The Inbound Marketing Fail – Improper Links study is a week long experiment we conducted to determine what ratio/percentage of inbound marketing online articles and blog posts contain broken URLs.
We believe that it is important for experts to “practice what they preach”. Many inbound marketing experts emphasize how important it is to spell check and review the content on your website. But, time and time again, we run into spelling errors, grammar issues, and broken links within the inbound marketing articles we read that are published by these experts. So, we wanted to quantify exactly how often broken links actually do occur.
Based on previous weeks of reading inbound marketing newsletters, blogs, and articles, we guessed that the percentage of articles containing broken links would be roughly 5%. We assumed that the sample size of articles that would be read and tested would be 200. So, we are expecting to see 10 articles containing broken links.
The process of our study was relatively simple. Every time we read an article on inbound marketing, we recorded the title, the source, and whether the article contained broken links. Articles read were found through a variety of methods including Google Alerts, emails, newsletters, and other online articles. Every link within an article and its author bio (if available) were clicked on including any CTAs. If the link did not go to the page or content that was expected, the link was counted as a bad link.
We also developed a point system because several of the broken links found were within the author bio sections, and our team had differing opinions about the level of importance the author bio section has. We also experienced different behaviors for broken links on different browsers and systems. Here is the point system that was used:1 point for any URL that goes to a blank page, 404 page not found error, or wrong content
1/2 point for any broken URL that is contained within the author bio section of an article
1/2 point for any URL that is broken on some browsers/systems but actually works on others
So, to be clear, we have 2 measures that resulted from our study – number of points based on the level of broken link infractions and number of broken links found.
After one week, all points and numbers were totaled up. Two weeks later, we revisited any articles that contained broken links and checked them to determine how many of the links had been corrected.
Over the course of one week, we read and tested 182 articles (this is short of the predicted 200 articles in our hypothesis). Here is a list of the articles that contained broken URLs along with the points that were issued (see full details and access direct links to articles):
- Why buzzfeed is sitting on a lead generating goldmine from Interact – bad URL – 1 point – FIXED
- The Simple Sales Contest That Made Forecasting A Priority For Our Sales Reps by HubSpot – CTA doesn’t work for all users – 1/2 point
- What’s a Sales Coach, and Why Do You Need One? by HubSpot – broken LinkedIn author bio link – 1/2 point
- The Ultimate Marketing Automation Cheat-sheet by HubSpot – broken LinkedIn author bio link – 1/2 point
- 5 Dangers of an Unorganized Blogging Strategy by HubSpot – broken Website URL author bio – 1/2 point
- How to Sway Your Toughest Healthcare Inbound Marketing Naysayers by Screwpile Communications – broken URL – 1 point – FIXED
- Are These Puzzle Pieces Missing from Your Content Strategy? by Kuno Creative – broken URL – 1 point
- 8 Things to Expect When Adopting an Inbound Marketing Campaign by Teknicks – broken URL – 1 point – FIXED
- 3 Ways You Can Use Online Video to Drive Inbound Marketing Efforts by Viral Gains – broken URL – 1 point – FIXED
- How content marketing balances creativity and consistency by The Buzz Factoree – broken URL – 1 point
- 4 Critical Steps In Tracking Facebook ROI by HubSpot – broken Google+ author bio link – 1/2 point
- Inbound Marketing Catches March Madness by Square 2 Marketing – 404 page not found error in CTA process – 1/2 point
- These 24 Tools Will Blast Your Brand To the Next Level by Social Media Today – 2 broken URLs – 2 points
- 13 B2B Newsletters That Really Shine by HubSpot – broken URL – 1 point
The total number of broken links we found was 15 (shown above – note that #13 contains 2 broken links), and the total number of points issued was 12.
Here is a breakdown of the total points issued:
9 broken/bad URLs within articles (counted at 1 point)
6 broken/bad links in author bio sections or CTAs (ony counted these at 1/2 point)
12 points total
Statistics on broken links:
15 out of 182 articles contained broken links – that’s 8.2%!
9 out of 182 articles contained broken links within the actual content – that’s 4.9%!
HubSpot had 6 of the 15 articles containing broken links – that means 40% of the articles with broken links were posted on HubSpot!
4 of the 9 broken/bad URLs within articles were fixed when checked 2 weeks later. We do not have information about exactly when the broken links were fixed or how the publishing website identified the error. But, that’s 44% fixed within 2 weeks. It is interesting to note that none of the links that were fixed were links that were within author bios and none of the errors in HubSpot articles were fixed.
Statistics on points issued:
12 points were issued on 182 articles.
Of the 12 points issues, 3.5 of them were from HubSpot – which some may argue as the leading Inbound Marketing resource (that’s 29.1% of all points).
So, all in all, the number of broken links found was significantly higher than expected – we guessed 5% and it ended up being 8.2%. I know it’s not a huge sample, but it is a genuine and fairly conducted study. We were also surprised to find HubSpot as a frequent offender. What are your thoughts about these numbers? Do broken links annoy you? And, would you feel comfortable taking advice or paying for consulting from a business that does not practice what they preach?