The broken links bible - article 2 of 3

How to find broken links in your site

Time to find broken links - break out the binoculars.

In part one we saw all the different types of broken links, what they mean and why they happen. In this section we'll explore possibly the trickiest part - finding the offending links.

So, you want to find broken links eh? It seems easy on the surface. You just click them all & see what happens, right? If your site only has one page then this is probably the easiest way to do it. Unfortunately most sites are bigger than one page.

If your site is small you're in luck, there are some great free tools to help you, one of which we've noted below. But if you need to find broken links in a bigger site, keep reading, we'll introduce the tools that can help you.

For smaller sites

If your site is around 20 pages or less, here's an excellent tool to help you find broken links.

A while ago we wrote a comparison of the Firefox plugin LinkChecker. If you're a Firefox user with a smaller site LinkChecker is your best friend. Whatever page you're on, just one click and it'll check all the links and highlight the broken ones in red. The downside is that it'll only check the links on the page you're currently looking at. If your site spans more than a few pages checking them all could turn into a big task. Check it out here.


For larger sites

If you have a larger site you're going to need a crawler. This is like a software robot which works through all the pages in your site checking every link.

There are several link checkers which can crawl sites, here are descriptions of our own products which perform this task.


DeepTrawl

This is our desktop tool for Windows & Mac. It does a great job of link checking but has many other features built in such as spell checking, html & css validation. You can get a free trial by downloading here.


CloudTrawl

This is our web service. There's nothing to download and install. It automatically checks all your links either daily or weekly or when you choose. It also monitors the uptime of your site and can send you a text alert when it goes down. Check it out here.


How often should you check for broken links?

There's no hard and fast rule on this, but here's a rough guide:

After site updates

Broken links are most likely to appear when you change your site. Editing old html? Moving & renaming files? Adding content? - all of these activities can cause broken links. If you work with html files locally, DeepTrawl can check them before you even upload the changes to your server. For most sites through, running a check after you make changes live and then fixing anything found is adequate.

Regular checks

Although the internal links in your site are unlikely to break if you don't change it, the links to external sites can break literally at any time if that site removes content or goes down. For most sites a weekly link check is adequate, daily is good. This where CloudTrawl excels. It can automatically crawl your sites and check all the links daily or weekly and email you if it finds errors.

Next page: How to fix broken links

Check out our software

We have two products which can help you with issues like this in your site.


DeepTrawl

DeepTrawl is a desktop app for Windows & Mac which checks every page of your site for issues like broken links, spelling mistakes, invalid html & css.
Tell me more!

CloudTrawl

CloudTrawl is a hosted webapp (nothing to download) which regularly checks your entire site for broken links automatically. It also monitors your uptime and sends you text alerts when there's a problem. Because it's in the cloud results are super-easy to share with others.
Tell me more!





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