3 Handy Free Tools to Check for Broken Site Links

broken linkHave you checked your company website or personal blog for link errors recently? If not, I bet you’d be surprised of how many issues you find using one of these handy free tools.

Regardless if you run a blog, small static website, or a large corporate site; finding and fixing broken site links is extremely important for user-experience, proper indexation, and better search engine rankings.

One way to do this would be to go through your site and test each hyperlink by clicking on them one at a time, but that’s not really feasible for most websites. Especially when most of us are already strapped for time. You could also verify your site with Google Webmaster Tools and check for crawl errors through there. Which I recommend you do anyway. But even then you’re likely working with outdated data and extremely limited features.

A better way would be to use an advanced website audit tool that allows you to crawl and diagnose each website on the fly. Luckily, there are 3 free tools I like to use that make broken link detection and repair super quick and easy.

Screaming Frog SEO Spider

screaming frog SEO spiderScreaming Frog SEO Spider is undoubtedly my favorite free website spidering tool for small websites. It crawls and analyzes websites extremely fast, then displays the information in a very straightforward and easy to navigate interface.

screaming frog seo spider interface

In addition to helping you detect broken links, Screaming Frog SEO Spider also collects and reports a ton of other helpful search engine optimization related data:

  • Server Errors
  • Head Section: Title, Meta Description, Meta Keywords,
    Meta Robots, Meta Refresh, Canonical Link Element
  • Internal / External Links: Permanent and Temporary Redirects,
    Nofollow Link Attribute, Anchor Text
  • Duplicate Content
  • Heading Tags
  • File Size
  • Page Depth
  • Image Information: Alt Attribute, Address, File Size

The free version of Screaming Frog SEO Spider allows you to perform a number of basic tasks while crawling up to 500 URIs. But, for a £99 per annum license, the 500 URI limitation is removed and all configuration options and enhanced features are enabled.

Compatibility: Windows PC, Mac

Xenu Link Sleuth

xenu sleuth logoXenu Link Sleuth is a completely free broken link checker I like to use for analyzing large and small web sites for broken links. It’s a very basic looking tool specifically designed to detect and report on broken links only; it doesn’t come with a bunch of other fluff which makes it extremely fast and easy to use without having to wade through a ton of irrelevant data just to find important link errors.

The free and only version of tool fully-featured and completely configurable. It offers a number of advanced features such as allowing you to check for specific errors and including or excluding groups of URLs and directories from your analysis. There are a number of export options available, and you can set it up to automatically email you a report upon completion. In addition, the user interface it very straightforward which makes it easy to navigate when you’re looking for particular errors and other important information.

xenu link sleuth interface

Standard Reports Include:

  • Broken Links, Ordered by Link
  • Broken links, Ordered by Page
  • List of Redirected URLs
  • FTP and Gopher URLs
  • Valid Text URLs
  • Page Title and Meta Descriptions
  • Download Speed
  • File Type
  • HTTP Status
  • Orphaned Files

Compatibility: Windows PC

IIS SEO Toolkit

iis seo toolkitThe Free IIS SEO Toolkit is a bit cumbersome for checking web sites for broken links. Especially when you just want to quickly check for any 404 not found errors. It was obviously built with developers and webmasters in mind. However, it’s completely free so once you get a grasp on it you’ll find it does a great job of auditing your website and reporting a ton of important search engine optimization related issues, in addition to finding broken links.

iis seo toolkit external  links report

From within the link report you will be pleased to find the link URL, status code, page title and meta description of the linked pages. Simply right click or double click the URL to find additional details such as the linking page, last modified date, HTTP headers and content type.

Summary of all items reported:

  • Invalid Markup
  • Robots.txt Restrictions
  • Duplicate Content
  • Hyperlink Errors
  • Performance Issues
  • Missing Image Alt Attributes

Note: after you download and install the IIS SEO Tookit on your Windows PC, you’ll have to bind your website URL to the “Default Web Site” within the Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager, if you want it to crawl your hosted website or blog on a remote server rather than a local copy on your computer.

Like I said, it’s a bit cumbersome for simply doing broken link checks, but is one of the best “free” tools available for doing complete site audits – including checking broken links.

If you have an extremely small website you might also want to use the free crawl test tool from SEOmoz. It’s a fairly informative tool that will crawl and report on up to 250 site links for free.

I like to start with my favorite tool, then after I’ve fixed all of the concerning issues I double check my site with another preferred tool. All three of these broken link checkers do a fairly good job, but they don’t always find and report the exact same error codes and site issues. So I recommend not relying solely on one of them to sort out all of your site’s kinks.

I know there are some other really great paid tools, but keeping in-line with the topic of this post; what’s your favorite “free” broken link checker tool? Do you know of any good ones I haven’t listed here? Please take a moment to share your favorite with the rest of us below.

Thanks for reading and sharing!

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  • September 20th, 2011 at 1:32 pm Mike said:

    I didn’t know about Screaming Frog and just tested it out. That’s a great tool. Thanks for sharing.

  • September 20th, 2011 at 1:36 pm Wesley LeFebvre said:

    Hi Mike,
    Yeah, Screaming Frog is Screaming quick and super handy.

  • September 27th, 2011 at 8:39 pm S Emerson said:

    The W3C also has a free link checker: http://validator.w3.org/checklink

  • September 27th, 2011 at 8:43 pm Wesley LeFebvre said:

    Yep, that can be helpful too.

  • October 2nd, 2011 at 3:50 pm Pancho said:

    I did not know broken links could be such a problem. I am certainly paying more attention to this matter on my personal site.

  • October 30th, 2011 at 7:12 pm kevin blumer said:

    There was a site checker that i use to check it was called something like bad neibourhood checker but it also found broken links it was on my last laptop so i dont have it know more but it was quite usefull

  • October 31st, 2011 at 8:29 am Wesley LeFebvre said:

    Hi Kevin,
    Actually someone just sent me that the other day too. Is it this one you are referring to? http://www.bad-neighborhood.com/text-link-tool.htm

  • October 31st, 2011 at 10:25 am kevin blumer said:

    that’s the one thankyou

  • March 24th, 2012 at 10:05 pm Wesley LeFebvre said:

    Here’s another good one!

    http://www.internetmarketingninjas.com/seo-tools/google-sitemap-generator/

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