My blog is literally getting to thousands of pages in size. Now I know that's not the biggest website in the world, but from my point of view it is getting pretty big. Occasionally, I will get an e-mail from a reader, telling me that I have a broken link in one of my posts.
A dead link, also known as a dangling link and a broken link, is defined as a link which leads to an error page or a web page or server which is unavailable. While the occasional dead link may not seem like too much of a big deal all it takes is a single dead link to lose a customer.
A website visitor's attention span is typically limited to about twenty seconds. If you can't capture their attention in those first twenty seconds – click, they're gone. They're onto the next website or gasp – your competition.
Now imagine you've done your job as a webmaster and captured the attention of a visitor. They're reading your content and liking what they see. A link or button captures their attention, they click it and oops, there's an error page. Some patient folks will go back to the page they were on and continue browsing however the majority will simply click away. You've lost them and any potential profits which may have been gleaned from their wallets.
Unfortunately most webmasters are completely unaware that their links are broken – dead. What is an unaware webmaster to do?
Fortunately when there's an issue on the internet, there are many people and companies who jump in to help you solve the problem. Dead links are no exception.
You can, of course, check all your links yourself. If you have a single page brochure site this is probably the best and most economical decision to make. You can click on each of your links on a monthly basis simply to make sure they're still working. Perhaps you link to an order form, a map or even other websites. A few clicks and you'll know whether your links are breathing or have kicked the bucket and need to be fixed.
However many websites have hundreds of pages, each with their own internal links. One dead link can break a very important chain. Checking a site like this manually can take way more time than you have. You could hire an administrative assistant to weed through page after page of links trusting that they're not going to miss any or you can use one of the many dead link checkers available online. Most of these tools work by simply typing in your URL and generating a report. Depending on the size of your website this process can take anywhere from five seconds to five minutes. The result is a nice list of links to update.
I have not reviewed many of these link checkers, but one free one that I used with some success can be found here: Dead-Links.com. There are some paid checkers as well, but I have not checked them out.
Once you have a list of links to update, the sooner you can fix them the better. Remember, each dead link may be a lost customer. While it isn't necessary to check for dead links daily or even weekly, it pays to schedule a monthly dead link check into your calendar.
Do you check your site for dead links? What tools do you use?