Preventing Link Rot on Your Website

If you maintain your own website, then you probably realize how much time it takes to keep your content fresh and up-to-date. One particular area where site maintenance can be a real chore is broken links.

Things move so quickly on the Internet that is easy for web pages to disappear over night. If you have a lot of external links on your website, meaning links that point to other websites on the Internet, then your website can quickly get out of date. And there’s nothing worse than having your visitors clicking on dead pages. “Link rot” happens as more and more links on your website turn up broken. You’d think that this was some kind of contagious disease.

At first it may seem like link rot is a problem for the sites that you link to. Unfortunately, link rot reflect badly on your website. Your visitors will quickly get the impression that your site is old and out-of-date. They will believe that you don’t spend time updating your content. Even if you have brand new content on other pages, even one dead link will create a negative impression.

They will quickly become frustrated by dead links and will be tempted to click off your site somewhere else to find what they are looking for.

Although not much could be worse than your visitors having a bad experience at your website, link rot is also fatal for another reason. When they discover broken links, the search engines will penalize your website causing it to fall lower in the search results. That’s bad news for any site trying to generate traffic.

You may think that link rot is only a problem for websites with a lot of outbound links. While broken links are much more common as the number of outbound links grows, it’s also possible for any website to be affected.

When your website is small, it’s easy to remember all of the pages you’ve created. You may be able to keep track of every page and link in your head. As your site grows, however, it’s harder to remember everything. It’s common to change file names or locations to keep make your site more organized. Every change brings with the potential for link rot.

Fortunately, there are a number of tools you can use to prevent link rot. Like most software out there, link checkers come in all shapes and sizes. There are desktop applications as well as online versions. There’s a wide range of prices and some are sold individually while others are packaged with other web management utilities.

Before you go out and buy software or subscribe to an online service, make sure your current website management tool doesn’t already have link checking capabilities. Dreamweaver, FrontPage, and HomeSite, for example, come with some tools that will check your website for dead links and missing files.

If you don’t have a link checker then try one of these:

LinkAlarm ( is an online service that automatically checks every page of your website for broken links and emails a report. You can set it to check as often as you need to and there’s no need to install any software. It’s very easy to set up. This is a pay service, but it is extremely affordable, costing you only pennies a day.

NetMechanic ( has a number of website maintenance tools, including a link checker. If you are involved in heavy maintenance of your web site, you should consider purchasing an annual subscription. It doesn’t cost much and it will easily pay for itself in the amount of time you spend checking your website.

LinkScan ( is a desktop solution for large-scale website management. You can download a trial version from their website.

Web Link Validator ( is an application that will check for html files, graphics, scripts, and much more. Different license structures allow you to pay only for how much you use the program.

Xenu’s Link Sleuth ( is a free downloadable program that will check for broken links. It will check not only for links, but for graphics, scripts, and any other collateral files your website requires.

The World Wide Web Consortium ( offers a free online link checker that provides a comprehensive, but somewhat difficult to read report.

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