Photo Credit: Brian Smithson (Old Geordie) via Compfight cc
According to a story in the New York Times that posted at the end of September, 49% of the links included in Supreme Court decisions no longer work – they lead to either a 404 not found page or to something completely different than what the original author of the decision expected. This is called link rot and it can happen to your website, too, if you don’t check things regularly! Clicking on links in your site on a regular basis can let you know if any of them have gone rotten, but if you have a large site, that can be time consuming and tedious.
There are, of course, a couple of free software packages that you can download to check on links for you. These will tell you if the resource you are linking to is gone – giving you that dreaded 404 error page – but nothing will tell you that a website has gone out of business and is now owned by someone completely different showing something completely unrelated to your link. That sort of link rot needs to be handled by a human – but for your normal “broken links” Xenu Link Sleuth (Windows, mostly) or Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool (Windows or Mac or Ubuntu Linux) can help. Just download the one you want to use, point it to your website’s URL and let it check all your links for you. The software will then give you a report letting you know what links are broken – so you can get rid of them, change them to a current resource or do whatever you need to do to get the link rot out of your website!
Feel free to contact Ryan (email@example.com) or I (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you need help installing or using either of these tools on your site.