Never Discount the Importance of Testing Your Website’s Links
Links are an essential part of any website. They form the basis of all online navigation and therefore the links need to work. All new links should be immediately tested as they are added to your website.
So, how is this done? The most basic way of testing a link is simply clicking on it and seeing what happens. If the link redirects you to the correct page or resource, then great – no further action is necessary! If the link isn’t directing you to the correct page or resource, however, then you’ll need to take a closer look at the link itself and correct any errors that may be preventing it from working as expected. Also, if a linked page or resource is no longer available, then you’ll need to remove its corresponding link from your site or find a suitable replacement link to use instead.
This basic method for checking link function obviously works well on small sites, but it can prove to be very time consuming on larger sites – especially sites containing hundreds, thousands, or even millions of links. So, how do you go about testing the links on larger or link-heavy sites? One method many webmasters choose is tasking special link-checking software to do the work for them. Online resources are also available to help automate the process.
Another way to seek out information about your website’s potentially broken links is to visit your website’s error log. If you have access to the log files, then you should be able to see a list of the latest errors encountered on your website. Typically, error logs include information about any pages or resources that were unreachable to visitors, plus information about the page or resource that generated each error. By using your website’s error log as a guide, you’ll have a better idea about which links may need to be fixed or removed.
Unfortunately, there’s a serious problem that occurs both when using automated link testers and when checking a website’s error log – neither method pays any attention to the actual content of the linked pages or resources. Links receive a passing grade so long as the page or resource that is being linked simply exists. This can be a major problem if you often link to offsite pages or resources that you have no control over because any changes to such content may go unnoticed by you while your original link remains active to your visitors. To ensure that the linked destination still contains the same content it did when you first linked to it, be sure to occasionally check your links manually, especially if you are linking to pages or resources beyond your control.
Because links are such a crucial part of any website, it is critically important to test them regularly to ensure they are functioning correctly. Though automated link testers and error logs are informative and can help speed up the testing process when used, don’t forget that manual testing is also important – especially if you are linking to pages or resources that could change without your knowledge. By checking your error logs and regularly testing your website’s links both manually and via an automated link checker, you will have the best chance of locating your website’s problematic links, allowing you to correct any problems that could prevent your visitors from easily navigating your site.
by Mike Djordjevich
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