How to Find Broken Links with Xenu

Have you ever been looking for something on the Internet, find a great resource, and when you get there, you get a 404 error—a broken link. Nothing is more frustrating than broken links. There is a good chance that over time links that you are connecting to on your website will break. This leads to a poor experience for your customer, and it’s one that you can control.

Why You Should Fix Broken Links

Like litter on the street, broken links give visitors an impression that a site is not being maintained. Google also notes broken links and downgrades your site in its page rankings.

When Should You Fix Broken Links

Naturally, you should fix a broken link as you become aware of it. You should also regularly check for broken links. I run a link checker at least quarterly.

Tools for Finding Broken Links

There are many different tools available to check links. Some are for PCs, others for Macs, and even some that are browser extensions. The one that I will demonstrate is Xenu.

Checking a Site with Xenu

I update Xenu’s preferences before I start checking my links for errors. You do this by selecting Options and then Preferences. Here are the selections I make:

  • Broken links, ordered by links
  • Broken local links
  • Statistics
  • Orphan files

The report will take longer to generate the more options you check.

Here are the steps to check your site:

  1. With Xenu running, select File and then Check URL…
    First step to checking links with Xenu
  2. Enter URL in the field provided. Check the Check external links checkbox. Click the OK button.
    Enter the URL to check
  3. Optional: Change the view option to see only broken links by clicking View and then Show broken links only.
  4. When Xenu is done checking the site for broken links. Click on the Yes button to generate a report.
    Xenu wants to generate a report. Select Yes
  5. On the next screen, click on the Cancel button to get the final report.
    Generate the final broken link report
  6. Here is an example of the final report:
    Final Xenu report

The report will show you the broken link and the page where the broken link appears. Simply open your blogging site, find the page with the broken link, and make the necessary repair. Your repair may be one of many options:

  • Remove the link
  • Research the link and update the link to the correct one. Web developers may have restructures their site causing the broken links.
  • Write the website owner and let them know about the broken link. They may not be aware of a problem.

Fixing a broken link is not a complicated task, but it is important to the health of your site. Please contact me, if you need more clarification.

Stan Skrabut

The proud owner of Tubarks Consulting, a company dedicated to helping Western New York small businesses implement and use social media to increase opportunities.

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