For Neiman Marcus, dead link maintenance is not a luxury

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Fashion products tend to be sea­sonal and have short life cycles, so the items Neiman Marcus Direct sells on its Web sites are constantly changing, said Luis Fernandez, VP of marketing for Nei­man Marcus Direct.

“We move product pretty rapidly, espe­cially when it's a particularly hot item,” said Fernandez, who works on the Web sites NeimanMarcus.com, BergdorfGoodman.com, Horchow.com and Cusp.com.

As a result, it is particularly important that the links on these sites are managed correctly. “We want [our customers] to get to what they're looking for in the least amount of time and with the least amount of effort,” Fernandez continued.

However, when content is moved, changed or updated on a Web site, some­times a link can inadvertently become inactive, and these dead links can frustrate e-commerce site browsers.

Managing dead links allows businesses to eliminate marketing waste for products that are no longer in stock or are in stock but have changed landing pages, said Vic Drabicky, account director and client development for Range Online Media, an agency that works with Neiman Marcus Direct on search and link management. “It doesn't do anyone any good to have a paid search link they paid a dollar for end up on a page that says, ‘Sorry, this is not in stock,'” he said.

Link management can have a large impact on online retailers. Neglecting dead links within a Web site can affect link quality across the Internet. On aver­age, 7% of all links are broken, said Dave Greenwood, VP technical operations of BrandProtect, a company that monitors inbound and outbound links for its cli­ents. “That means that 7% of the time, people aren't getting to where they need to get to,” he said. “This has a profound impact on your online presence.”

Dead links are an issue that people neglect, according to Duncan Parry, direc­tor of strategy at Steak Media. “I'd say with about 80% of clients, we find that problem,” he said.

The solution to broken links is simple, Parry said. When a dead link is discov­ered, site owners should have a redirect in place driving customers to a product or to the top level page above it. “Not only does that help redirect the search engines and visitors, but it also means that any inbound links to that page flow back to the rest of the Web site,” he said.

Also, if the links on a particular site are not maintained, then search engines will tend to index that site less frequently — and they're likely to index fewer pages on the site, Parry added. “That basically can result in less traffic,” he said.

Having broken links can also create a bad brand impression on customers. “If a business doesn't care about its own Web site, it's unlikely to care about the customer,” Parry said. “That's the same thing as going to a restaurant and finding that the cutlery's dirty.”

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