Link building

6 things to know about building broken links

Broken links are an epidemic.

A recent study Rowe Digital (full disclosure: this is my company) reviewed 90 publishers and websites and found over 65,000 broken outbound links (i.e. links with 404 errors).

Broken link building has been around as a strategy for many years, but its approach has been continually refined and perfected.

In order to get results from your broken link building efforts, you need to make sure your reach and content are:

  • Very targeted.
  • Personalized if possible.
  • Actually provides value to the website you are addressing and its audience.

The popularity of broken link building continues to grow. This means publishers and website owners are starting to get tired of all the different outreach demands.

Want to stand out? Offer value and a humanized message to get the recipient to consider your link for replacement.

Below is an introduction to broken link building that answers many common questions SEO professionals ask when considering whether this method will work for a client or business.

1. How many links can I get per month?

It certainly depends on your industry, the level of effort you put into it, and the quality of the sites you are targeting.

Why do broken link building results vary by industry?

Some industries have a lot more content online about them, so it’s easier to find high-quality blogs to target. For example, you would obviously be much more likely to find good prospects among sites that deal with digital marketing than you would among sites that cover industrial HVAC equipment.

If you operate in a specific niche, expand your network as much as possible.

For example, there may not be many posts online about industrial HVAC equipment, but are there posts about industrial real estate or property management that your target audience would still read? If so, consider creating content for that larger topic, which your audience still cares about.

However, at the end of the day, a minimum of one link per month is a good average across all industries.

2. Who should use it?

Building broken links is useful in a variety of different industries. Any business or website can benefit from broken link building if it regularly publishes fresh and useful content that benefits its users.

To help you get started, here are some usage examples.

Blogs and posts

If you’re trying to increase your blog or online publication’s readership, traffic, or link portfolio, consider creating broken links for popular publications or guides on your site.

Often bloggers will have free seminal content, like an eBook or case study that they use to generate subscribers or email traffic. Consider removing the front door of this content and offering it to other websites so they can access it as a resource.

Service providers

If you’re in the service industry, like marketing, real estate, or even creating custom cakes, you can use broken link building to drive more targeted users to your site.

If you run a local business, look for broken link opportunities for local publications, such as newspapers or resource guides, where you can include a link to your business, which serves the same target location.

3. What is the process?

If you think your site will benefit from spreading broken links, set up spreadsheets and milestones to make it a regular routine. The process is quite simple and goes as follows:

  • Enter a relevant keyword into Google using the inurl:resource search operator (or variations of the resource, such as “library” or “blog”)
    • For exact phrases, be sure to use quotes around the phrase for an exact match (eg “how to fold origami”).
  • Click a URL in the search results that looks like a site you might be getting links from, then use a browser extension/add-on to verify the links:
  • Create a master list of all the broken links you found by following the previous steps.
  • Upload to a tool like Ahrefs to find broken links that have the most sites/pages linking to it.
  • Find contact information for websites or publications you want to target using their contact or about pages, or use a tool like Hunter to get their exact email address.
  • Use the return machine to see what the content of the broken URL was talking about.
  • If necessary, create something similar to the content that is most likely to get the most links.
  • Pitch the webmaster of the site. Use a link distribution template similar to the one I previously shared on SEJ, but include the URL on their site that contains the broken link and offer your own as a replacement.

For example, with a search for “fishing” inurl:blog for our imaginary bait and tackle e-commerce customer, we found Fishidy:

Using the Chrome plugin referenced above, we did a full site check and found a few opportunities for our client:

awareness example 2

“MysteryTacklebox.com” is an e-commerce fishing site, which makes it perfect to be replaced by our customer, if he has similar products. From there, we can find Fishidy’s team contact details and start the outreach process.

4. Where can I get and not get links?

Even though the process is quite simple, you shouldn’t try to get links from every website that has them. Target a blog or publication’s resource pages (like a content or resource library) or its individual posts.

Don’t waste your time targeting links on social media sites, like Facebook or Twitter, or news sites, like CNET. These sites move so quickly and their focus is on speed that links that have been broken for months or even days are unlikely to be a priority for them.

5. How can I convince someone to fix their link to my content?

It’s a finely tuned process, but try to find broken link building opportunities that closely match the amazing content you already have that you know is useful.

Ideally, this is proven by traffic or social proof. If you find a good link building opportunity but don’t have the right content, consider creating similar content for your site. This makes it easier for the website owner to say yes.

Another approach is to create content for blogs or news sites in your industry. Once you’ve established trust and know your content is worth their reader’s time, consider offering the publisher or owner a few of your own links on your website to replace in old posts. .

Make sure you don’t take advantage of this relationship too often. Building broken links is as much about building trust and your network as it is getting links.

6. What is the average outreach success rate?

The average outreach success rate you will see will vary based on factors such as customization.

I recommend doing one-on-one outreach and working to connect with the perpetrator and develop a relationship to increase the chances of success.

In my experience, we’ve seen a success rate of between 5-50%, which again varies depending on the industry, effort, and content you’re presenting.


Image credits

Featured Image: Created by author, August 2017.
In-Post Images: Screenshots taken by the author, August 2017.