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Site Maps – Detecting and Fixing Broken Links (for free)

It’s rather frustrating to check into Google Webmaster Tools only to find that one of my site maps has several broken links. Not quite understanding what I did wrong I decided to fix the site map and website broken links once and for all.

Even though my website (www.tidbitsandstuff.com) isn’t very large (approx 430 pages), it would take quite some time to find and fix the broken links without help. Being frugal (aka cheap), I didn’t want to spend any money to find my broken links so I decided to search online for free site validators. W3C.org will validate the site, but it requires you to put in one page at a time, definitely not an option.

In my search, I stumbled across a program called Website Analyzer. It costs $49 to purchase, but the software company allows you to try it before you buy it. They offer a fully functional 30-day trial period. So, of course I downloaded and tried it.

How Website Analyzer Analyzed

After running a diagnostic on my site, I found there were a few pages that returned the error code 404 “File not found.” Further checking determined that half of the 404’s were image files. I corrected the image links and ran it again.

Not being familiar with the software I guess there was something else I was supposed to do because the same linking errors that I fixed showed up again. I clicked “Refresh” and did it again only to get the same results.

Oh well, I guess I didn’t quite get the hang of that particular software. Not being one to give up at the first obstacle, I searched further for free software to point out all of my site’s broken links. My search led me to Xenu.

A Little About Xenu

Xenu is a free downloadable, no frills software. Being a little concerned about the pre download acknowledgement whereby the websites states:

  • You will personally check the software for viruses before starting it (I do the same with software I download with Norton AntiVirus)
  • You will not make me responsible for damages (lost time, crashed computer, etc)”

While crossing my fingers, I downloaded and installed the program (hoping it wouldn’t crash my system). Seeing that my system was still in tact, I ran a website check. Man oh man, did I ever get more than I bargained for.

Xenu is a basic program, but boy does it pack a wallop. I opted to print a report of Xenu’s findings. I was amazed when I printed out a report of 110 pages (I printed it to a .pdf file in order to save a couple hundred trees).

Xenu’s Results

As I started to go through the pages I realize not only did Xenu check the internal and external links to my website, Xenu also checked all affiliate and advertising links. Here’s a summary of what the report contained:

  • Broken links ordered by link
  • Broken links ordered by page
  • Lost of redirected URLs
  • List of valid URLs you can submit to a search engine
  • Site Map of HTML pages with a Title
  • Broken page-local links
  • Orphan files
  • Statistics for managers

Can you ask for more than that from a free downloadable program? They list all error codes, 404, 301, 302, 12007, 12029 and a few others I’m not familiar with. It’s amazing.

After browsing through the error report, it’s a wonder that my website is even up and functioning. Maybe that’s why Google got mad at me and tossed my site to the bottom of the Google site list.

What to Do Next

Now that I have a comprehensive report of every single link on my website it gives me a list to work from to go through and remove, correct, delete, fix or modify the pages as necessary then re-generate a site map. Who’d a thought that a website with a little over 400 pages would generate a report about ¼ the size of the site?

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