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    « Real-World Challenges of Tracking Mobile with Page Tags | Main | X Change 2008 in Review »

    July 31, 2008


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    Nice post June.

    Always surprised that people don't spend time looking at errors (404's not being the only ones).

    One you did miss is checking for broken links generated by other sites linking to your site. It's often easy to leverage the known value of where the 404 came from and then simply contact site owners to have them update their links. That way you don't have to spend week after week looking at errors that aren't your fault.

    My personal favourite link checking tools:

    - XENU's Link Sleuth: (Windows)
    - Integrity: (Mac)

    Rob Angley

    Good post. If there is one report that provides us the most actionable data it would be our 404 report. Both from a user experience and an SEO link building point of view.

    At first we installed the out of the box tagged error tracking code provided by our web analytics vendor on our custom 404 page. Initially we were surprised that it was not part of the standard implementation guide.

    Once implemented we saw the reason. The report generated separate reports of the broken links and the pages with broken links. Unfortunately there was no correlation between the reports. You could navigate to the host page but had to click every link to find the broken URL. It only takes one page to see how painful that could be.

    Instead, our 404 page now stores both the referrer and the broken URL together within a custom variable. This has helped tremendously to fix internal links quickly and efficiently.

    The 404 report also provides us the ability to identify external sites that are linking to us. We can now specify the page and specific link to the webmaster. It has helped improve our link building effort as well as provided an opportunity to optimize the text of the inbound link.

    Good point on the spider option. That will definitely be next on the project list.



    June Dershewitz

    Benry and Rob, thank you for your comments! You both stress the importance of being able to find broken links to your site that exist elsewhere on the internet. Note that this is something you'll need to use your web analytics tool or raw logs for - you won't get it from a spider unless you crawl the entire universe (not recommended).

    Also, Rob, thanks for sharing your experience regarding broken link tracking with page tags. The most valuable report - as you point out - is the one that shows the requested URL and the referring URL side-by-side.

    Alec Satin

    Hi June,

    Very interesting post - and appreciate the helpful link to the getelastic page.

    Question - have you figured out how to set up a 404 page on Typepad? So far have not been able to do this with my own blog. I've a ticket opened with Typepad, so can let you know later if you are interested in the response.

    June Dershewitz

    Alec: I don't know how to set up a custom 404 page on Typepad, and I'm definitely interested in the response you get from support. I imagine that most broken links on a blog will reference external sites, so an occasional spider run is a good idea.

    Alec Satin

    Hi June - Typepad specifically does not support a custom 404 error page, nor do they allow editing of the default error page.

    From their response:
    Your account with TypePad is for the weblogging service and
    file storage, not for a traditional hosting plan. Features
    that are sometimes available with hosting plans such as a
    404 page are not available with TypePad.

    I'm very happy with TypePad overall - but just wish they had a little more flexibility. Still, am willing to trade that for the certainty of knowing that the technical issues are being managed professionally 24/7.

    Tim Wilson

    This is a good list, although, realistically, I'd reverse the order. My tendency is to shy away from spidering the site looking for links -- not only does it miss inbound links, but it also doesn't do anything to prioritize the fixes. It's a little bit of a "if a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?" situation: "if a link is busted, but no one ever clicks on it, does it need to be fixed?" Sure, given infinite resources, you want to eliminate all broken links. But, in my experience, you can get to a point of diminishing returns pretty quickly.

    IF you need to convince other resources to make changes to fix the links, then it's best to be able to say, "Here's a list of bad links, and they're ordered in descending order by how much traffic they are getting."

    June Dershewitz

    Thanks for reading and commenting, Tim! You've made a really good point about the need to prioritize fixes based on traffic volume. I realize that I listed my recommendations in order of "level of IT involvement," since that is often a factor in whether or not 404s get tracked.

    Henry T

    I wouldnt say broken links are more important dependent on the traffic they get. Ranking algorithms are unaware of traffic volumes so surely have to treat each equally?

    Probably a better statistic would simply be how many times that broken link is found. If you link to a certain page from 90% of your site and that page breaks... thats a lot of broken links.

    Another option for finding broken links:

    website seo services

    Thank you for this good post. it will help me a lot in my work, we know that it is very sensitive in a sense that if your links are broken, when you search that link you found a 404. and your site cannot crawl by google,yahoo and msn. thanks again and hope you will post an article like this one..


    seo expert

    In my experience as an SEO, links are very important. Its through them that you market a specific client's website. If there are broken links in your campaign, you must immediately find a solution for it so that link will be useful again not only to you but to viewers online who want to click on the said link.

    Alex O

    "Have a custom 404 page, and tag it." - I applied this step in some of my websites and this really worked for me. In terms of SEO, we must make sure that every link is working so that search engine crawlers can find them and eventually index the website pages.

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