Broken Link Blues?

It’s no secret that virtually every website has broken (aka dead) links. (A broken link is one which does not point to a valid web page—you know the “404” error.)  Broken links appear because mistakes happen, content changes, file names and locations change, and external links change.  Fortunately, there are many resources to save you time and aggravation of clicking through to broken links.

Link checkers work much like a search engine spider. They “crawl” a website looking for links that are broken. The spider builds a tree of links leading from page to page until all branches have been explored. Some link checkers will merely highlight the broken links, while the more robust programs produce broken-link reports that enable you to determine where the broken link is located, and why the link is broken.

The Link Evaluator extension for Firefox checks one page at a time. However, you can download it for free and it’s useful when you want to do a quick check. It is designed to distinguish between various results such as:

* broken links (404)

* network time-outs

* authentication failure, and

* “incorrect” content for the given URL.

After each link is checked, it is highlighted with a color based on the relative success of the result: green for fully successful, shades of yellow for partly successful, and red for unsuccessful. You can edit the sets of red- and green-flag phrases to be used.

Xenu Link Sleuth is a free link checker that does the whole job.  It’s simple, small, fast and accurate. It takes a while to learn how to use Xenu’s Link Sleuth, and it can be daunting to understand the reports, but if you stick with it you’ll come to appreciate the excellent job it does.

Link Valet by Web Design Group crawls a website, like a search engine would, and provides a broken link report. Broken links are listed by page location so it’s easy to find and fix them.