Not too long ago, I was checking on my blog stats and saw that my comment numbers were through the roof.
Getting close to 27,000 comments.
You might be thinking right now “Wow, can't wait to get to those numbers!”.
I understand the desire to have that kind of social proof, but what about responding to such an astronomical numbers of comments?
How about linking out to that many sites/pages?
How about controlling spam, which of course increases the more popular a blog gets?
How about dealing with broken links?
Like most bloggers, I have Broken Link Checker plugin installed at Traffic Generation Cafe.
As of the writing of this post, it shows that I have only 16 broken links on my blog.
Even after I used their “nuclear option” and re-checked all the links on my blog (which, by the way, tremendously slowed everything down for a couple of hours), it came up with 29 broken links.
Yet another broken link tool, DrLinkCheck, found 78 broken links in just the first 1,000 links it scanned.
What Broken Link Checker Misses
1. CommentLuv Links
Broken Link Checker does NOT check CommentLuv links.
So even if you “unlink” the commentator's name field, the CL link will be left behind.
Also, it's very possible that even though name field link is not broken, the CL link is – the post might've been deleted or moved.
I hope this doesn't discourage you from using CommentLuv; in my opinion, the benefits still far outweigh any potential downsides, especially if you are using CommentLuv Premium.
(update: Commentluv Premium now includes the option to check for broken CL links – sweeeet!)
As long as you keep your eyes open for broken CL links…
2. Comment Replies
What happens when you delete a comment with a broken link?
The reply to that comment stays behind and still links to the comment that no longer exists, thus creating a broken link.
3. Links Within Comments
Broken Link Checker doesn't check the links left within the body of a comment.
Other problems with Broken Link Checker:
4. It's a Plugin
It's also designed to run in the background checking for broken links every so often, which basically means it could slow down your blog.
5. It Eats Up Your Memory
Since I have so many links on my blog (mostly from comments, of course), the file size of Broken Link Checker is over 5 MB as of right now.
It's basically eating up my resources while not doing such a good job at tracking broken links!
More Broken Links Sources
I should've become a researcher of sorts…
I love, love, love digging up these kinds of things that completely eat up my precious time and fascinate me at the same time!
As I was searching for more sources of broken links on my blog, I found these:
1. Guest Authors
Even though I don't publish guest posts all that often, I still have 53 authors who contributed at least one post in the past.
Turned out that at least 4 of them that I know of (and I haven't checked them all yet), closed down their shops – their blogs no longer exist.
Yet here I am, linking to them within my content and comments – what a waste.
2. Spam Comments
This is very obvious: we shouldn't approve comments if the commentators are after one thing – a backlink from our blogs.
Yet, it's easy for me to say it and do it NOW.
When I first started blogging and heard crickets for a while, I approved every single comment – just about.
I was appalled at the number of spam comments as I went through the comments published on my blog during the first couple of months of its existence…
I firmly believe that we shouldn't publish trackbacks in our comment sections.
First of all, about 95% of them are spam these days.
Secondly, there's a question of reciprocal linking when you do publish even legit trackbacks: they link to your post, you link back to theirs…
I didn't know any of it when I first started.
So yes, I was linking to a bunch of spam sites through trackbacks.
By the way, learn more about trackbacks and pingbacks while you are at it.
4. Blogspot.com Blogs
This goes for any free blogging platform, not just Blogspot.
The “ditch rate” for those blogs is much higher since it doesn't cost a penny to start a blog on such platforms.
Unfortunately, those platforms don't always generate a hard 404 (not found) error when a blog is suspended, moved, or abandoned.
So you end up linking to a bunch of “This account has been suspended” or “This blog has moved” errors.
This one was yet another accidental discovery.
As I was looking through the old comments on my blog, I occasionally said to myself “Hey, haven't seen him/her for a while; I wonder how they are doing.”
So I'd click over to some blogs and in many cases I found that they stopped blogging a long time ago, adding to the ever-increasing rate of failed blogs.
