How to Check for Broken Links on Your Website

And The Shortcomings of Broken Link Checkers

How to Check for Broken Links on Your Website

by Christopher Heng,

I was asked by a visitor whether there was an easy way to check for link rot (ie, dead links) on his site, and whether there are computer programs that can automatically do the job without him having to click through every link.

The Short Answer

There are indeed software that can scan a website and tell you which pages have links pointing to non-existent pages. A list of broken-link checkers can be found on

Sadly, though, they may not be the panacea for your dead links problem, if your situation is similar to mine.

The Problem with Link Checkers

Those familiar with will know that it is mainly a site with curated links to, and mini-reviews of, numerous free software and services available on the Internet, primarily of interest to webmasters and programmers (although it also includes a growing number of pages useful for the general computer user).

Since it has so many links, you would think that I will find an automated link checker very useful, allowing me to keep the links fresh with minimal effort.

Not so.

Link checkers work by attempting to access every link found on a page. If a particular link fails, because of (say) a 404 File Not Found error, they will report it as broken.

Unfortunately, more often than not (at least for the sites I link to on, when a webmaster decides to close his/her website, the domain name for the website is soon bought by another party. That new owner typically has a different plan for the website, and puts up new pages there that have nothing to do with what I originally linked to.

In such a case, the link checker no longer considers a link to that site as broken, since attempts to retrieve that page will succeed. The software cannot tell that your intention was to link to a page on (say) John's Hardware Store, and that same link now points to a page on Mary's Fashion Blog. A new owner has acquired that web address, and while your link no longer points to the same content it used to, it is not broken and will not be considered as such by the software.

In other words, human intervention is required to check every valid link to see if it is still working as intended, which sort of reduces the value of automated link checkers. After all, if you have to check all working links on your web page, why not just check every link, since valid ones usually constitute the majority anyway? Indeed, in some cases, even if there is a broken link, it may only mean that the webmaster of that site has moved his/her page and failed to automatically redirect the user to the new web address. You don't want to remove a link in such a case, but to update it to that new location. This, again, requires manual intervention, since you will need to hunt for the new URL (ie, address) and fix the link.

For the type of pages I have on, therefore, I find link checkers to be pointless. If the checker reports no broken links, I still have to check everything manually to see if they are still pointing to where I wanted them to point. And if it says there is a broken link, I cannot simply delete it, since it's possible the webmaster has merely moved his/her page or website. (It happens often enough that I don't want to assume that it is really gone.) To put it another way, whatever the link checker reports, I have to go through every link personally. So why bother?

So What's the Answer?

If you have a different situation from mine, and you think that broken link checkers serve a purpose, then by all means get one of them and use it.

Otherwise, you will just have to do things the hard way, that is, manually load each page on your site in a web browser and click through every link and examine the destination. Yes, I know it's not the answer you were hoping for, but it's probably the most accurate way of making sure the links are valid.

Copyright © 2019 Christopher Heng. All rights reserved.
Get more free tips and articles like this, on web design, promotion, revenue and scripting, from

thesitewizard™ News Feed (RSS Site Feed)  Subscribe to newsfeed

Do you find this article useful? You can learn of new articles and scripts that are published on by subscribing to the RSS feed. Simply point your RSS feed reader or a browser that supports RSS feeds at You can read more about how to subscribe to RSS site feeds from my RSS FAQ.

Please Do Not Reprint This Article

This article is copyrighted. Please do not reproduce or distribute this article in whole or part, in any form.

Related Articles

New Articles

How to Link to This Page

It will appear on your page as:

How to Check for Broken Links on Your Website

Link to Us
No Spam Policy
Privacy Policy
Site Map

Getting Started
Web Design
Search Engines
Revenue Making
Web Hosting
Perl / CGI
.htaccess / Apache


Free webmasters and programmers resources, scripts and tutorials Free How-To Guides
Site Design Tips at
Find this site useful?
Please link to us.