Broken links are links that point to posts or web pages that have expired or to websites that have been deleted altogether.
When you’ve run a blog for a long, long time — this blog turns 13 years old next week — you begin to realize some of your fellow bloggers are no longer blogging.
Years ago, I ran weekly features on this blog called the “Saturday Six” and “Sunday Seven” in which participants were encouraged to answer the questions in comments here on this blog or in new posts on their own blogs and then leave comments with links to those posts. The idea behind the features was to help people find new blogs.
Over the years, unfortunately, I’ve come to find out many of those early players from 10 years ago or more no longer have their blogs.
I know this because of a plugin called “Broken Link Checker.” Whenever it finds broken links on your blog, it notifies you and then lists each of the links it has discovered that may or may not be broken. In some cases, the links aren’t actually missing: the websites involved may be temporarily down at the time the plugin checks them, for example.
But in that list of broken links, I can click each one to see for myself what happens, and in the majority of cases, I receive the dreaded 404 error that tells me the site no longer exists.
As I’ve previously reported, research shows the average blog is dead after a mere 100 days. In that span of time, just less than three-and-a-half months, many people will have become so tired of their blog or disappointed by the lack of immediate audience that they abandon their sites and move on to something else.
When those sites get deleted, links to those sites become broken links. The plugin gives me the option to “unlink” those links, which means the plugin will go into the comment or post and simply remove the link itself. The comment or post in which the link had been remains but the text that used to serve as the anchor text to the hyperlink is no longer clickable.
I feel bad every time I have to remove one of those links. In many cases, I remember the blogger who left those comments and it makes me sad to know they’re no longer blogging. I actually feel guilty every time I have to remove one of those links.
Experts say there’s an important reason to do so.
There are actually two, but some might argue one is more important.
The first reason, from an audience perspective, is that it’s very annoying for readers to click a link that no longer goes anywhere. It’s a turnoff.
One of my blogging mantras is that you must always consider your audience. This, to me, is the reason to do something about broken links.
The experts, on the other hand, point to another reason that’s more important: broken links can drop your blog’s ranking in search engines: Google and others will penalize websites with a lot of broken links, which could affect how well your site draws in additional readers.
So as I mourn the disappearance of former bloggers who’d visited this blog during the Saturday Six days, I’m at least trying to make the reading experience here better in the days since they’ve decided to shut down their blogs.