What is link rot?

The Solid Signal Blog has been publishing since 2007. That’s a lot of content and over the years, some of it hasn’t aged well. I try to keep stuff on the blog if it’s still relevant, or if it’s so bad that it makes me laugh. But since the job of this blog is to provide good advice, I tend to cull out articles that don’t have good advice. Sometimes, I revise articles to make that advice clearer.

A lot of link rot

When I look at old articles, I see a lot of “link rot.” And that’s why I wanted to define the term for you. “Link rot” is when you put something out there on the internet in a blog like this one, and then the original source goes away. So now you have a dead link, or some missing pictures, and that’s a problem.

The real core of this is what’s called “search engine optimization.” Throughout the years, Google and other search engines have done a lot of things to try to figure out what people want to read. And whenever Google comes up with a formula, someone reverse engineers it and people like me start trying to make our stuff more attractive to Google.

The original way that Google ranked things was by how many links were in the page, and how many things linked to the page you wrote. When people realized this, they started doing “link stuffing,” putting in as many links as they could. And that’s where link rot started.

The ongoing problem of link rot

Stuffing your page full of links isn’t really considered helpful anymore. However, it still helps both Google and the real people who search if you put in meaningful links. For example, I could say shop at Solid Signal, and that’s kind of meaningful. After all that’s the purpose of this blog — to get you to do that. Even if you put in meaningful links, sometimes they still go bad.

After 14 years and over 15,000 articles, there’s bound to be some link rot. I see it all the time. I try to eliminate it when I can. Why? Because it’s bad for you. It doesn’t help you find what you need. It’s also bad for Google and Google will rank this site lower if a lot of the links are dead.

Some folks have said that link rot is the biggest problem on the internet. Since we’ve been connecting now for about 25 years, an overwhelming amount of content is gone from the internet. Some of it has been saved at The Internet Archive, and a lot of it is gone forever. Sometimes the content is still there but under a different URL. This happens when companies modernize and it’s happened here at our blog and web site as well.

What to do?

There are tools that will let you see where all the bad links on your site are. For now, though, it’s a very manual process of tracking down another source of the same information and changing the links out, one by one. It’s a big part of what I do all day, but it’s also very rewarding to poke through a lot of old content and see what’s still relevant.


About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.