I was always under the impression that making sure that links on your site actually point somewhere is common sense, however it would appear that a lot of web folk wouldn't agree. Which I guess is a good thing because it gives me something to rant write about.
I was going through some sites today with an aim of link building, below is the method I used;
- I go to a site I already link with.
- I go to their links page.
- I open up every link on their page (using a handy Firefox plugin).
- I make sure I haven't already got a link exchange with the site and that the site is relevant and good quality.
- I contact the owner and set up some form of exchange.
I know a lot of people don't see the benefit of this old school way of linking sites, but I do and I would perform this function a lot. Which means I am privy to a lot of different links pages and forever opening up websites to look at.
Today I found a website that had 325 external links on it, it was a website that linked to me so I have a vested interest on what goes on in this links page, which is why I was really annoyed to find that 37 of those links pointed to dead sites, and by dead sites I mean literally no site there or the domain pointed to some generic holding page for some generic company not just sites with outdated content. That means a massive 11.4% of their links were completely useless.
Like I say, I have a vested interest in this page, because my link is on it and I want people to click on my link, and if it is hidden under sites that are going to be of no use to the user, well that is just poor form! I mean it annoys me enough that my site is lumped in with some site that hasn't been updated in about 3 years and is of no use to man nor beast but when I am being pushed down by a completely dead URL, GAH!
What I normally do is email the owner and let them know which links I believe to be completely dead, and normally they get back to me thanking me and the links are removed but I just find it insane that you would need to be told this.
There are loads of excellent reasons for keeping your links up to date, here are some of them;
- At the end of the day they are a massive traffic leak, and if you can stem the flow of any traffic leaving your site, you will do that.
- Some of the links on your site will benefit you if people click on them (affiliate programs, toplist sites, etc etc) so the less links you have the more chance you have of someone clicking on one of those.
- You also get the added bonus that the user is being sent to sites with actual content on them, and you need to keep those folk happy if you want them to return to your site!
- I am unaware if there are any specific SEO implications involved in having a dead URL on your site, but I am sure google doesn't look too kindly upon it.
Anyway, I am sure I am preaching to the converted here but this is my call to action.
Take 30 minutes, and go through the external links on your website and remove any dead wood. 30 minutes is all it takes and you will be improving your sites usability and improving the web. Then take 5 minutes and tweet/email/tell everyone you know who owns a website to do the same.
Can you imagine if every web owner in the world did this? It would be fantastic. I mean this post is really only talking about websites that no longer exist, so Google wouldn't be improved by it that much as it roots them out itself, but imagine if we all removed links to sites that hadn't updated in the last 2 years and had no historical information of significance. The web would be so much cleaner, so much tidier, so much better!