Link Rot: 38% Of Webpages From 2013 Have Vanished

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A recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center sheds light on the transitory nature of online content: after a decade, 38% of webpages created in 2013 are now inaccessible.

This analysis, carried out in October, focused on broken links found on government and news websites, as well as within the “References” section of Wikipedia pages.

Key findings include:

  • 23% of news webpages and 21% of government webpages contain at least one broken link.
  • Local-level government websites, particularly those associated with city governments, are particularly susceptible to broken links.
  • 54% of Wikipedia pages have at least one link in their “References” section that leads to a nonexistent page.

Social Media Not Immune To Content Disappearance

Pew Research conducted an investigation into the impact of digital decay on social media by collecting a real-time sample of tweets on X and monitoring them over a three-month period.

The study found that “nearly one-in-five tweets are no longer publicly visible on the site just months after being posted.”

In 60% of these instances, the original posting account was either set to private, suspended, or deleted.

In the remaining 40% of cases, the tweet was deleted by the account holder, although the account itself remained active.

Certain types of tweets are more prone to disappearance than others, with over 40% of tweets written in Turkish or Arabic becoming invisible within three months of posting.

Furthermore, tweets originating from accounts with default profile settings are particularly vulnerable to disappearing from public view.

Defining “Inaccessible” Links & Webpages

In this report, Pew Research Center concentrated on pages deemed inaccessible due to their unavailability.

Definitions regarding altered content or challenges faced by visually impaired users were not within the research’s scope.

The study adopted a cautious methodology, considering pages inaccessible if they resulted in one of nine error codes. These codes signify that either the page itself or its hosting server has ceased to exist or is no longer operational.

Why SEJ Cares

The phenomenon of digital decay prompts significant inquiries regarding the preservation and availability of online content for posterity.

Pew Research Center’s investigation illuminates the magnitude of this issue across diverse online domains, spanning governmental and journalistic websites to social networking platforms.

The rapid incidence of link rot and vanishing web pages carries implications for those dependent on the internet as a dependable fount of information.

This trend presents hurdles in referencing online materials, as the initial content may cease to be accessible in the times ahead.

What This Means For SEO Professionals

This research highlights the importance of routinely reviewing and refreshing outdated content, alongside promptly addressing broken links through continuous monitoring.

SEO experts must also acknowledge the influence of digital decay on backlink portfolios.

As external links leading to a site become unattainable, it can impact the site’s link equity and credibility in search engine evaluations.

Vigilantly tracking and broadening backlink origins can assist in minimizing the potential loss of significant links due to digital decay.

Lastly, the study’s revelations regarding social media content emphasize the necessity for SEO strategies to prioritize directing users towards more dependable, owned platforms like websites and email lists.

Original news from SearchEngineJournal