|Published by NetAction||Issue No. 71||June 19, 2001|
By Theresa Chen
After you've created an attractive, content-rich and well-organized Web site, it's important to maintain it. One key aspect of Web maintenance is hyperlink verification. Since the World Wide Web is continually growing and changing, Web sites appear and disappear all the time. A site to which you might have linked may be available one day, and gone the next. Nothing is more frustrating for a visitor than to click on a hyperlink hoping for more information about a certain topic, only to discover that the page to which he or she has been directed is missing. To keep visitors coming back, you need to keep your site informative, timely, and relevant by frequently verifying your hyperlinks.
The frequency with which you check for broken hyperlinks depends on the size of your Web site and the amount of traffic it receives. If you maintain a large, high-volume Web site, you'll want to check your links more frequently than for a smaller, less-visited site.
The type of Web sites to which you're linking also determines how often you'll want to check for broken links. Specific Web pages (ending with the extensions ".htm" or ".html") or documents (such as those ending with ".pdf" or ".doc") are more likely to be moved than the general, top-level URL for a site (such as ".org" or ".com").
For example, the URL for NetAction's top-level "home" page, http://www.netaction.org, is likely to remain valid for a long time, since it's the general URL for the site. On the other hand, a specific page buried deep within NetAction's Web site, such as the sample letter advocating for open source software at http://www.netaction.org/msoft/edu/letter.html, is much more likely to move when the site undergoes reorganization. If your site contains mostly general, top-level links, you won't need to check for broken links as often as if you linked to mostly specific, deeply-buried pages.
Web-based services, freeware, and shareware are all available on the Internet to help you search your site for broken links. Many of them include extra services such as checking for spelling, disability accessibility, and bad HTML style.
If you have a small Web site, you'll want to try one of the free Web-based services. Just enter the URL of your Web site, and the service will issue a report of broken links and other problems within a few seconds.
Dr. HTML is a powerful Web-based tool that will check your spelling and HTML syntax and suggest ways to make your code shorter in addition to verifying links. You will have to register with Dr. HTML's Pro services for 5 free complete reports on your site. If you'd like more than 5 reports, you can buy more for $25+.
NetMechanic will test up to 5 pages within your Web site for broken links. It will also suggest ways to correct bad HTML code and to improve your loading time. If you'd like to test more of your pages with NetMechanic, you can buy their services for $40+, depending on the size of your site.
If you have a larger Web site consisting of tens or even hundreds of pages, you'll want to download a more powerful program to your own computer. While the programs listed below are much more powerful link verifiers than the Web-based services listed above, they do NOT provide the other services such as checking for spelling errors and load time. They also take some time to search, depending on the size of your site. Each of these programs took about 30 minutes to search a Web site containing about 400 pages.
Xenu's Link Sleuth is a small, easy-to-use program for Windows users only that searches for broken links, throughout an entire Web site, even if its thousands of pages. It will even search secured (SSL) sites, and reports on redirected pages as well as broken links. You may download the Link Sleuth for unlimited, free use at http://home.snafu.de/tilman/xenulink.html.
All Link Checker is a bare-bones but thorough program for either Windows or Mac users. It is available for free download at http://www.absolute-freeware.de/download_engl.html.
Weblint is the most popular option for link verification with UNIX users. You can download this small Perl script at http://www.weblint.org/ for free.
BiggByte's InfoLink Checker is a powerful, easily customizable program for Windows users only. It checks links quickly, provides easy-to-read reports on both broken and successful links, and even displays your Web page while searching for the broken links within it. You can download it at http://www.biggbyte.com/infolink/ for a trial run of 50 free uses. You may receive more uses by buying the product for $49.95.
If you've got an industrial-sized site, you'll want to try LinkScan for Windows or UNIX users. This product contains many of the features of the two products listed above, but LinkScan is written for sites consisting of up to 500,000 pages. You may download LinkScan for a free 15-day trial at http://www.elsop.com/linkscan/. If you decide you like it, it's available for purchase for $10 for an individual, or $100 for a commercial organization.
For Mac users with industrial-sized sites, VSE Link Tester is a powerful option. You may download a trial version at http://vse-online.com/link-tester/, or purchase it, starting at $34.95.
Is there more you'd like to know about using the Internet for organizing and advocacy? NetAction conducts FREE workshops for Bay Area nonprofit organizations and grassroots activists. We also do a limited number of workshops outside the Bay Area for organizations that can reimburse our travel costs.
NetAction's basic online activism workshop covers how grassroots activists and nonprofit organizations can use the Internet for organizing, advocacy, media outreach, and fundraising. We emphasize what you can do with a limited budget and little technical expertise. Topics include the use of online action alerts and newsletters, options for online networking, differences between web and email tools, spam, server security, and resources.
We also offer a workshop tailored specifically to Internet users who want to know more about online media advocacy and public relations. This workshop addresses how activists and nonprofit organizations can use the Internet to generate media attention on an issue or an event. Topics include developing email media lists, sending email press releases, identifying and participating in email lists, news groups and web forums, developing online media resources and expanding media outreach to online publications.
If your organization is interested in hosting a Virtual Activist workshop, or you need a workshop facilitator for a conference, contact NetAction:
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