Broken links in a website are extremely damaging. They throw off visitors and search engines and lower your site’s credibility.
What makes broken links so problematical is that they are caused slowly, over time and mostly affect older content – things that you can easily forget about. Unfortunately, this older content has the higher page rank in your site, so having broken links in old content costs you a lot.
The classic solution for combating broken links is to periodically scan the entire site’s content, find and fix them.
Plugins such as Broken Links Checker do this well, including automated checks and reports.
Warning: Broken Links Checks isn’t compatible with WPML, as it does low-level DB operations which break language information.
Preventing broken links instead of fixing them
WPML includes its own solution for broken links. It’s called ‘Sticky Links‘. Sticky Links make all links between your content dynamic, so that the link follows the target whereever it goes.
Sticky Links properties:
- Always link too the current permalinks
- Update in real-time, with no need to scan and fix
- Track pages by their IDs instead of their URLs
- Resilient to settings changes, such as permalinks structure
Supposing you have a page called ‘New PC offer’. You’ve placed that page in example.com/new-pc-offer/ and are linking to it.
Now, that offer has moved and its name also changed (because it’s not that new anymore). This same page is now example.com/offers/pc31/. You still want the incoming links to go to that page, although it has a new URL now.
When Sticky Links are enabled, all pages linking to that page will immediately link to the correct URL. It’s because, in the database, the link doesn’t go to the URL. Instead, it goes to the abstract page. The actual link is calculated when the page is displayed, so it always returns the correct URL.
A Broken Links Checker would also find this, but it’s going to be way longer and more complicated. You would get an alert that something is wrong, locate the new page and fix the link yourself.
With Sticky Links, all this goes automatically.
This video shows it in action: