Writing Tips : A URL is for life, not just for Christmas!

writingI’m currently doing yet another pass through my whole website correcting broken external links. This is nothing to do with my bad management. This is to do with people changing their URLs and not putting the correct redirects in place. I’ve just done a scan of my website and there are over 800 broken links to Oracle documentation!

There seem to be several ways people deal with URL changes on their website.

  • They do nothing and quite happily let broken links fail and get picked up by their 404 error page.
  • They put in a generic redirect page that takes you to the top of the website, not the original content the link pointed to.
  • They put in a correct redirect, but only for a limited period, after which, the URL fails and you get the 404 page.
  • They put in place a proper redirect and it stays there forever, so all previous URLs for the content continue to work and direct to the correct content.

In my opinion, the only acceptable option is the last one. A URL is for life, not just for Christmas. A variant of this slogan from my childhood. 🙂

From your perspective, broken links (internal and external) are bad for your website. It’s annoying for your readers and make your site appear poorly maintained. Broken links are one of the factors search engines use to judge your website, so it is in your interest to keep things ship-shape.

Being an Oracle blogger can prove difficult at times as Oracle have this annoying habit of changing their URLs a lot and not putting the correct redirects in place.

Don’t add to this problem. Once you start writing, try to keep all the URLs alive forever. If you move your blog to a different service, leave the old one there and put links to the new location. If you self-host, life is easier as you can do redirects using “.htaccess” or directly in your “httpd.conf” file.

You can identify broken links in your site using a link scanner. I’m currently using SiteCrawl.net, which seems to do the job OK. Once you’ve identified the broken links, you can start the arduous task of correcting them. This involves finding the new home of the content and correcting your link to it. It’s not fun, but it has to be done. Once you see how boring and annoying it is, you will appreciate how important it is that you don’t piss off other people by not maintaining your own URLs.

Cheers

Tim…

Author: Tim...

DBA, Developer, Author, Trainer.

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