31DBBB Day 27: Hunt for Dead Links

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?

The extra mile…

  • Tweet, share, & bookmark this post.
  • When other bloggers include a link to a new article they’ve posted today, click, read, and comment on it.
  • No blog review today.

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.

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 Responses to “31DBBB Day 27: Hunt for Dead Links”

  1. 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.

    • Had a feeling there would be a WP plugin – hadn't checked for one tho yet ;)

    • 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!

    • thanks for the info. I was wondering which plugin would be worth trying.

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  5. Because my blog is so new I have not checked for broken links. It sounds like the wordpress plugin does the work when we access the dashboard. I think I will start with that and see what it turns up.

    My post for today is: http://larrywestfall.com/summary-of-categories/

  6. I kinda wanted chocolate today. That shouldn't really be a surprise…
    http://greeninventionscentral.blogspot.com/2010/0

  7. 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

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

    • Where did you go on Webmater Tools to find that stuff. I can't find it.

      • 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.

  10. Being that I've only been blogging for around a month and a half now I didn't really have a ton of posts and links to go through. So I just went through each post and checked the links. If I had been at this a couple years I probably would have used one of the above resources. And I did find some dead links so it was good I checked.

    This was the first time I did it, though I try to check my links from a post after I post too.

    Blogpost for today is "Hunting for Dead Links, Improving Another Blog, and Question Posts" – http://tijuanabecky.wordpress.com/2010/06/08/hunt

  11. Just checked out Webmaster Tools that I also have set up for my blog and saw the error links they found. Thanks Jon for telling us that they report that kind of stuff, I wouldn't have known.

  12. I tried the Link Valet and the W3C Free Link Checker this morning. Both are quick and easy to use. There is a lot of useless information on the report. I guess it's good to know that you are looking for on the reports before you start. I check the report key and I think all I really need to be concerned with on Link Valet are the Red colored flags. I only had a couple there and they were not broken links.

    The 404 errors seem to be the ones we need to fix immediately. Since my blog is new and has limited external links I got lucky and had none of those.

    I place all my pictures for my posts on my church web site. That way I have control over them and don't have to worry about them being moved or deleted (unless I do it myself by mistake).

    I link Kevin's explaination of salvation on my post today, Treasure at First Base: http://junctionforjesus.blogspot.com/2010/06/trea

  13. My problem with this task is that old information is just that – old.

    So why would I care – for example – if a post I wrote 2yrs ago has a dead link now? Lots of blogs shut down comments after 14days so if they do that why would they care about an old dead link?

    I get the point, but not sure I'm up for doing this myself. Though I am going to install the WP dead link checker plugin mentioned above :)

    • "Lots of blogs shut down comments after 14days so if they do that why would they care about an old dead link?"

      Hey, I resemble that remark! :)

      I actually do care about dead links in old posts because I think my archives are important historical documents. I use broken link checker and I will occasionally choose an old post for link repair. This exercise goes well with the "update an old post" chapter from the book.

  14. I used the dead link checker and found one dead link. It was my fault. When I updated one of my pages, I found that I was basically saying the same thing in two different pages (long story) so I just put everything on one page.

    I have two new posts up. One from yesterday and one already today. Thanks to Richard for his great insight yesterday.
    I'll let everyone go to Richard's blog if you want the link from yesterday. His post today is worth it's weight in GOLD!!
    http://campfirecowboyministries.com/2010/06/shoot

  15. Thanks guys for all your research! I am going to install Webmaster and see what happens. I had a friend who was unable to comment on my recent post but then I didn't see an email saying that there was a comment either. Not sure if it was a dead link or not.

    The post is: http://openmyearslord.blogspot.com/2010/06/a-man-

    Be back later with more info–

    Janis

  16. Concerning the WordPress plugin to find dead links, as far as I know it is only available to those who host their own blogs at WordPress.org. Am I right?

    • Not sure about the WordPress plugin, but wanted to thank you for all the research you did on those various links. That was a thorough search and extremely helpful.

      Thank you,
      Janis

  17. Signed up for Webmaster Tools, but like Jon said, I will have to wait a few days for them to start crawling my post. I also went to Link Valet–a little confusing. However, I did find some errors that were probably caused by me as I tried to rearrange my new format.

    But one error I found that could explain people having trouble leaving comments is the "Open ID" tag. If someone tries to type their name in there, it still says, "Your comment was published."

    Any suggestions on how I can fix that? Or should I just leave a note someplace that says "Sign in as Anonymous if you do not have a website"?
    Janis

  18. Thanks William, very useful

  19. My blog is pretty new so no dead link problems. Going to have to check out some of those plugins and tools though. Thanks for sharing them. Always hard to find the right ones to use.

    Go read my blog today about a barefooted guy at the gym…
    http://guardraildamageahead.com/

  20. I find broken links to be an ongoing problem. Often it is links I have put on site to other articles that no longer exist. Google's webmaster tools is helpful.

  21. Thanks for the links tracker tool, it may be useful in the future. Although my ministry Web site currently has over 300 pages there are no broken links because I monitor it closely, and only link to other sites that have a long standing history.

  22. First-class information, lots of awesome material. I will show my friends and discuss this with them.

  23. thanks for information.very useful……!

  24. Stunning quest there. What occurred after? Thanks!

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