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Link Rot Kills

By Jim Daniels
Posted Friday, December 3, 2004

"My site had a severe case of link rot and yours may too!"

Have you ever run a link checking program on your website? No, not one of those quickie link checks, but a "full site" link check?

What you learn about your website may disturb you. It happened to me this week. As owner of a fairly large website that has been online about four years, I realized I may have had a number of dead links. I just had no idea how many. Sure, I'd been averaging a few "dead-link complaints" every month lately, but I always thought I ran a pretty tight ship.

I thought wrong. I finally ran a full site link check and found that my site had a severe case of link rot!

While my internal links (links within my own site from one page to another) were pretty good with just two dead links, get this... THIRTY external links had rotted away without me knowing it! Shame on me. Not only does this portray a bad image, it can cause other problems as well.

For starters, bad links send visitors scurrying away from your site. Additionally, search engines tend to favor sites WITHOUT link problems and give higher ranking to sites who keep up on their link maintenance.

So what about your site? You probably have dead links on your site right now too, and you are not alone. Studies show that on average, one out of every 15 links on the Web is not functioning. If your site is that bad, you're in trouble. Heck, if one out of every 20 links on your site is dead there's a good chance that EVERY visitor to your site will find a dead link. Think about that for a minute. Are you willing to risk losing every visitor to your website? I thought not.

The solution is to periodically and systematically check for link rot, especially if your site contains links to other web sites. Take time and do it today! I researched some programs this week that you can simply turn loose before you go to bed and you'll wake up with a fresh list of bum links to fix. Here they are...

Web-Based Link Checking:

Most of these allow a small sampling of their service on a limited number of web pages. If you have a very small site, these are great. Just visit one of these URL's and run a quick and free check.

Website Garage
(http://www.websitegarage.com)

Net Mechanic
(http://www.netmechanic.com)

Dr. Watson
(http://watson.addy.com)

Link Checking Software:

Software solutions are ideal for larger sites allowing you to perform the link checks through your own computer. I tried a number of programs this week and ended up settling on InfoLink Link Checker by (http://www.biggbyte.com/) - it gives you 50 full uses of the program before you have to pay a dime. If you plan to use it beyond that you can register it for a small fee.

Some other software programs that will run link checks at your site are:

LinkScan
(http://www.elsop.com/)

WebAnayzer
(http://www.incontext.com/)

Create a Safety Net for Internal Links:

One more tip I recommend is to add a customized error page to your site. No matter how well you maintain your internal links, there will always be surfers who enter a URL incorrectly and get the dreaded 404 error page. You can keep your visitors from getting that ugly error message by simply creating a customized error page.

In a nutshell, it is the same as creating any other web page. Just create a page that tells your visitors they are a little lost and invite them to click a link to your home page. For an example of an effective custom error page, go to this bogus web page at my website: (http://www.bizweb2000.com/asdf)

See how it gets folks back on track quickly, rather than losing them to another website?

Here's another 404 error page that does the trick: (http://www.WebBusinessToday.com/goofsarepeopletoo.html)

As far as the technical aspects of making it work, it is simple. Just create a web page then contact your web host and they'll tell you exactly how make it work on your server.

If you need some ideas for a 404 error page of your own, check out: (http://www.cool404.com) - each time you reload the page a new customized 404 page will pop up.

Remember, dead links are a bigger deal than you may be making them out to be. They will compromise your website visitors' experience severely. Visitors may even click away from your site never to return. Take your website maintenance seriously if you want your site to be taken seriously!

About the Author
Tip by Jim Daniels, author of the book that has helped thousands of small business owners prosper online. Get the book at (http://www.bizweb2000.com/insider.htm) and get a free bonus for ordering today! And be sure to opt-in to Jim's famous BizWeb eGazette. It's free forever... mailto:optin@bizweb2000.com