November 18, 2015

Bloggers beware! Broken and dead links hurt badly.

Broken links and dead links are hyperlinks on webpages, which do not link to the destination.
broken-links-on-websites

Broken links arise due to many reasons, the main ones being:
  • The linked content's URL has been changed.
  • The author of the website / blog typed the URL wrongly.
  • The URL has gone private.
  • The host server has gone bad temporarily (e.g. down for maintenance or attacked by a malware or overburdened due to sudden spike in traffic) or permanently.
  • The URL has been blocked or removed due to its controversial or harmful nature.
  • Links to user generated content, for example on putting a query, can generate temporary URLs that vanish immediately after use. Similarly when content that comes up only when the user logs in can not be see through the URL by non-logged in users.
  • Bad or broken or dead links get multiplied on blogs and many other CMSs by replicating the same URLs in many places. For example, a bad link might come up on the search pages and category pages in addition to the page where it lies.

WHY SHOULD I BOTHER FOR BROKEN LINKS ON MY WEBSITE OR BLOG?


There are three BIG reasons you must care that all the links on your website work:

  • Broken or dead links irritate visitors.Visitors might not return to a website that has many such links.
  • Broken / dead links also give the impression that you are not serious about the site. It hurts your online reputation as a brand and as a blogger.
  • Search engines are supposed to penalize sites for broken and dead links.

 

HOW MUCH IS THE BROKEN LINK PREVALENT?


The 404 error code and some hlml messages that announce 'The webage is not responding.' are quite prevalent on the web. We encounter these messages routinely when we visit a hyperlink whose destination is not available.

A source on the Wikipedia page on 'Link Rot' states (as in November 2015) that about 5% links are found to decay every year. Some web libraries and archives have reported over half of their links going bad over a long period, leading to references on research journals becoming untraceable.

We have seen during our blog directory compilations over the last about six years that many hobby bloggers keep a large blogrolls and after a time, many of these blogs either wither away, turn private or are taken off. Our blog directories too are susceptible to it. In our latest broken link check a month back, we had to remove 36 broken links from our directories as some blogs that once looked great had closed down while some had grown and migrated to new domains without redirecting their old blogging resources to new blogs.

WHAT ACTIONS DO I NEED TO TAKE TO AVOID BROKEN LINKS ON MY WEBSITE?


Checking websites and blogs for errors must be a regular maintenance activity and checking for broken links must be part of that. You need to take the following preventive and maintenance actions:

  • Check each hyperlink's working after publishing the page / blog post. If you have blogroll on your blog, be even more careful.
  • Do not, to the extent possible, link to a PDF document, or a standalone image.
  • If linking images or documents stored online, e.g. in dropbox, be sure that you are not going to password protect or remove such resources after some time.
  • Avoid linking URLs that are generated on your browser when you make a data query on a website. (For example, when you look for comparison between two gadgets with many filters on a gadget site.)
  • Check all your links every six months. If the website or blog has many links, use a link checker. (There are many available on the web, free.)
  • Have a custom '404' page. This is a botheration but is important especially for big websites that are frequently updated and get tons of traffic. In their case, even a single bad link can have a cascading effect. If your CMS / host provide that facility, direct any bad link page to a page that says sorry and takes you to a related page so that the visitor is not put off seeing a rude '404' error page.

BROKEN LINK CHECKERS ON THE WEB


There are many broken link checker tools (mostly free) available on the web and we are not in a position to recommend any particular one. After you have got the list, go to individual bad link and take corrective action.

Remember, you must fix broken and dead links as a regular SEO, site optimization activity.