Broken links have become synonymous with web browsing. There are a number of reasons why and how they occur, most commonly involving a web page being moved without a proper re-direct being put in place or a change to the URL structure of the website the user is trying to reach.
‘Broken’ links are when your web browser actually displays a ‘Page not found’ error message (sometimes displayed as ‘404: Not found’).
A ‘dead’ link is a hyperlink that does actually resolve to a live web page, but will often contain a message like ‘The resource you are looking for has moved’, or something similar.
Collectively, broken and dead links are known as ‘link rot’. If you run a website, proper website maintenance is a good first step in avoiding these issues. Most web search engines make a judgement about a website’s ‘quality’ based upon the number of broken links detected. This impacts upon the site’s ranking in search results. There are also obvious implications for user experience.
Research into link rot conduced in 2013 suggested that many web pages have an average lifespan of around nine years before their hyperlinks start to degenerate. Many online publishers have also moved towards a DOI system to help mitigate against this issue.
APO actively engages in regular scanning of our collections for broken links. Our most recent snapshot indicates that around 10% of our records contain some form of broken or dead link. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that we collect a lot of material from federal and state government websites that can often just ‘disappear’ following a change in government or an end to a political campaign.
We know we have a supportive and engaged user base. APO is currently working on a new system for our users and contributors to report broken links which we hope to launch on the APO site very soon. In the meantime, if you come across a broken link on an APO resource landing page, feel free to alert us by sending an email to email@example.com.