Feb 7, 2017

The two most read online newspapers in Mauritius don't bother redirecting their URLs

I stumbled upon this shocking discovery while cleaning up this blog as it contains links to specific articles on Défi Media and L' Express.

What is a URL redirection?
URL redirections basically allow a specific web page to be available under more than one address. They are convenient because as a web site grows, it is very likely (but not inevitable) that some links on our website will change. With a URL redirection, we can thus make a page exist under its old URL but also the new one.

Imagine if your web page had 1,000 links from great websites such as BBC, BuzzFeed and Huffington Post. If we had no other choice but to change the URL at one point, we would basically have to contact these 1,000 different webmasters and ask them to update the link on their respective websites. Obviously, this does not work because:

1) if you have time to reach out to 1,000 different webmasters to update one link, your online strategy is a mess
2) there is no guarantee that these guys will do it
3) it is your duty to ensure everything works on your website, not theirs

With the URL redirection, you can thus use a completely different link for the updated page but people who click on the old link will still be accessing the content, often while being unaware of the redirection. It's really amazing what you can do on the web!

I normally use Xenu's Link Sleuth to check if all this blog's links are working. It's free and is an outstanding tool any e-marketer should use. I have personally been using it for more than 10 years and have never had any reason to complain about it. It's that good.

As I was saying at the start of this article, it turns out some links I had to the L'Express and Le Défi websites are no longer working. You can verify this by opening the articles below and clicking on the links in each article.

Of course, there is a very simple reason for that. Both newspaper websites have changed over the years which makes sense as a website typically has a three-year lifespan and the emergence of web responsiveness means every website out there had to go through an update. It is normal that with the launch of a new website, URLs will change, especially if they are changing platforms. However, what is not normal is that there is no redirection for the older articles.

Yes, you could argue that it's not important for an online news site to redirect the links of its all articles, especially those are fairly "outdated". And I will counter-argue that a news website should ALWAYS redirect its URL for two main reasons:

  1. A news website is bound to have many incoming links, and I'm sure even those in Mauritius are no exception
  2. News websites are an important source for research and people will thus bookmark them offline and include them in report. If you then change these URLs without any redirection, you are basically screwing all your readers.
To conclude this article, here's a picture that has absolutely nothing to do with my rant:

You had one job.