Checking for broken links using WordPress plugins can lead to intensive use of server resources and impact site performance. Plugins like Broken Link Checker are restricted on certain webhosts because of the performance issues they can introduce to a site. Thankfully, there are free programs available that off-load the process of checking links from the web server to a local machine. Xenu Link Sleuth is one such program. Released in 2010, Xenu Link Sleuth is compatible with Microsoft Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP/Vista/7.
After installing the program to your machine, type in the URL you want to check. Link verification is performed on normal links, images, frames, plug-ins, backgrounds, local image maps, style sheets, scripts and java applets. It displays a continuously updated list of URLs which you can sort by different criteria. Reports can be generated at any time. Since the majority of processing takes place on the machine performing the report, it’s quicker and doesn’t need a database to store the results. Another advantage is that unlike online services, you’re not limited to a maximum number of URLs that can be checked.
When I generated a report for WPTavern.com, Xenu used between 29-30 threads and checked over 10,000 urls. Green colored text signals no errors while red indicates a problem. In my case, it usually meant the image was not found. Since a report can be made up of thousands of links, Xenu Link Sleuth provides the ability to only view broken ones.
Although Xenu Link Sleuth does not work natively on the Mac, a program called Integrity for Mac OS X Mavericks is available. Integrity was recently updated to include support for Mavericks and retina displays.
Good Practice or Waste Of Time?
By using Xenu Link Sleuth, I was able to see hundreds of broken links of the thousands that make up the WPTavern archive. I feel conflicted on whether I should fix them or not. Links breaking are part of the natural life cycle of the web. Part of me wants to make sure each link that exists on the domain works correctly. The other part feels that by changing the URL, I would be altering history. Should I only concern myself with links up to a certain time period? How often do you check for broken links on your site? What programs or services do you use to perform the task?