessary parts of the site.
You can set different rules for the different scans. When a scan is performed, you see the results in real time – e.g. broken links are displayed as they are found, not after the check is complete, which for a large site can easily take hours. You can learn more about the features of WP Broken Link Status Checker from the plugin’s site.
3. WordPress Broken Link Manager
WordPress Broken Link Manager is another plugin you might want to consider. It doesn’t have the rich functionality of Broken Link Checker or WP Broken Link Status Checker, but it does have its perks. The plugin runs constant checks for broken links (which could put a huge burden on your site), and when a broken link is found, it’s archived.
When a broken link is found, you have the option to be notified by email. You can also choose to direct all your broken links to a default page (like the homepage of the site) or enter a different redirect page for each link.
You probably know it anyway, but I’d still like to mention that these plugins check for broken links (i.e. links the target page/image that is missing), not for wrong links. A wrong link would be a link that is technically not broken but leads to a different page than the one you intended.
For instance, if you link to the homepage of an Android site, and the owners of the site decide to ditch Android and make it a get rich quick site, your link to the homepage will not be broken but will point to something very different from the resource you wanted it to lead to.
Unfortunately, for these types of links there are no tools (and they are not possible to create), and the only solution is to open the link manually, see if the page it opens is okay and proceed to the next link. This is a gruesome task, but if you want to keep your links’ health, you need to perform it occasionally.
Image credit: Chains break by the weakest link