The goal of any e-commerce site is "stickiness," the ability to keep visitors on the site for as long as possible. However, most e-commerce sites also link to other sites. They do this for a variety of reasons, such as to provide information helpful to the user in making a buying decision, or to provide value-added services like gift suggestions. And of course, if your site is content-driven, providing external links to additional resources is a huge benefit to your customers and to your business partners. Your good intentions will quickly backfire, however, if those external links are broken.
Research External Link-Checking Tools
The majority of link-checking utilities check external as well as internal links, and many perform a variety of other quality-control functions, such as HTML checking, spell checking, etc. So essentially your selection criteria for such a tool are the same as those given above for tools that check internal links. You might want to look for a tool that separates reports into internal and external errors, which might be helpful in managing the repair process. One such product is LinkScan, which provides a sample report and a free evaluation. Again, these link-checking programs have their limitations. Therefore, it is a good idea to check links manually to make sure that they really do work. There is nothing like putting yourself in the shoes of your Web site visitor to help you notice areas of your site that may not be performing as well as you'd like.
Prevent Chronic Broken Links
If link-checking reports repeatedly indicate problems with the same external link, and you've done everything you can to ensure that the code pointing to that link is correct, you might have a problem link. Chances are, the site you're linking to is poorly maintained. If this link supports an important affiliate relationship, you'll want to bring the problem to the attention of the other party. However, if the link is of little importance to the value of your own site, and casual attempts to notify the Webmaster have failed, you're probably better off removing the link altogether. It will only frustrate your users and damage your credibility.
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