Last week, I discovered a broken link on my blog. This might not sound like a big deal to you, and in reality, it probably isn’t – unless my broken link directed a potential reader away from my blog. A broken link can cost you a book sale. It can cost you the opportunity to connect with readers and other authors.
I don’t want my blog and website visitors to encounter broken links and pages that lead to nowhere, nor do I want to send them on a treasure hunt to find the buying links for my books. I want to make things as easy to navigate as possible. I’ve blogged about creating a Reader Friendly Blog in the past, so I probably need to practice what I preach, but when you’re juggling multiple social media sites, sometimes things fall through the cracks.
On certain websites, a slight change in the page name can change the URL. So, if you’ve shared a link to that particular page, it’s no longer valid once you’ve made that change. If you make changes to the name of your Facebook page or Twitter handle, the link changes and you’ll need to update this on your website and social media pages. You’ll also need to update the media kit you send to bloggers when you’re interviewed or featured.
Here’s another thing to look out for: Sometimes, when copying a URL, letters or slashes can get deleted or changed, resulting in a “link” that leads to nowhere. It’s always a good idea to double check your links just in case.
I’m not the only person who might have missed some opportunities due to broken links. Here are some examples of things I’ve stumbled across recently:
No contact information on an author blog. Authors should have an email address posted on their site or at least a contact form. Sure, I can search for them on Facebook and try to send them a private message, but does the author really want to make their readers (or potential agents, publishers, film makers who want to offer them a multi-million dollar deal) work that hard to find them?
No buying links on an author’s website. While visiting an author’s blog/website, I liked what I saw and wanted to learn more about their books. Only two of their three books were listed on their “books” page, and there were no buying links. I looked around from page to page, and all down the side panel. No buying links anywhere.
Incorrect or incomplete links. An author was offering a free book on Kindle, so I clicked the Amazon link provided on their Facebook post. The author didn’t set this up properly, and the link went to Amazon’s home page.
Broken links on a Facebook Page. I found an author on Facebook who I really liked. One of their posts caught my eye, so I clicked on the link to their website because I wanted to learn more about them. I guess it was an old website or something, because the link gave me a 404 error message.
Twitter Validation Service. I wanted to follow an author, but couldn’t because they use a verification/validation service. I suppose I could have filled out all the stuff they wanted me to fill out, and given this service access to my Twitter account, but… wait! No way. Sorry, but I don’t do Twitter validation services. Of course, each author must make his or her own choice when it comes to using or not using such services. I’ve decided to avoid validation services, even if it means having to miss out on Tweets from some of my friends and favorite authors.
When it comes to missing or broken links, I suppose it isn’t a huge deal. If I’m really interested in a book or a website, I’ll try to find it. (Well, unless I get distracted by something else during my search.) A broken link isn’t the end of the world, and forgetting to update your site when you release a new book is probably not going to affect your sales significantly. If you choose to use a validation service, does it really matter if it drives away a few potential followers? That’s for you to decide.
I hate the idea that people have to work extra hard to find something they’re looking for, especially when the solution to this problem is as easy as me double checking my website and links periodically just to make sure everything is working the way it should.
While a broken link certainly won’t chase away your friends or fans, it might prevent potential readers from discovering your book. Regularly check your links and sites. Make sure buying links are clearly displayed and that there’s an easy way for people to contact you if they need to. Don’t miss out on any opportunities!