A Practical Guide To Broken Link Building

A Practical Guide To Broken Link Building

Over the last few months, broken link building has become one of my favorite link building techniques. I credit Russ Jones’s Broken Link Building Bible for adding flames to my broken-link-building fire and for helping me fine-tune my approach.

“Broken link building may perhaps be the most effective, white-hat link building strategy in years,” Jones says. “In particular, broken link building is appealing because the success of the campaign is directly proportional to how much good you do for the web.”

So what is broken link building? In short, this technique consists of:

  1. Finding links on the internet that are no longer working,
  2. Offering the fixed URL to the webmaster, if possible, and
  3. Requesting your site or content be added to the page as well.

As SEOs, it’s our goal to do as much good for the web as possible by optimizing our clients’ sites, content, and marketing strategies to provide value to visitors and “the web” in general. Broken link building does this—you’re making the internet a better place for the people who may otherwise be clicking on dead links.

The broken link notification is also a goodwill “ice breaker” to get the conversation started with webmasters, without just saying, “Hey can you add my link to your list please, please please?” It takes away link begging and replaces it with link collaborating.

So how can you implement broken link building into your current link building strategy?

First, define what you have to offer.

Unique Value Proposition

What is your unique value proposition (UVP) for the market? What sets your business or client’s business apart from the competition, and how can you leverage that information for linking opportunities?

Once you have identified your UVP, find (or, if you don’t have any, create) some linkable assets that highlight your UVP. These are the resources that you will then use when requesting links later. Think content.

Examples of linkable assets:

  • Website landing pages
  • Videos
  • Blog posts
  • Presentations
  • Webinars
  • Infographics
  • Downloads
  • and much more…

Having a list of linkable assets gives you something to offer the webmaster as a new resource to add to their list, post, or forum when you contact them about the broken link.

So, how do you find these broken links?

Finding Broken Link Opportunities

Finding relevant broken links is the most difficult part of the process, so it’s time to brush up on your advanced search queries and put them to work.

These are a few of my favorite searches when I’m looking for broken link building opportunities:

  • KW intitle:resources
  • KW “useful websites”
  • KW “useful resources”
  • KW “useful links”
  • KW “favorite sites”
  • KW intitle:“recommended links”

Using these advanced search operators will help you find web pages with lists of links to resources and sites within your niche or relevant industry. You can supplement any of these queries with “intitle,” “inurl,” “intext,” “list,” “sites,” “site:edu,” or “site:gov” to narrow your results.

Make sure that the sites that you find are relevant enough to warrant further research by quickly checking for categories or terms related to your industry, and add the ones that are relevant to a spreadsheet or open them in a new tab for further analysis. Once you have built a list of 10 or so, begin looking for broken links on each individual site. My favorite tool for this is the Check My Links extension for Chrome.

Using the Check My Links extension will highlight every link on a page and tell you what type of header response each one is. Here’s an example:

Broken Link Building Example

Now that you’ve identified some broken links on the page, look for a relevant broken link and target it as your broken link request icebreaker. Do the webmaster a favor and, if possible, find the correct URL for the broken link as well as a similar resource to send over in addition your own linkable asset. Then send your request.

It could go something like this:

Broken Link Building Outreach Email Example

If possible, I like to add one or two additional resources that the webmaster could use to enhance their resource list that are not just my clients’ URLs. This shows additional goodwill and makes the webmaster that much more likely to respond positively. This email approach has been very successful for me.

Utilize Known Broken Links

Now that you’ve found some broken URLs, you can use them for further link building. Make a list of URLs that you know are broken, take each individual URL and find every site that is currently linking to it by using Open Site Explorer. This is a fantastic way to find dozens of websites to work with in your link building strategy with minimal effort.

Quickly scanning an OSE report will reveal new opportunities within your niche. This is why finding a highly relevant broken link is so crucial—it increases the likelihood of sites in your industry linking to the broken URL. For example:

Broken Link Building Recommended Sites OSE Download

Each new site that you find with this method should also be mined for additional broken link opportunities until the web of prospects leaves your niche, or where your UVP can longer help you earn a link.

The process looks something like this:

Broken Linkbuilding Flow Chart

Target Quality Link Opportunities

Getting your brand or your client’s brand in front of qualified viewers is essential to campaign success and broken link building can do just that.

One of our clients is involved in the information technology sector, and their blog offers loads of great information for IT professionals, students, and hobbyists alike. Because their site has a large focus on helping people learn valuable IT skills, their content and website are fantastic linkable assets. Individuals using these resources are qualified leads that can benefit from our client’s offerings, and this is why finding quality link opportunities is essential.

I have found that the more qualified (targeted niche) the resource page I am working with is, the more domain authority and potential link juice it generally has. Even more importantly, quality sites send quality traffic back to your own website. Broken link building can be a somewhat time-intensive approach, and attempting to fix links on pages that are not relevant or are clearly not moderated for quality content is not going to benefit the internet or your client.

Have a particular approach or technique to broken link building that works for you? Please share your ideas in the comments.

Post by Jared Oldham, Senior SEO Specialist at SEO.com.

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3 Comments

  1. Travis Brown says

    Hey, Jared. I am curious about the e-mail that you send to webmasters. Requesting a link from a webmaster at the start of a conversation can be seen as aggressive so have you found more success acquiring links in one or multiple e-mails?
    For gathering link data, I highly recommend using the OpenSiteExplorer API to pull the amount of external links flowing to the broken links which can be done in Google Docs and save you a lot of time once you have a decent list of prospects.
    And just to throw out a few of queries I like and you might as well:
    [KW] intitle:”404 page not found”
    [KW] site:wikipedia.org “HTTP 404 with URL”
    [KW] “dead links”
    [KW] “dead sites”
    [KW] intitle:”page not found”
    What other types of opportunities (e.g. guest blog post) have you gotten with broken link building using the relationships you have built by reaching out to webmasters?
    Thanks for the post. I like this type of link building because it helps people, and you can get a link at the same time.

    • says

      Travis,
      Thanks for the comment! In short I have not done enough split testing to give a good comparison to see which request is most successful. I do agree that asking for a link in the first email is more aggressive than requesting in a second or third. My assumption is the likely-hood of getting the link in a second email is higher than the first.  Just as sending multiple guest contribution requests makes you more likely to get accepted. I have done both and I plan to track it so that I can take my assumption and make it a real test.
      I have found that utilizing a broken link opportunity to create other link building opportunities like guest posting is fantastic. The broken link email is a great “icebreaker”. Suggest the fix to a page without asking for a link at all. Then following up later with a request for some type of content placement is a great way to get high quality placements. 
      Thanks for the queries and OSE suggestions. 
       

  2. Russel M. says

    Wow great information Jared on fixing broken links. I will definitely be on the lookout for this when it happens to us. I appreciate the information you have shared with us, thank you.

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