Search Tips Report was a free email newsletter from Eipert Information Services, featuring practical tips about business and sci/tech information sources and research strategy for you to apply in your own business. See the archive of past issues.
* URLs. Part II: URL tips - how your knowledge of the structure of
URLs can help when problems arise
Part I of this article, Deconstructing Web Addresses, at http://www.eipertinfo.com/newsletter/newsletter2004-07.htm, details what the various parts of a URL of a web address mean. How can you use this knowledge of the structure of URLs to help when problems arise?
"The link I received in an email doesn't work," is a very common and usually avoidable or fixable complaint. This happens most often when the email process has wrapped a long URL into two lines, and made the link unusable.
To fix this, copy and paste the first line of the URL into the browser address box and then do the same for the second line. (A fast way is to use Ctrl-c to copy and Ctrl-v to paste.) Be careful with the copying and pasting so that none of a previous URL remains in the box, and that no space is left in the middle. Inspect the URL by using the arrow keys to scroll back and forth if necessary. Check for obvious problems such as an address beginning with http://http://, or an unwanted period at the very end of the URL.
To avoid the problem of emailing two-line URLs in the first place, the sender can use one of many free services to convert a long link into a shorter one. Follow the easy instructions at http://snipurl.com/ or http://tinyurl.com/, or read about other similar services at http://notlong.com/links/. Firefox browser users can use the Tinyurl Creator extension available at http://jgillick.nettripper.com/.
Company and organization websites are becoming larger and more complex; they may include dead links. Sometimes after searching a site using a site's internal search system some of the resulting search result links don't work--possibly because the site has been reorganized and the paths have changed.
If you get a dead link in the middle of a complex website, try the following:
For example, a search of a trade association website finds the title of an article that is very relevant. But clicking on the link in the search results produces the dreaded "404 - Page Not Found" screen. All the other links work, and there is no reason to believe that this particular article is not there, so it may be a problem with the link. A reading of the bad URL (an invented example: http://www.domainname.org/ publications/newsltr/newsltr_jan2004/glassblowing.htm) indicates that the desired article is in the January 2004 issue of their newsletter. This would be enough information to get to the article by finding the table of contents to the January issue, but in this case the site designers did not provide that option, so it's necessary to try another way.
Deconstructing the URL of other newsletter articles that are available may provide clues. If a working URL to another article is something like this (not real URLs): http://www.domainname.org/en/publications/newsltr_may2004/kilns.htm, try the following URLs to find one that may work for the desired article. http://www.domainname.org/en/publications/newsltr_jan2004/glassblowing.htm http://www.domainname.org/en/publications/newsltr_january2004/glassblowing.htm.
Careful analysis of a URL can help assure that it is represents a legitimate page--that it really is from the organization it claims to be from. Misuse of links is common in a large variety of ways; following is a brief look at just a couple of examples.
Phishing is an increasing problem. Emails that look as if they are sent from a legitimate financial institution request that you click on an enclosed link to provide personal and financial information such as credit card and social security numbers. For example, emails purportedly from a fraud division of Citibank request your identification information in order to "safeguard your account", and provide a link that looks legitimate - something like: "https://. . . Citibank.com/. . . ". Don't ever provide information on a web page reached through a link in this type of email message; legitimate companies don't ask for financial information via emailed links. Clicking on the link can produce a legitimate-looking web page with a form requesting information, but with a URL (seen in the address box in updated browsers) that is not the expected citibank.com URL. For more information, see the FTC Consumer Alert at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/alerts/phishingalrt.htm.
Government agencies with ".gov" domains don't necessarily also own the corresponding ".com" domain. The U.S. National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration owns both domains noaa.gov and noaa.com, and the URL http://noaa.com leads to the same site as http://noaa.gov, but the notorious whitehouse.com site is NOT the same as whitehouse.gov.
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Copyright © 2004 Sue Eipert