Have you ever clicked on a link hoping to find specific information, only to be greeted with an error message - perhaps something like a 404 not found error? This frustrating experience is known as "Link Rot," a common issue in the ever-evolving digital landscape. In this post, we'll explore what link rot is, why it happens, and practical solutions to mitigate its impact.
What is Link Rot?
Link Rot occurs when hyperlinks on the internet become obsolete or broken. It's similar to having a map that leads to a location that no longer exists. In the digital world, these are links that once led to active web pages but now lead to dead ends, resulting in the loss of valuable online resources for everyone.
How common is it?
Link Rot is actually pretty common. In fact, a recent study showed that more than 66% of links to websites in the last 9 years are dead. This means we're only dealing with less than 34% of the internet since then!
Why Does Link Rot Happen?
Webpage Removal or Relocation: Websites are dynamic. Content gets deleted, moved, or updated, often without redirecting the old links to the new pages. A small example of why a website might choose to do this is illustrated in this article: CNET is deleting old articles to try to improve its Google Search ranking.
Domain Changes: Changes in domain names or website ownership can lead to link rot, as previous links may not be preserved.
Expired Content: Some content is time-sensitive or temporary, leading to its eventual removal or deletion.
Technical Issues: Server problems and changes in URL structures can also make a link inactive.
The Solution to Link Rot
Regular Link Audits: Website owners should regularly check and update their links. Tools like broken link checkers can automate this process.
Using Permalinks: When possible, use permalinks which are less likely to change over time.
Implementing Redirects: If a page is moved, setting up a redirect from the old URL to the new one can prevent link rot.
Archiving Services: Using a bookmark and web archiving service like Linkwarden not only helps you to preserve webpages automatically but also offers powerful organization features. Linkwarden works by generating screenshots, PDFs, and other formats from a webpage, ensuring accessibility to the link content even if the original content is gone.
Link Rot is an inevitable part of the internets lifecycle. However, understanding its causes and implementing effective strategies can significantly reduce its impact. By being proactive and using the right tools and practices, we can ensure a more stable and user-friendly digital experience.