However, during one such check-up I discovered that one such blog of an old blogging friend of mine was since bought out by someone (probably because it had a high PR) and became a part of an autoblogging network.
So all of a sudden, all the links from my blog to his became bad neighborhood links as far as I am concerned.
And no link checker in the world would ever know to tell you that.
What's even worse, that blog was under his personal name, which means that if my friend ever decides to come back to internet marketing, his name will always be attached to a spam blog (splog).
Broken Links: Why Bother?
I know, I know, we are all overwhelmed and, in most cases, overworked and underpaid.
Why even bother with this project?
1. Reader Experience
When your readers start clicking around and see 404 pages popping up, they'll start to question your credibility.
To them, if your site has broken links, your product is unlikely to be error-free.
You end up losing readers and potential customers.
2. SEO Considerations?
No, Google won't necessarily penalize your site just because you have a few broken links.
As Google's John Mueller said in a response to a Google Webmaster Help thread question about broken links.
Googlebot isn't going to lose sleep over broken links…
If you find things like this, I'd fix it primarily for your users, so that they're able to use your site completely.
Also, Google Webmaster Guidelines clearly state:
Check for broken links and correct HTML.
Yes, it's important.
You have very limited time with Google search spiders (to learn more, read about how Google works), so sending them to a bunch of broken links is not the best idea.
Broken Link Checker Alternatives
I had a very hard time finding a (free) tool that did a thorough job at checking ALL broken links on my blog.
Another requirement for a good tool: it needs to show me WHERE the link is located and not just point out that I have a broken link.
Here are some potential candidates:
Google Webmaster Tools
I only mention this one here because I have a feeling one of the comments below will say “Why not GWT?”
Because it takes forever to sort through the links and actually find them on the right pages.
If you have all the time in the world, then yes, those links need to be fixed.
But if you are on a limited time budget, we need something more effective.
First of all, I have to show you the screenshot of the site:
Talk about memorable branding!
DrLinkCheck.com did a great job with one exception: only the first 1,000 links are free.
After that you can increase the limit to 5,000 links for $10.
However, for a site like mine, 5,000 links is nothing.
Plus what am I going to do the next time I need to check the links?
Pay another $10?
So, if you have a small site, this tool is great.
For larger sites, you need to keep looking.
This tool does everything I'd like it to do – for up to 3,000 pages per site.
This is the one I use to check for broken links at Traffic Generation Café.
They also offer an extended paid version of the software, but they made it so difficult to find out more about their plans and prices, that I gave up.
Talk about turning away potential customers!
Xenu's Link Sleuth
This is a free downloadable software that scans your site from your desktop.
There are no limitations as to the number of pages or links and there are many other great uses for it.
Take a look at these two great posts to learn more:
- Xenu's Link Sleuth – More Than Just A Broken Links Finder – SEOMoz.org
- 3 Not-So-Obvious But Totally Awesome Uses Of Xenu Link Sleuth For Webmasters – MakeUseOf.com
Note: the download page is not very well-designed, but don't be concerned: it's a very well-respected and known tool.
Also, it works for Windows only.
If you are an avid Mac user, like I am, here's a Mac alternative:
Integrity Broken Link Checker
It doesn't get any more thorough than this free broken link checker for Macs.
I also found two services that won't just run a scan of your site, but will monitor your links on a continuous basis.
Just like Broken Link Checker does, just a lot better.
Broken Links Be Gone
Now that I've checked half of my site (it's a huge job, I tell ya!), my comment count dropped down to under 20,000 comments.
That's about 7,000 broken links and/or bad neighborhood and spam comments!
So far I've only checked about half of my blog…
I am getting there! (Glass half full).
Broken Links Marketing Takeaway
Moral of the story:
1. DON'T approve any comment that even smells like spam.
2. DON'T publish trackbacks.
3. DO monitor your site at least once a month; make sure you keep it manageable and not let it go like I did (out of ignorance, but nonetheless).
4. DO take care of your broken links – outsource it if you have to.
And DO give this post a shout on social media!