Of Links Broken and Unbroken

This site has a lot of links on it. Sometimes, some of them break. What a disaster.

I would have no idea which links are broken without either manually checking all of them or using a plugin that automates it. I’m sure you can guess which option I choose. I use Broken Link Checker, which is both simple and very effective. Finding broken links is one thing–doing something about them is another matter, and it wasn’t something I’d thought much about until I decided to find out which links has broken.

There are a few scenarios to contend with. Given how often I use links to offer further reading on the topics I write about, it’s a real pain to have them just breaking on me, so outright removing links is a last resort. I only do that when the link exists in text I have quoted from elsewhere. It wouldn’t make much sense for me to replace such links with different links–it would imply the original source also linked there.

Another common scenario involves links I have made going down. If it’s from a personal blog, I usually take this as a signal that the original author doesn’t want their writing to be linked or shared anymore, so I will remove the link entirely. If it’s from a news site and an archive copy is available, I will link to that instead. If there is no archive copy, I will seek out an equally reputable link that offers similar information.

Since the featured images I use normally come from third parties to which I link, sometimes the links for those break, as well. It is my custom to simply remove the link but keep the image, as the images are licensed under Creative Commons and linking is a courtesy, whereas attribution is usually required (and I keep that).

These same rules all apply for Link Roundups as well. If there’s not an appropriate archive link, or it’s personal writing that’s been deleted, or there’s no equivalent link from another source, I will remove the entry entirely. I don’t normally note this with an update, I just take out the link. (When I make significant updates to other past posts, I will generally make a note of what was changed or added.)

I have no idea what other sites do, but that’s what I do. If you run your own WordPress blog, I highly recommend the Broken Link Checker plugin. It’s not perfect–sometimes it reports dead links when they’re actually just fine–but it can easily recheck those links, or you can manually override such false positives.

After reflecting on the whole idea of having a link policy, maybe it would be good for this site to have a policy page in general. I get link submissions on a fairly regular basis, and I sometimes have people who want to write guest posts, but may not know what I am looking for. A page to contain all of that (plus my link policies and so forth) would be good.

It should go without saying, but if the owner of a link requests that I take it down, I will. Don’t hesitate to use the contact form to let me know.

Have a good week!

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About the Author

James runs this blog and likes to write about society, culture, politics, science, technology, social justice, and pretty much anything else. Rumor has it people read his posts sometimes.

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Of Links Broken and Unbroken

by James time to read: 2 min
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