What Is Broken Link Building?

Building quality backlinks is a great way to boost your website’s rankings and generate relevant referral traffic. Of the many link building tactics out there, here we’ll be looking at broken link building and offering some tips for successfully executing it. 

What Is Broken Link Building?

Broken link building involves finding resources in your niche that are no longer available, but that have plenty of quality backlinks. Since these links are now 404s, you can reach out to the owner of the page with the broken link, asking them to link to your website instead. 

In order for this approach to work, you will need to have a relevant, quality resource on your website that is very similar to the one you want to replace. 

How Does Broken Link Building Work?

The broken link building tactic involves these steps:

  • Find a page that is no longer available or find a page that has broken outgoing links
  • Write a resource that can be used to replace the broken link, if you don’t already have one 
  • Reach out to the blog with the broken link and ask to be featured instead 

The basic premise is that you are offering something to the blogger, and not just asking for a backlink, like you would with most other tactics. This is likely to make them more inclined to link to you. 

This is of course not a foolproof tactic, and the blogger may decide to fix the broken link without referencing you in any way. If your resource is a good one though, and they have the time and will to read it, you can score a lot of quality backlinks this way. 

Is Broken Link Building a Good Link Building Tactic?

There is a fair amount of legwork involved in broken link building, which can be quite tedious and time-consuming. It’s a great tactic to use, as long as you know how to find broken links effectively (we’ll get into that in a moment). 

It’s also a good opportunity to bear in mind when browsing the web for any reason. Whether you are writing an article and come across a broken reference link, or are reading something for pleasure, it’s good to make a note of any broken links you come across for potential future use. As long as they are relevant to your website, of course.  

How To Find Broken Links

The most challenging part of broken link building is finding these broken links. Here are 6 tips to help you cut down on your research time:

Look For Pages With Lots Of Links

The only way to build broken backlinks at scale is to find pages that a) contain lots of outgoing links or b) are likely to have lots of backlinks. 

To find pages with lots of outgoing links, look for resource pages or ultimate guides on a relevant topic. Listicles or long, in-depth articles are likely to link out to numerous resources, some of which might be broken. 

You can use simple Google searches for the job. Whenever you come across a likely page, check the status of its links to see if any of them are broken. 

On the other hand, there is no simple way to find pages that probably used to be quite popular but are now broken. You can stumble across them by accident, when browsing a competitor’s website for example. If they have failed to remove an internal link to a 404 page, it’s worth checking what kinds of backlinks it has. 

Use The Check My Links Extension 

You’ll need to use a tool to check the status of the links on a page to find broken backlinks. 

Check My Links is a great choice. It’s a Chrome extension that will highlight all the links on a page. The green ones will be 2xx status codes, while the red ones will be broken ones. 

It’s worth using this extension every time you are looking at a page that is in any way connected to your website. You never know when you might spot a likely broken link. 

Audit a Website With an SEO Tool

Another way to find broken links is while auditing a website with an SEO tool like Ahrefs or Screaming Frog. You can again use this tactic in two ways. 

First, you can audit a competitor’s website. If they have a 404 page, you can check out its backlinks. You’ll need to use the Site Audit feature to crawl a website, and then see if any broken pages pop up in the report. 

404 page report in ahrefs

This process will take a while, but it can be a good way to learn more about your competitor’s website in general, not just to find potential broken backlinks. 

You can also run an audit on a large blog that has many resource pages or large guides that could contain broken outgoing links. In this case, you are looking at the Page has links to broken page section of the report. 

page has links to broken page in ahrefs

Second, you can use Ahrefs’ Broken backlinks feature in the Site Explorer, to see if the backlinks of any website are broken. This will be a much faster process, as you won’t be crawling the entire website. 

You will get a list of any broken backlinks, a lot of which may not be what you are looking for, but you might uncover some great opportunities. 

This tactic works best on competing websites that have published the kind of content you want to get more backlinks for. Google the topic and check out the backlinks of all the top contenders. 

broken backlinks in ahrefs

Find Everyone Who Is Linking To The Broken Link

Once you have found a 404 page, by using any of the methods we’ve just talked about, don’t forget to find all of its broken backlinks. 

Just add the exact URL to the Ahrefs Site Explorer, and click on the Broken backlinks tab. 

Don’t Bother With Low Quality Websites 

Once you have a list of pages that contain broken links, eliminate all low quality ones. You can use domain rating as the first litmus test, and then judge websites based on quality and relevance. 

Only reach out to websites you really want to be featured on. 

Keep It Organized 

It’s worth creating a sheet where you can dump any broken pages you come across while not trying to build broken backlinks. 

You don’t need to drop whatever you’re doing to run a 404 page through Ahrefs. Just make a note of it and come back to it when you have allocated yourself some link building time. 

How To Get Your Link Placed Instead Of The Broken One

Now that you’ve found some broken backlinks, let’s see what you can do to replace them with one of your own. 

Offer Better Content

The better your content, the higher the chance a blogger will consider linking to it. Don’t ask people to replace their dead links with subpar content. They can easily find a better resource with a simple Google search. 

Also make sure that the page you are suggesting as a replacement for the dead one is as close a match to it as possible. 

If you find a dead page that has tons of valuable backlinks, but don’t have a page of your own to offer as a replacement, it can be worth your time to create it. Note that this will only be worth it if the page aligns with your overall content marketing strategy and targets a keyword you would want to rank for. 

Be Very Polite In Your Outreach

When sending your “please link to me” email, be extremely polite, friendly and laid back. 

Start by telling the blogger you’ve read their article that contains the broken link, and offer some proof. Tell them how you have applied one of their tips, mention your own experience with the topic: say anything that will prove you are not just another link builder sending a template email. 

Mention that you’ve noticed a dead link on the page. Then find a casual and witty way to mention you have a resource they can replace it with. You can be very blunt here. No need to try to hide your intentions. The blogger will cotton on to them in a matter of seconds. 

Thank them for their time and consideration and sign off. 

Keep the email brief and easy to read through. Don’t forget to include links to your website and social media in the signature. Even if you don’t get a link, you may get a valuable visit. 

Reach Out To The Right Person

When sending broken link building outreach emails, make sure to send them to the right person. Don’t use a generic contact@ or customerservice@ email unless you’ve found no other way. 

Try to find the author of the page. If none is listed, mention who the email is addressed to in the subject. Something like “To the author of the “Best Pancake Recipes” Post” can work really well. 

Don’t Be Pushy 

Finally, don’t demand a link. You can be blunt when asking for one, but don’t request one as if it’s a done deal. The website has absolute discretion who they link to. 

You can send one follow up email if you don’t get a response. Most link builders will tell you to send at least two, or possibly even four, but if you don’t get a reply after the second one, you probably won’t get one anyway, and you’ll just be getting on the recipient’s nerves. 

Set up an alert for new backlinks, or do a periodic checkup to see if your link has found its way into any of the articles you’ve reached out to. Sometimes bloggers or editors forget to reply to emails, and the link might already be there. Always check before sending a follow up email. 

Wrapping Up

Are you already using the broken link building tactic, or are you considering giving it a spin now that you know how to do it well?

Don’t forget that any link building effort is only as effective as the expected results, so don’t waste hours at a time trying to score a handful of low quality backlinks. Focus your effort on getting the kind that are more likely to help you climb higher in search engine results pages. 

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