A broken link is a signal of poor quality for both your site and your brand. Finding your­self on an error page tarnishes your site expe­ri­ence and sends you looking for another site option. But while a broken link is a well known indi­ca­tor of a poorly constructed site, a similar, yet lesser-known indi­ca­tor is what we refer to as “dead content.” Dead content are site assets that are not linked to any addi­tional content. For example, images and headers that may be perceived by the users as poten­tial links to further infor­ma­tion and site content, but when clicked, yield no further infor­ma­tion.

If traffic is the lifeblood of a website, and a site gets healthy circu­la­tion to its deeper, lower level pages through its link struc­ture, dead content clicks are an indi­ca­tor of poor circu­la­tion.

Bad Traffic Circulation

Unfor­tu­nately, many sites have dead content on pages that are vital to user navi­ga­tion. In general, the higher-level the page, the more the page is respon­si­ble for getting users to content that is specific to their need or inter­est. The home­page, the highest-level page on any site, and in many cases, the landing page, is an extremely impor­tant page in the user’s navi­ga­tion process. And yet I’ve seen many exam­ples of home­pages with dead content. Users expect every element on the home­page to link to further infor­ma­tion. Whether it is text, images, or rotat­ing banners that promote your prod­ucts or services, users expect those assets to link to more infor­ma­tion on the products/services they promote.

Users often click on dead assets more than once expect­ing to be linked to another page. So how do we collect infor­ma­tion on those clicks in order to improve linking on our site? Typi­cally this is an action over­looked by webmas­ters. Broken links that yield errors are a more visible problem, but a site with dead content can also hurt a user’s percep­tion of the site and brand. It can lead to frus­tra­tion and bounce. Further, it’s a diffi­cult problem to track prop­erly. Whereas you can easily mark errors as pageviews in your analyt­ics program, record­ing a click on dead content is more chal­leng­ing. Depend­ing on the size of your site, it can take hundreds of hours for a devel­oper to manu­ally tag every possi­ble asset through­out the site, whether it’s linked or not, simply to see if users attempt to click on it.

Some websites work around analyt­ics and use click mapping programs in order to see where users are click­ing on the page. Programs like this provide what looks like a heat map of clicks and gives you only a rough idea of what assets are being clicked most on the page. In order to get accu­rate infor­ma­tion on what “dead content” is being clicked, webmas­ters need a better web analyt­ics solu­tion.

As an answer to this problem, Search Discovery has incor­po­rated dead content track­ing into Satel­lite, our Google Analyt­ics imple­men­ta­tion tool. By placing a short code script in the header of each page on your site, Satel­lite auto­mat­i­cally crawls the HTML and creates on-click events. Once a user clicks on dead content, the tool reports the file name of the clicked asset in Google Analyt­ics (within an Events report under the section Dead Content Clicks). Satel­lite reduces the amount of time devel­op­ers spend on tagging pages by hundreds or poten­tially thou­sands of hours. Through Satel­lite, you get accu­rate infor­ma­tion about the dead content that users are inter­act­ing with on your site.

Current Satel­lite clients are able to deter­mine areas of poten­tial frus­tra­tion for users and what content sections users need expanded.  Once you are able to see what dead content gets clicks, you can ensure that content links to related assets.  For Satel­lite clients seeing users click­ing on dead content 3 or more times, we recom­mend devel­op­ing more content on topics related to the dead content. Click­ing on dead content is an indi­ca­tor that users want expanded infor­ma­tion on a subject or want that infor­ma­tion in a differ­ent format.

Consider how track­ing dead content could improve the usabil­ity of your site and the percep­tion of your brand. And check out Satel­lite, which on top of track­ing dead content, also auto­mat­i­cally tracks all down­loads, outbound links, email links, and mobile phone and map use.