Link building requires a great deal of sleuthing and thinking differently to acquire new links, but after spending a lot of time on a strategy, the SEO link building well can begin to feel dry. You know you need a greater variety of links, but new, exciting opportunities that offer quality over quantity feel scarce. This is why link builders look for scalable link building tactics, which can be replicated virtually infinitely. One such tactic that fits this model is “Broken Link Building.”
Broken link building offers a never ending supply of possibilities because the internet will always have new broken links. Google likes history – older sites, ad campaigns, and links tend to perform better than newer ones. Broken link building allows SEOs to capitalise on historical links while also building new links to your site. Huh? New links and history in the same strategy? Yes, broken link building gives you both.
Thousands, if not millions of links break every day. This can happen when when hosting expires, businesses close or when a site migrates and all their links aren’t properly redirected. These circumstances provide an opportunity for SEO link building. In the simplest of terms, broken link building is finding a broken link on a website, contacting the owner of the site with the broken link to make them aware, and providing your own as an alternative to replace it. The results are immediate, and everyone benefits. By suggesting alternative resources, you assist the website owner with providing a better user experience for visitor while also helping your site tap into a potential new source of referral traffic and a link with positive impact on search visibility.
Where To Start?
Chances are there are a handful of sites you would love to get a link on. These are your dream links, usually on niche sites or high domain authority pages that generate tons of traffic. Broken link building could be your ticket to achieving a link on a site that would normally be difficult to build a link on. Use search strings to find broken link building targets. Look for sites that are relevant to your niche and have many outbound links.
- keyword + “resources”
- keyword + intitle:resources
- keyword + intitle:blogroll
- keyword + “blogroll”
- site:.gov keyword + “links”
- site:.edu keyword + “recommended sites”
- keyword + “related links”
- “keyword” intitle:resources
- “keyword” intitle:recommended
- “keyword” intitle:resources intitle:submit <— adding ‘submit’ will narrow down results to sites that are open to adding links to their resource page, and therefore might be open to broken link building
A Few Search Tips
Use a minus sign (-) to exclude certain results. For example:
- “-.pdf” — eliminates results that are PDFs
- “-site:wikipedia.org” — eliminates all results part of the wikipedia.org domain
- “-word” — eliminates all results that contain the specific word you entered
Specify where you want the keyword search. For example: for travel, remove OTAs from your search.
- “inurl: keyword” — returns results where the keyword is in the URL
- “intitle: keyword” — returns results where the keyword is in the title
- “intext: keyword” — returns results where the keyword is in the text
What To Do With Your Results
Tip #1: Refine Your Dates
Often times, older pages have more broken links than more newer ones. Use the Search Tools option in Google. One little-discussed way to find pages with broken links is to use date-based searches.
Step 1: Enter your search string. When you get your results, select the “Search Tools” button.
Step 2: Choose “Custom Range.”
Step 3: Choose the starting date to be at least three years back and to end a year ago.
Tip #2: Organise Your Data
Step 1: By looking at large sets of data at once (50 results or more at a time), you can analyze more links for opportunities. To do this, after you enter your search string, hit the gear button, and select “Search Settings.”
Step 2: Turn off Google Instant results.
Step 3: Set the results to 100.
Step 4: Save.
Step 5: Organise the data. This will help you look at your results on one page. For this step the SERPS ’16 Bookmarklet is useful.
Drag this bookmarklet to your bookmarks toolbar. When you have gone through your custom settings, click on this bookmark, and it will extract all the links that are in your search results. It will put them on one page, for you to more easily go through and see that is relevant to your needs.
Step 6: Go through the list. The Google Chrome Extension Domain Hunter Plus will find the broken links on each page.
On the page of your search result, click on the DHP icon, and it will search the page for broken links.
DHP will then find potential broken links.
There is also an option to export your results, to make it easier to mine your data.
Now that you have your list, it’s time to outreach to each webmaster and ask them to replace their broken link with your working link. This article includes some sample outreach emails below.
Secondary link building combines nicely with broken link building. If you fear the link replacement will send spam signals, you can ask then to link to a secondary source. This is asking for a link to site that is linking to you. You get secondary link value and you minimise your risks. This works especially nicely if your business is linked on a high DA site – you can have webmasters link to the page with your link on the high DA site instead.
Play the grammarian. When you can’t get an ‘in’ with a broken link, bringing a spelling error to the webmaster’s attention is a great way to start a conversation and build a relationship. It might not be an immediate win, but you are adding value and building trust. You now have a conversation starter to to inquire about other linking opportunities, such as guest posting and crowdsourcing.
I was doing some research on [topic] and came across your resource at [URL].
I noticed your link to [site] returns an error (maybe the site is down, or the post has been removed). I’ve previously written a similar article to the one that’s missing.
If you’d like, check it out and see if it makes sense to replace the broken link:
Either way, thanks for creating and sharing a great resource on [topic]. There is some good information on there.
Don’t overthink your email. There is a good chance you will get a “no” or no response at all. Sometimes webmasters will see your email and have intentions of responding but get sidetracked. Or, they may have missed your email. Don’t let silence keep you from a link. Follow up!
Here is an example of a simple follow up email:
I am following up to see if you had a chance to take a look at the email I send to you about the broken links I found on [site]?
Please let me know.
Keep it simple and be straight forward.
Broken link building is scalable in that there are always new opportunities. This is also a strategy that can be used for any niche. While you might not get links in volume, if you are targeting sites that are worthwhile, your link will be worth the time.