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.