“Those Were The Days My Friend” was a first published in 1925 and made universally popular by Mary Hopkin in 1968. No one could have any concept back then that I would be using the phrase to talk about broken links. The concept of the WWW was only proposed by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 and until then likely considered science fiction. You will be familiar with links that lead you to 404, page not found error pages: the space junk of discarded satellites in the web cosmos.
Those were the days, or where they?
My first non personal blog was named “Blogging and Tagging” hosted by Blogger. I imported posts from here when I transferred to self-hosted WordPress in 2007.
Social Bookmarking sites and Blogging Networks were new and gaining popularity. It was an exciting time, with web 2 technology making new forms of online social interaction possible. Posting completely new and original content was easier if you kept up with research.
Ways of “organizing the web” interested me and many of my posts related to bookmarking sites and methods of interacting with them. Blogging networks were some of the first social networks, which makes sense as members already had knowledge of web technology. I was a keen participant and blogged about new sites that I had joined.
Come 2014 and the majority of these sites have disappeared. Why? Competition from similar sites killed some of them and the mass uptake of social networking destroyed the popularity most of the rest. With new social sites appealing to all web users, bloggers could literally widen their net and promote to a much wider audience than techies and other bloggers.
What has this got to do with broken links?
Links in posts to these superseded sites broke. They point to, often long deceased, stone dead, expired sites that have kicked the bucket. Although Google might not mind sites that are just resting it is not keen on links to sites that have ceased to be. (If anyone understands the reference here let me know by comment). Broken links are also known as Link Rot or Link Death, with individual broken links called dead links, or dangling links. more descriptive terms showing how damaging they are.
Sites that do gain favor update regularly with quality correct information, not those with a lot of broken links.
If you started your site a few years ago it is very likely that it does contain broken links. From Google Webmaster Tools reports, I knew that mine has a lot but I didn’t make a real effort to fix them.
Until I read this post by Adrienne Smith about how broken links “annoy” her I had not considered broken links in comments. I used the tool recommended by Adrienne, Broken Link Checker, and was horrified by the results. I had over 2000 broken links in comments to add to over 150 in my posts. Some of the broken comment links are very recent. Although plugins and Webmaster Tools show your broken links, Broken Link Checker is more useful. It gives you a link to the post or page containing the broken link and to the source code showing where the link is. Once the offending post is loaded just click the edit button to fix it.
Additional to links to sites that no longer exist, posts and pages on sites that are still current can be broken. They may have been deleted or their URL’s changed.
I am now slowly but surely dealing with the broken links. It will take a long time so I recommend you to do it regularly.
How To Fix Broken Links
- One precaution I took a while ago was to stop Google crawling my categories because I have changed and reduced their number over time. That took care of a whole lot of broken links as well as stopping the indexing of duplicate content contained in by including posts in more than one Category. I used the XML Sitemaps section of Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin for this
- If you change the url of a post the WordPress plugin, Redirection, creates redirection to your new URL. It also gives you details of your broken links.
- Edit your posts/pages and comments and remove the dead links. You can simply take out the hyperlink and leave the text or completely remove the reference to the link.
- If the information in your post or page is out of date, update it with new content as well as removing broken links. This is what I have done with the post Social Bookmarking Sites where most of the content and nearly all the links no longer apply.Notice I have included internal links to more recent posts increasing it’s usefulness for SEO and readers. Some of my older posts still rank well so I will pay particular attention to these, deleting old links and references and adding internal links. I plan to write new posts on the same topics, which I will also link to.
- Don’t delete old posts and pages. Make sure they are free of broken links, update if needed, and don’t include them in your menus. If you have categories set to no-follow you assign unwanted posts to categories not included in a Category widget or menu. You can exclude categories using plugins or by creating a new menu using the Category area of Appearance/Menus. Use the Custom Menu widget to place it in your sidebar or assign them to your main or sub navigation menus.My own main menu contains some categories, my sidebar Category widget includes only those I choose to show. I have moved old categories to a sub category called “Z excluded”. This way all my current categories appear first in the Categories section of Edit Posts and I am reminded not to assign a new post to an old category.
- A link is worth more for SEO purposes if it leads to a quality well-known site, sites that are less likely to disappear. Avoid broken links by referring to quality sites.
Do I miss the old days of blogging? I do miss the friendship and sharing in the old Blog Networking sites, especially when they were new and members enthusiastic. I developed friendships with many bloggers, some of whom I lost contact with and some who no longer blog. This is compensated for by being a part of some friendly blogging groups run through Facebook and Gplus. Our Biz Blogging Buzz group is now open to non members so you can take a look at how it operates.
I miss being able to read content on sites and posts that only contain video.
As the web continues to evolve, there is still always something new to discover and the current image rich web is much more appealing. Blogging is still alive and thriving despite predictions of its demise. All in all I much prefer today’s web.
Is there anything you miss from the old days of blogging?
Do you monitor and fix broken links? What tools do you use for this?
Footnote: Monna Ellinthorpe wrote a comment with a very important tip. Do not use a plugin to check for broken links. They monitor your site constantly and not only put a strain on your server but can get you banned from Adsense or other advertising networks because the checking produces illegal clicks. Thanks Monna. The broken link checker mentioned above is an online tool and not a plugin.