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Home > Archive > SSW Standards > Developer Internet > SSW How to Fix Broken Links

Broken links not are not only a bug in the web site, but may damage the company's professional image.

We have developed a strategy to reduce and possibly eliminate every broken links on a web site. Currently we use SSW Link Auditor to scan our site for broken links.

Many webmasters work with sites that have grown large over time and have consequently become difficult to maintain. They fix problems as customer report bugs. A better approach is to use a utility that will analyze your whole site and report any problems.

One such utility is SSW Link Auditor. Give it the URL and after a few minutes you have a full analysis of any problems. We worry about broken links (dead URLs) and broken anchors. We recommend that you use a utility like SSW Link Auditor on a fortnightly basis and have a quick look at the report it produces.

The command line version of this utility can be scheduled to run using Windows Task Scheduler, and automatically generate the report on the file system.

A site with more than 3000 links takes approximately 3 minutes to check. You can constantly find dead links and site errors before your potential customers do!

Comparison of Link Scanners


Name Features Ease of Use Performance Cost
SSW Link Auditor **RECOMMENDED** Good. Thorough in scanning links. Supports SQL Logging, SQL Reports and a command line version. Very easy to use Fastest.

Averaged 5min 30sec on www.ssw.com.au/ssw/Standards

28,533 Links Processed

$299 for unlimited links
Xenu's Link Sleuth You are going to a site outside of SSW OK. Only does anchor tags. This is sufficient for all web sites I have ever been involved with. Very easy to use Fast

Averaged 11min 40sec on
www.ssw.com.au/ssw/Standards

11,972 Links Processed

Free.
Note: The corporate version allows command line operations, and costs about USD$200.
Watchfire Linkbot Pro You are going to a site outside of SSW Great.
Has just about everything useful. Supports text-pattern link searching in JavaScript files. Useful if your menu's built on the client side dynamically with JavaScript.
Easy to use OK Obsolete product, replaced by Watchfire WebQA
Watchfire WebQA You are going to a site outside of SSW Great. Fairly complicated to setup and use. It took a programmer more than 30 minutes to get a grasp at how things work. So be prepared to spend a little time clicking around. OK Way too expensive!!!
USD$1495
Elsop LinkScan 10 You are going to a site outside of SSW Great. Requires installation Active Perl before hand. Configuration's some what cryptic, and user interface looks unprofessional. Defaults to 5 threads, requires a bit of tweaking before speed can compare to the others. Even more expensive!!!
Depends on how many links you have.... USD$750 for the smallest version - that is just for 500 documents...
Web Link Validator You are going to a site outside of SSW Great. Fairly complicated to configure and use. It took a programmer more than 30 minutes to get a grasp of how things work. OK $295 for unlimited links for single user
Link Checker Pro You are going to a site outside of SSW Great. Easy to use OK

Averaged 5min 30sec (5 threads) on local sample website

1,946 Links Processed

Way too expensive!!!
USD$1200


Verdict: Xenu's Link Sleuth is the better out of these 4. It's ease of use and speed clearly gives an edge over the others.

Generate Link Scan Report

Manually:

Start Link Auditor (on the start menu).

  1. Enter the web site address you want to scan as the starting URL
  2. Don't check external links
  3. Click Next to begin scanning links

When done, Link Auditor generate a report. Click XML + XSLT (recommended) to open the report in Internet Explorer. The report is saved as C:\Program Files\SSW Link Auditor\LastReport.xml by default, although you can specify a different path on the How to Scan page of the wizard.

By Schedule:

In Windows Task Scheduler (Start -> Programs -> Accessories ->System Tools -> Scheduled Tasks):

  1. Create a task
  2. Locate the Link Auditor Console executable (typically "C:\Program Files\SSW Link Auditor\LinkAuditorConsole.exe")
  3. Append arguments "[the URL to scan] [report file path] -beyond +fragments +fswf" to the end of the execution path
  4. Specify the desired recurrence pattern

Which problems will you fix?

The right column of the report describes the error that LinkAuditor encountered when trying to load the page. Underneath each entry is a list of pages which contain the broken link. We want to fix all of the:

Tips on fixing typical errors

With external links that are no longer valid, comment out the links like this. e.g.

<!--JL 11/03/2002, url doesn't exist <A href=http://www.invalid.url> -->

There is a possibility to link that come up again if the Web Server is down. Remember to always date the comment so that you can permanently delete it if it has been down for a while.

Product Documentation

Don't forget to synchronize your local copy of the web site with the production server! It's a very easy mistake to make so I suggest that you keep FtpSync open the whole time and synchronize the current directory every time you edit a file .

Finishing up

Please make sure that the site is completely synchronised and all ZZed files are deleted from the production server. Run Link Auditor again and create the report to prove that you have fixed all broken links properly. Then you need to decide who will do this task next month. Please do this according to alphabetical order on surname. You may consider skipping staff members who are overloaded or working on important client tasks. Then send the URL of your report to the staff member assigned to deal with this task next month (and CC your supervisor). Remind them to run Link Auditor again just prior to fixing the site.

Acknowledgements

Adam Cogan
Peter Huang
Edward Forgacs