Use Xenu Link Sleuth to Find Broken Links

by jim on December 18th, 2009

One thing that you’ll quickly learn, especially if you blog for more than six months, is the sheer number of sites that come and go. For the longest time, my policy for link exchanges was that the site had to be at least six months old because a good 75% wouldn’t make it past that mark. Another headache you’ll soon find out about is that for some odd reason, certain major news sites take down links to their stories after a certain time period. If you look for any Yahoo news story over a year or two old, you probably won’t find it at its originally published link. I don’t know why but a ton of broken links on were to old news stories that have since been removed.

Xenu Link Sleuth

So an issue that every site has to deal with, especially blogs, is broken links and the best tool to find them is Xenu’s Link Sleuth. It’s a simple desktop application that crawls your site for broken or inaccessible links.

I usually limit it to ten threads and have it rip through my sites finding broken links whenever site traffic is low, usually after 10PM on Sunday. I run it until it discovers a page full of broken links and I go in and clean it up. If you right click a listing, it shows the broken link’s URL plus all the pages on your site that link to that broken link.

Visit the page, fix the link, and you have just improved the user experience of your site with very little effort. I run it about once a month, or whenever I have the itch to fix some broken links, and hopefully people appreciate not being interrupted with a 404 error.

WordPress Plugins

The Broken Link Checker plugin for WordPress is another great option if you have a WordPress blog. It has a lot of nice features that make the clean up process faster. You can automatically remove a broken link from a post with a single click, which is a nice feature, but the downside is it runs in the background and could potentially slow down your site’s server.

While I never investigated the impact of running this in the background from a processor perspective, my opinion is that Xenu probably puts less demand on your server.

Whatever option you go with, the end result is the same – a better user experience.

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