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Hunt for Dead Links [Day 27: 31DBBB]

Posted By Darren Rowse 2nd of May 2009 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

Today your task in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Project is something that most bloggers who have been blogging for a while could probably benefit from doing – go on a dead link hunt.

Blogging is built on the ‘link’. One blog links to another blog who links to another who makes comment on another. This is a wonderful thing – but what happens when one of the blogs that you’re linking to is retired, is deleted, changes it’s link structure, moves etc?

The link is a dead one (also known as Link Rot) and can cost your blog on two fronts:

1. Readability – clicking on a dead link can mean your readers can end up on error pages or being redirected to other irrelevant content to the one they were expected to get to. This can lead to reader frustration or giving the impression that your blog is old and/or out of touch.

2. SEO – I’m not sure of the technicalities of it or what the latest research shows but from what I can tell a dead link is not looked upon favorably by search engines and you run the risk of penalties.

So how do you detect dead links on your blog?

The most obvious ‘solution’ is to surf every page on your blog and manually check all the links. This is something that might be achievable on a new blog – but on older blogs with hundreds or thousands of posts it’s just not feasible.

There are many link checking tools available but to be honest I’m yet to find one that I’m really happy with. I do hear that Xenu’s Link Sleuth is well regarded. I’ve also used the free version of Dead-Links.com (which only checks to a reasonably shallow depth) – but I’d be keen to hear from readers on their suggestions of other options.

Other dead link checking tools:

here are a few that are recommended in the WordPress Codex:

Feel free to suggest others below.

What to Do When You find a Dead Link?

There are a few options for what to do with dead links. They include:

  1. fixing/updating them – if the link is simply wrong or pointing to the wrong place update it so that it works
  2. deleting them – if they are dead and you can’t find a correct one then you can delete the link. I usually add an ‘update’ note to say that I’ve done this. I sometimes also update with new relevant links so that the post is still relevant.
  3. delete the post – on occasion I’ve done this if the whole post’s main point is to link to someone else’s post. A dead link makes this type of post obsolete so I consider deleting them rather than updating.

Whether you use a tool or just tackle the task manually a few posts at a time – finding and fixing dead links can be well worth the effort.

What do you Do

How do you find dead links? What do you do when you find them? Got any cool tools to share? Feel free to discuss here, or share with everyone in the forum post for this task.

Want More?

This task is a sample of one of the tasks in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook – a downloadable resource designed to reinvigorate and revitalize blogs.

Join over 14,000 other bloggers and Get your Copy Today.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Thanks to all for the recommendations regarding the Broken Link Checker WordPress plugin. I installed it this evening, and it immediately generated three very old posts with broken links. I likely never would have found them unless someone had pointed them out to me. This is a great tip, and the plugin is a very helpful tool. Thanks!!

  2. I have checked my blog’s links using dead-links com, thanks for the info.

  3. Thesis is a great theme. I have seen a lot of good looking and functional blogs developed on Thesis.

    For those who do no want to invest right away on a theme, try Vigilance. Its a great theme that looks similar to Thesis. The theme is free. But in order to make use of the advanced features you have to join the Vigilance members forum to get help and support (for a fee). But if your have good coding skills you can tweak the theme by yourself.

    I just switched my blog to the vigilance theme. I love it!

  4. I use broken link checker plugin on my blogs, works great and displays on the dashboard.

  5. Just installed the WP dead link plugin one commentor suggested..yikes 61 dead links to clear.. off to do some housekeeping.

  6. I installed the suggested wp plugin from another reader and it looks to be working well.

  7. I’ve used W3C and dead-links before, but I found W3C link checker is better than dead-links. I think Google hates blog which has lot dead links because we share something unavailable, right? :)
    Thanks for sharing other dead links checker tool Darren!


  8. I just tried this with 4 blogs using the dead-links.com tool. As Darren expected there were dead links on 2 of the 4. Now they are nice and tidy.

    I also started using Google Webmaster tools for my latest blog. It seems to be doing a pretty good job at checking link mismatches as well, though it is not as immediate as these tools above.

  9. huhu. need to work hard to get better blog. Seo and hunt for dead links another my project too. Hope it will success.

  10. thanks Darren for the post :) but I have a question, If I updated the post many times to update the links does that make search engine thinks of my post as spam or something ?
    I would love for you answer:) thanks a lot

  11. Thanks for telling us about checking for dead links. I don’t know about everyone else but I know that sure as heck wouldn’t have though about checking for dead lins in a million years!

  12. I’ve learned quite a bit through out this series, not only from the author, but from many of the folks posting comments. It has been a great learning experience!

    The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles.
    The Range Reviews: Tactical.

  13. Darren

    A great post, especially as it highlights the housekeeping component of operating a successful content based web site. Dead outbound links are a pain and traffic negative. Plus of course ensuring links within your own site are still valid. Housekeeping ain’t glamorous, but it’s critical to long term success.

    One of our websites used to link to a very significant quantity of news websites, who of course have a terrible tendency of moving pages around without using proper redirects. Easy example is when they move something into their paid archive after 30, 60 or 90 days of free view. Used to drive us made trying to keep a couple of hundred thousand links up to date.

    I’ve tried a few of the link services but never really been overwhelmed. I fall back on the tried and true Google Webmaster Tools for internal links, and have written a few utilities to check outbound links.

    Would always suggest if at all possible people have a custom 404 page, to ensure if you inadvertently trash an internal link your visitor still sees something valid instead of the bog standard ‘can’t find that page’ message.



  14. Google webmaster tools will help you. It will let you know if you have any deadlinks for any of your sites.

  15. I never think about finding dead link in my blog but, after i read your article i will try it, because maybe dead link will make our site bad in visitor eyes.. thanks.

  16. Thanks for that guideline. Will check my websites and blogs right after this to check on dead links.

  17. Thanks for the suggestion… I don’t think I have any dead links but will be happy to hear from anyone who finds one on my blog… I will check again when I have a moment. Great tip too Darren!

  18. Thanks for link Dareen, I’m waiting your newest post.

  19. Yay me . no dead links found in my post or blog . i used to do frequently and i geuss i did it well :)

  20. dead-links.com is full of crap… It said that pretty much every link on my blog was a 404 (most of the rest recognized it as a web spider, and blocked it)

    Examining these links, they were not dead at all.

  21. The first, downloadable option worked fantastically. Not quite as easy to use as Wikipedia toolserver’s Checklinks, which will let you automatically tag or remove dead links, but it still works.

  22. I check manually for dead links, but what I did find recently was that my e-mail address was mis-typed and I had been cutting and pasting the link for months. Ahhhhhhhrg.

  23. @diane
    If uou’re using mySQL as database you might find this handy:

    UPDATE tablename SET tablefield = REPLACE(tablefield,”findstring”,”replacestring”);

    Just set all low-case to suit your settings and needs

  24. This is quite a conundrum.
    You need to link to others in order to be relevant and achieve better Search Engine rankings, but then you are at the mercy of the linked site staying alive.
    The fact of the matter is many blogs which are not still born die at a rather youthful age… Links die
    So yes this is good advice… Thankfully my blog is new so I can do it manually, but later… I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

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