I’ve said it before. I’ll probably have to say it again.

[Tweet “Broken links are both 99% preventable and 99% deadly”]

Yesterday my wife went to a nonprofit site where she signed a petition they were running for an issue she believes in. So far, so good.

Then she took the opportunity she was offered to tell a few of her friends about it by an automatically generated email. She entered the emails for 5 people she thought would be most likely to click back and sign. I know, because one of those people was me.

99% Deadly

I clicked the link in the email. It went to a “Sorry, we can’t find that page” page.

Instead of getting 6 sign-ons, they only got one.

Worse, when I told my wife that I’d clicked the link and got nowhere, she said — verbatim:

“I guess I’m not going to send any more emails to my friends from them.”

Why? Because not only did it irritate me, it felt to her like losing credibility in the eyes of her friends when they all got dead links. (She didn’t. We all still love her. But it felt that way.) And if it felt to her like losing credibility, it in fact lost the organization’s credibility and trust. Trust on which their whole enterprise depends.

The sad part is how often I find broken links on nonprofit websites and in nonprofit emails. Every one of them is eating away trust and credibility as surely as little cancer cells eat away healthy body tissue.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

[Tweet “With a little care, you can prevent broken links from killing your nonprofit’s online mission.”]

99% Preventable

Not 100%. Because sometimes a server goes down somewhere, and you can’t get where the link was supposed to take you. But even this is really not an excusable offense if it happens more than once in a blue moon.

If your website is chronically going down, it’s time to invest in better hosting. Cheap hosting may be attractive when you’re on a tight budget, but if it’s not reliable it’s going to end up costing you more than you would have paid for a more reliable solution.

Other than the very rare server outage, a link is broken for one of two reasons, and both of them are just an indication of sloppy work.

Either

  1. The page the link points to has been changed or moved. In which case, you could have known about it if you had only installed a broken link checker to scan your site. (If you’re running on WordPress install this plugin). Or…
  2. You (or someone working for you) mis-typed the link into whatever template or system you’re using to generate the email or the web page. In which case, you should have caught it by clicking on it while it was still in draft form and making sure it went where it was supposed to go.

[Tweet “Only you can prevent broken links.”]

I may not be smoky the bear, but I’m going to keep saying it.

Because your mission is too important to let a broken link stop it in it’s tracks.

Photo credit: Hernán Piñera