Have you ever been to a blog, clicked a link, and then received a 404 error? You’re not alone. Millions of links die every day due to link rot. Link rot is a growing problem. A recent study showed that over half of the links in Supreme Court decisions take you nowhere at all. Stories linking to other stories are crucial for understanding complex topics and getting the whole picture. If the links go nowhere, it makes learning far more difficult.

What Causes Link Rot?

Link rot is the result of the internet constantly evolving. Dead or broken links are the core issue of link rot. A broken link is a link that no longer takes you to the intended web page. The term link rot is used to describe all the different ways a link can die.

How are Links Broken?

A link can become broken in a variety of ways.

Redesign – When a website is redesigned, restructured, or updated to a new platform, it may cause links to become invalid.

Deletion – Links are lost when a web page has been deleted, or the server where the web page was stored has been deactivated.

Hidden data – Sometimes a URL contains user-specific hidden data such as their login or session ID that is not universally accessible.

Expiration –  Some URL’s are only valid for a short time, for example, URL shorteners and some file sharing services.

How to Prevent Link Rot

There is no way to completely prevent link rot. For example, when you link to outside websites it’s out of your hands. That said, there are a few precautions you can take.

Use the most compact URL possible – If you are only trying to link to the homepage of another website, just link to http://www.example.com. not http://www.example.com/lang=en&id3452.

Avoid linking to PDF files – PDF is a document, not a website. PDF’s are more likely to contain characters that need to be converted into codes that browsers can recognize, or are not optimized like a web page and download slowly, possibly causing a timeout.

There’s no avoiding link rot, but being vigilant on your blog and website is important. Schedule a monthly review of the links on your website to make sure they’re still valid. Try this free service that scans up to 3000 pages on your website or blog. You can also do your part by reporting dead links to the author of blog posts you read or websites you visit, they’ll appreciate the heads up, I know we would!

TKO Tech Talk is a column written by Eric Benge, who has over 10 years experience in the design and print industries. Technology changes rapidly, the advice or information included in these articles is considered accurate and helpful as of the date they are posted online. If you have any questions, technology related or otherwise, please contact us.