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31DBBB Day 27: Hunt for Dead Links

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Spider webThis is Day 27 of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, a group project 60+ of us bloggers are doing together in an effort to help each other become better bloggers.

I am sure you have come across web pages or blog posts that linked to other web pages and when you clicked on those links it took you absolutely nowhere! Do you find it frustrating when that happens? I do.

My first thought is always, “What is the author of this blog doing?” Yet, as we all know, the web is just that, a web. It is not the concrete jungle with its addresses set in concrete. A spider’s web is here today and gone tomorrow. That is exactly how the World Wide Web works. Links are not written in stone.

After a while your blog will also start losing its links to the outside world. As a blogger, you do not want this to happen, but the reality of the matter is that this is inevitable! So, it is your job to ensure that your readers are met with a very robust interlinking system, between your blog, and the rest of the web out there. As a result, no matter how you do it, it will be hard work. There are tools out there that can assist you in finding those dead links, but even then, you still have to do some work.

I decided to have a look at some of the offerings out there: (I created a screen shot of a few of them)

Broken linkYou can either go through your blog post-by-post, or you can use one of the tools above to assist you. You may have to use a combination of tools to find dead links. My guess is that not everybody will use the same tools or combination of tools, due to our differences as people. After having a quick look at the tools above, I think I would probably use W3C Free Link Checker and Link Valet as a combination.

So, what are you supposed to do when you find a dead link? Fix it, of course! What are some of the remedies, then?

1. Fix or update the link: You may have to search the net to find that link again, especially if the website of the original link has moved. Otherwise, find a similar link that says the same as the original.

2. Delete the link: You may have linked to something that is really scarce, and since that link no longer exists, you will have to simply delete the link. Just let your readers know that you’ve done this and that the original link no longer exists.

3. Delete the post: I know that the 31DBBB book suggests this, but the point of fixing dead links is not to create your own. If you go deleting your posts, some other person will sit with dead links in his blog/website. All you are doing is perpetuating the problem that you are trying to solve on your own blog. So, my suggestion is to rather put a place marker there that explains why the original information is no longer at that post or why it is no longer valid.

Remember, this is not a glamorous task, so you will have to make time to do this. Of course, as you find posts with dead links, you may as well go through those posts to also fix spellinggrammar and formatting. You may have redesigned your blog, and some of your older posts may need some reformatting to fit in with your new design. As you find posts with dead links, you may as well apply what we have learned thus far in 31DBBB to them. That way you can make your whole blog comply to what we have learned.

So, let us know about your take on this.

Discussion

  1. Have you used any tools that find dead links at all?
  2. Have you gone through your blog fixing dead links before?
  3. How do you do it?

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William Dicks is… Christian, Reformed, NCT, pro-life, conservative, pro-family. He blogs at http://williamdicks.blogspot.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @wdicks.

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    About the author

    William Dicks

    I am a father of two, husband of one, servant of one God, Jesus Christ. I am a software developer on Windows and Mac. I love to read, especially theological works. I have a BA-Bible/Theology degree and I am currently busy with an MTh. I can also be reached on Twitter @wdicks.

    39 Comments

    • My blogs are self hosted wordpress. I use the plugin

      broken link checker.

      from here:
      http://w-shadow.com/blog/2007/08/05/broken-link-c

      It appears to run when I'm in the admin panel, and it also notes redirects. . . the most common broken links appear in my occasional link round up post to other sites, blogs that go dead, get deleted, or even change domain names, news articles that change locations and so on.

      I fix a few every now and then, rather than obsess over them. Small steps at a time.

      • I'm also self-hosted WordPress, use that pluggin, and have used several others. I have to say that this one is by far the best that I've seen. I love how it constantly scans in the background, and alerts of broken links with a variety of ways to correct the issue. Sweet tool!

    • One website I read has a "bug of the month" contest, as it's website is over 1000 pages.

      The 404 page has an explanation. .. along with a form to fill out, as does a link in the side bar on every page.

      The website gives away a product of value to a random winner each month.

      It essentially serves as a complaint department — encouraging users to submit stuff, including any outdated information, broken links, even misspellings and poor grammar. . . . in the hopes of winning the free product.

      Interesting idea, but effective community buildling

    • Very useful set of Links.
      One of the most irritating aspects of moving my blog from wordpress.com to a self-hosted environment with wordpress.org was that not all the images were transferred (apart from all the inline video links) . In the end I used the Broken Link Checker that EvangelismCoach.org mentioned.
      it works great except for picking up on slow link as broken.
      Otherwise I use Google Webmaster tools to look for them.

      • I can recommend the backupbuddy plugin that moves everything – it's a pay for WP plugin but invaluable in these types of situations.

    • This seems like a daunting task! ugh! But a task none the less…
      I don't have to answer the questions. I have never done this, yet I am the first to get frustrated when I find a broken link.

      Maybe we, as 31DBBB bloggers, could notify each other by email or some other source of contact other than a comment if we find a dead link in another's blog. Not just today….

      New post today – Mighty Men – http://www.ronniespoon.blogspot.com

    • Best thing about being a new blogger: few if any broken links. 🙂 I just breezed through manually since I know I keep all my external links in just a few pages and didn't see anything that was busted, but I'll def be putting in an application of some kind to do it in the future.
      Todays post : http://wp.me/pRIWc-4C

    • With over 500 posts in just one of my blogs, I sure enough have broken links. The most common I have found so fare are videos that have been withdrawn and occasional pictures that have been withdrawn.

      I did not know of the availability of the tools cited today. They should be helpful.

      So far if I find a broken link I have replaced it with a new address or new product. I am, however, beginning a process (time consuming) of bringing old posts up to date generally by reissuing them. My intention is to provide some kind of redirect to the up dated post. In the past none of the broken links I have found and fixed have required notification of the changes.

    • Some of the links I have broken have been my own! This happened because:
      – I changed the URLs of some old posts. (Note: Don't do this if a post has incoming links!)
      – I got my own domain, and want all my internal links to use the new domain, so that if people come in the old way, clicking anything will bring them into the new domain. So I changed my internal links, which means I got some wrong.

      The tool that has saved me is Webmaster Tools by Google. They report a lot of interesting stuff (like incoming links), but for today's post, the relevant part is "Crawl errors" which includes the important "Not found" list. There are all my broken links, internal and external!

        • Richard, you first have to set up an account there, registering your site. It can take a few days before they actually start crawling. (It's worth it, because this is more than a broken-link reporter.) Then look under Diagnostics.

          • Thanks, I think I was able to get it set up for my blog.
            I couldn't do it for my church site though because it could not verify my site. I may have to check with Paul on that. I may have to have a different template for my church site 'cause it wants the verification code in the <head> before the <body>

            • On my blog, I can't control what comes before <head>, so I must have used an alternate verification method. I remember putting something temporarily in my sidebar.