An Effective Guide to Broken Link Building

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By Boris Dzhingarov

As one of the current link-building methods, broken link building is still effective and works extremely well. This is because it comes across as helping another website owner, rather than expecting to receive a backlink for free. Also, because it’s not purchasing a paid backlink, it’s more legitimate than some other methods too. Here is what broken link building is all about and how it’s done.

What is a Broken Link?

A broken link is a link from a page to one on that site or another website. For broken link-building purposes, let’s assume it’s a link on another site. The reason for the broken link is usually for one of the following reasons:

  1. The website linked to no longer exists
  2. The website exists but the hosting or DNS is down
  3. The article was subsequently deleted
  4. The site was reorganized, and the article was moved/re-titled

Expanding on point 4, when reorganizing a website, any changed URLs for articles and other pages should be 301 redirected to the new location. However, when a webmaster neglects to do that, people clicking the link will see a 404 “page not found” error.

What is Broken Link Building as an SEO Method?

The idea with broken link building is to locate websites where they have one or more broken links. You will then inform the site owner about the broken link, offering a new replacement link that will fit into the context nicely. If the offer is accepted, bingo… there’s a new backlink from a valuable website at zero upfront cost.

The site owner could simply remove the link entirely or add a new link replacement of their choosing. However, this requires time to find something suitable. When they are contacted and the replacement link is supplied, they only need to verify whether the content is useful to their readers and, if so, simply replace the dead link with your new one.

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How Do You Discover What the Link Originally Was That’s Broken?

When you find a website with a broken link, what do you do if the page is gone? A record was likely maintained of the website. There’s a site called the Wayback Machine that has been maintaining periodic snapshot records of billions of websites for years.

While they don’t always have a copy of a site including all its inner pages, you can sometimes get lucky. It can usually provide a replica of the original page if you perform a search for it. Commonly, some elements of the article may be missing, and the images are likely broken in places – it won’t appear as it did originally 100% – but it’s sufficient to get the gist of what the article originally was about. This provides clues about what type of replacement article could be accepted by the site owner too.

How Do You Find Broken Links in the First Place?

It is possible to use different online SEO tools in search of broken links. Usually, you can only search across a single domain for any broken links, not multiple domains in a type of bulk search. However, it’s possible to search across potentially 100s or 1,000s of pages on a single website for broken links.

A tool like Ahrefs can help you to locate broken links; there is even a section for it under ‘Backlinks’. Also, there are plenty of other online tools to perform a free or paid search of a site in search of broken links somewhere on the site. It can be a time-consuming process but, when you find a few, it’s a potential avenue into a website.

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How Approachable Are Website Owners?

Website owners receive many spammy emails every day. Sometimes, even hundreds. Some arrive via email using a direct email address whereas others are sent via the contact form. The email address used does matter because it will likely initially be spam rated to see how many similar emails have been previously marked as ‘spam’ by other email receivers. This will affect deliverability rates where the intended receiver never sees the email because it went to their ‘Spam’ folder or was automatically deleted. Therefore, care must be taken to use an email and an email address from a domain that won’t already be flagged. This will help to get a higher deliverability rate.

Is the Site Worth Getting a Link From?

Not all websites are sites that you should want to get a backlink from, even if there’s a broken link there. It is important to think about their spam backlink score – Ahrefs and other tools have them – to see if they’re had many links reported already. Also, if they have a low domain authority score, then it might not be worth the bother. It depends on how authoritative your website is already compared to the site with the broken link. Filters should be applied to screen out sites that won’t deliver much value for the effort to find and ask for a link.

Should You Offer Existing Content or Write It Afterward?

It is not always possible that you have existing content on your site that will be a good match as a placement for a broken link. In which case, should you write a new article or pay to have one written on your behalf? That depends on how valuable the backlink is going to be and your estimate of the likelihood of getting a positive response. The rate of take-up for broken link building is often 3-5%, so it’s not a 50/50 shot here.

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Writing or ordering content to have it ready preemptively is an expensive gamble. However, if you don’t have an article that’s live and ready to send the link to it within the email, then the delay in getting a “Yes” and getting one published may be too long. A sort of chicken and the egg situation happens at that point. So, it’s always best if you have a broad enough range of content so there’s always at least one article that’ll match any situation.

Does broken link building still work? It certainly does. Value is being provided in a link to high-quality content and it’s a good value exchange. So, even when they know the SEO technique, website owners still accept it because they get something out of the deal too.