You’ve seen the “404 Page not found” error message. Annoying, isn’t it?
When a web page testing tool (like Pingdom or GTMetrix ) suggests you ”Avoid Bad Requests” it means one thing: a 404 error or similar.
A 404 error means a broken link. Broken links can ruin your users’ experience on your site. It causes loss of trust and affects your Google ranking.
Here’s how broken links happen and how you can fix them.
What’s A Bad Request?
On the Yoast blog, they say
“too many errors could send a signal of low quality (bad maintenance) to Google”.
That’s not what you want!
A broken link happens when an image or a file can’t be found where the link said it was. This could be a link to a deleted image or file or to one that no longer exists, for whatever reason. Maybe you changed the name or you moved it.
When this happens your web server usually gives a 404 error, meaning the file can’t be found.
Sometimes this is obvious, e.g. when a requested page doesn’t exist. In this case, you’ll get the familiar “404 page not found” error.
But it’s not always so obvious. It can also happen quietly in the background; these are harder to track down.
Where To See Your Bad Requests
Most page speed testing tool will point out these links.
(On the YSlow speed test, part of GTMetrix, it’s called Avoid HTTP 404 (Not Found) error)
Google Search Console
You can also see these errors in Google Search Console, if you use it (and you should) .
How To Fix Bad Requests
It’s easy enough to fix these bad requests manually. As you can see in the images above, Pingdom and other tools will give the exact URL of the problem.
You’ll need to track down which page is calling that URL and change it or remove it. E.g. you can replace an image with one that works or just remove it. A missing file on another site or in a plugin can be a bigger problem and you might need some help with getting those errors sorted out.
Actually tracking the source of the bad link is easier said than done and can be a problem if you aren’t extremely familiar with your WordPress website. That’s where a plugin comes in handy.
Use A Plugin
A plugin is useful when you need to clean up these links. I use the Broken Link Checker plugin. It’s particularly useful when cleaning up a new customer site but I don’t typically leave it installed once I’ve cleaned up the links.
Once installed, the plugin scans your pages and compiles a list of all broken links found on your WordPress site. These can be found from your WordPress Admin dashboard under Tools > Broken Links.
The best part about this is that the plugin tells you where the file is linked to, in the Source column. So you can go straight to the problem page to fix it, no guesswork involved.
Lots of broken links around your WordPress website is an indicator of poor housekeeping and can mean a poor experience for your visitors; think how often you’ve backed up from a website that gives you a 404 error or shows blanks where images should be.
But if you fix them
- your visitors will be happier.
- Google will be happier.
- Your page test scores will be better.
- And as a bonus, your site ranking will be better.
How do you typically deal with broken links on your site?