I visit a lot of websites. It’s actually one of my favourite things to do. When a business newbie announces they’ve launched their website, I go and check it out. When someone has a new offering or product and they tell me to visit their website, I do. I can’t help myself.
And you’d think that being a web designer, I’d be highly critical of websites, but I’m not. I truly enjoy taking a journey through a business’ online home. Sure, there’ll be things that I’ll think, “umm that could be improved slightly” or “that could be clearer” but overall, I appreciate the hard work that goes into building a website from the ground up. It takes a lot of energy and time and even then you’re unsure if it’s really finished. It’s a big deal.
There’s one thing I can’t ignore though and if I find them, I’ll tell you about it in a DM or email. Broken links. You know, when you go to click on a big stand-out button that either says ‘buy now’ or ‘contact me’, only to have it send you to an error page… page not found. Argghhh so frustrating! And I know I’m not the only one who gets frustrated. The clients and customers you really want to work with get frustrated too.
Broken links happen over time and sometimes we cause them. For example, if you wanted to change the name and URL of your main product from Ceramic Cup (pottery.com.au/ceramic-cup) to Pink Ceramic Cup (pottery.com.au/pink-ceramic-cup), every instance of the old link throughout your website needs to be updated. I visited two different websites yesterday and both of their main Call to Action links didn’t work because of this. Like I said before, I told them because I’d hate for them to miss out on getting a sale because of it.
There are outside factors that’ll create broken links on your website too. I was recently notified of a broken link on my website because I had a link in a blog post that was linking to a business (and website) that no longer existed.
Google also takes notice of broken links. The more broken links you have, the less favourable Google views your website. The search engine is all about user experience, after all. They don’t want to offer their users a website in a search only for that user to arrive at a dead end. Over time Google could downgrade the quality of your website because of these error messages.
Lucky for us all, there are solutions without having to click on every link on your website, because who has time for that. Below are some handy tips, first for WordPress website owners and then for everyone, Squarespace and Shopify included.
WordPress broken links
Finding your broken URLs
WordPress has a plugin that’ll not only regularly search for any broken links, it also emails you when it’s found one (or many). This is so helpful for those broken links that are outside of our control.
Install Broken Link Checker (free plugin), add your email address to the notifications and it’ll start doing its thing straight away. The plugin will tell you the link that’s broken as well as the page/s it appears on.
Fixing your broken links
It’s one thing to know about your broken links, it’s another thing to fix it. The Broken Link Checker will give you the option of removing the link or editing it on the plugin page.
If you have a URL that you want to change and you already know it appears on many different pages throughout your website, a better approach is to search for the old URL and replace it with the new URL. There’s a plugin for that too. Better Search/Replace (free plugin) allows you to search for a URL and tells you how many instances of it the plugin found. You then can take the final step to replace all instances of the old URL. Problem solved with a click of a button.
All website platforms and broken links
Finding your broken links
Regardless of whether you use Squarespace, Shopify, WordPress or any other platform, there’s a handy Broken Link Check website that searches for broken links for free – no sign up required or anything. Enter your main URL (eg. resonantimagery.com.au) and the website will search every page, product and blog post for broken links. If it finds one, it’ll tell you the broken URL as well as the page it’s on.
This needs to be a regular task that you do, so add it to your calendar. Perhaps set it up as a quarterly reminder and save the Broken Link Check website as a bookmark. It’s going to come in handy.
Fixing your broken links
Once you’re aware of the page that houses the broken link, log into your website and change the link manually.
As for undertaking a search and replace task for a large number of the same broken link, I’m unaware of a solution provided by Squarespace or Shopify. Please correct me if I’m wrong. As far as I’m aware, all links need to be updated manually.
Your task this week? Go to Broken Link Check and become aware of any broken links that could be causing all sorts of havoc for your website visitors. And then fix them. Websites are designed to flow, after all. And for clients of mine who regularly get their websites maintained, this is already done for you!
Is it time for a website review?
Are broken links just the tip of the iceberg of things that need fixing on your website? Not sure where to start? Let’s meet for a Website Consultation and we’ll review every page together. You’ll leave with actionable tasks to make your website better. Read all the inclusions >