There are so many link building techniques out there that it’s hard to keep track of each one. Besides, not all tactics are the same. Depending on your niche and industry, you can effectively raise your search rankings by choosing only a handful of techniques that you can repeat consistently. Therefore, you need to be wary of the best link building tactics that you can put all your eggs in to maximize the results of your campaigns.
One of the most tried and tested link building techniques that you need to include in your strategy is broken link building.
This link building tactic has to do with reaching out to website owners regarding broken links on their resource pages and recommend other links to include on the page, which includes a link to your site.
Broken link building is an excellent way to acquire backlinks from authoritative sites because of the following reasons.
Strictly white hat
There are marketers who practice gray- and black-hat SEO practices to help gain an upper hand on organic search rankings. While these tactics may produce results in the meantime, they ultimately hurt your SEO performance in the long run. Sooner or later, Google will detect illegal link building activity from your site and will make sure that your site won’t rank for your target keywords.
Broken link building won’t penalize your site. As with most white-hat SEO techniques, you are not manipulating links and are acquiring them through ethical means. More importantly, the links you will be producing from this tactic are sustainable and will deliver positive results to your ranking over time.
The hallmark of broken link building is that you help website owners improve their content by informing them about broken links in the page. As much as they would like to provide the best and most valuable content to their readers, there are factors in content creation that are easily overlooked and beyond their control. One of them is links.
The best practice of creating valuable content is to link out to resources that help support your ideas. However, it can’t be helped if the resource page all of a sudden points to a 404 page. Site owners may not be aware of the broken links in their content because checking the links is not high on their priority list.
Therefore, you can take this opportunity to help them identify broken links on their page so they can continue to provide helpful resources to their readers.
Since you’ve helped them uncover broken links, they are most likely keen to return the favor to you. This is the moment where you can ask them to include a link to your site to further help improve their content.
The reciprocal nature of broken link building is a two-way street – it helps site owners link out to additional valuable resources to benefit their readers and link builders to acquire backlinks from authoritative sites.
Broken link building involves a process to maximize the effect of your campaign. The idea here is to find resource pages that are authoritative enough so you can get the most link juice from each link your acquire through this tactic.
Below are the steps that you need to follow to launch an effective broken link building campaign.
Identify resource pages
Assuming that you have identified a page on your site that you want to build links to, you need to find the right places where you can drop a link to your page.
In broken link building, the best places to do that are resource pages. Here’s an example of a resource page from Great Wine Capitals:
This type of pages contain links to resources relevant to the site’s niche or industry. In the image above, you will see links listed down according to subcategories. If you have a site dedicated to wine appreciation, then you can try and get your page linked here.
Another example of resource pages is a roundup post. Here’s an example of a content marketing resources roundup over at Mention:
Roundup posts feature the best resource about the specific topic. In this example, you could try and reach out the site owner or the author to get your content marketing related page squeezed in the list.
Ideally, you’d want to target the former type of resource pages. Their aim is to showcase the best links about the topic and the site owner would most likely be more than happy to link to your site, as long as it provides valuable information. Roundup posts are more difficult to penetrate because the posts are set in stone once it is published. However, you can probably try and nudge your way into the list if you are an existing relationship with the author.
To find these kinds of pages, all you need is to type these keywords on Google:
niche + inurl:”recommended links”
The niche should be related to the topic of the page you want to build links to. After doing so, you need to browse through the results and see if there are pages that you can use for your broken link building campaign.
In the screenshot above, I searched for recommended links about content marketing. Not all of the results will actually be recommended links about your topic, so I need to manually look and check each page to see if they are indeed resource pages.
You can also download all the results using SEOQuake. Aside from saving all the pages in a spreadsheet, you will also see metrics to help you identify pages with the best metrics. Ideally, you should acquire links from those pages to increase your search ranking.
To diversify your search, you can replace “recommended links” from the search query with the following:
- useful links
- useful resources
- recommended sites
- suggested sites
- suggested links
You can expand the list with phrases synonymous to recommended links so you can extract the most relevant pages from Google.
Once you open the resource page, you need to find links within the content that point to a 404 page.
Manually opening the links to see if the link is good or not will take forever. Therefore, you need a tool that will help you speed up the process by automatically identifying broken links. You can do this by downloading the Check My Links Chrome Extension or LinkChecker for Firefox.
Both tools will scan the page for links and determine which ones are broken. Make sure that the broken links are located within the content so you can use it for leverage when you want to plug in a link to your site.
In the image above, I analyzed Royer Estate recommended links using Check My Links are was able to spot two error pages. Just to be clear, the error must be a 404 page for this to work. For example’s sake, we can use this broken link for our campaign.
Note: The two steps above will eat much of your time in your broken link building. If you want to premium service that will help identify for you prospective resources pages where you can place your link to, you should go with Broken Link Builder by Citation Labs.
Recovering the error page
Once you have identified the error pages, you need to find out why and where the page is currently located.
You can do this by searching the broken URL on Wayback Machine.
Once entered, you will see the cached version of the page during the time when it was still online.
I checked Ohia Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) link and here’s what it showed on Wayback Machine:
The page above shows the dates of the available cached versions for browsing. It is best to click on the date when it was last saved on Wayback Machine. If the page shows an error, then move your way up the calendar until you see the page while it was still live. Here’s the screenshot of the page on March 14, 2016:
From here, determine why the page was included on the resource page. What is the page all about? What makes it different or good enough to be mentioned as one of the recommended links on the page?
Also, browse the site of the error page and find where the same content is located on their site. The idea here is to tell the site owner that the broken page moved to a different URL so you can share the new location to him or her.
If the page no longer exists on the site, you can incorporate the best parts of the broken link’s content on yours so you can use it as leverage when acquiring a link from your target site.
Email site owners
The most crucial aspect of your broken link building campaign is the outreach. If your subject line is not compelling enough, then the site owner won’t open your email. If the message isn’t constructed carefully, then they won’t submit to your request. Not reaching out the right way means that you’ve simply wasted hours of your time for nothing.
Sending an outreach email is tricky because you don’t have any existing relationship with the site owner. This makes it more difficult for you to get them to open your email. However, you can follow this simple template of writing your email to increase the click-through rate of your email.
Subject line: There’s a dead link on your resource page 🙂
Hello, (name of site owner)!
I’m a blogger who’s writing a topic about real estate and I stumbled upon your resource page as part of my research. Here’s the page I’m referring to: (URL of resource page)
I would like to inform you that one of the pages you linked out on your resource page is no longer working. Here’s the link that I’m talking about: (URL of broken link)
Upon checking the site where the dead link is, I found out that they moved the page to a different URL. Here’s the correct link: (URL of correct link)
Also, since you’re in the process of updating your resource page, I would like to send out my recommendations that will help improve your list of valuable resources for your reader. Below are some:
Title of link
(URL of your page)
Title of link
(URL of another relevant page)
Thanks, and have a great day!
Above is an example of how your email outreach for your broken link building should look like. Here’s a short breakdown as to why it is composed the way it is:
- Make an impression that you’re a partial user – Since you are building links to your page, you don’t want to give away the feeling that you have affiliations with the site you’re building links to. Use an alias to cover your tracks or hire someone to send out the emails for you.
- Make a plausible reason why you stumbled to their page – Resource pages are not attractive sources of traffic. Therefore, you need to find a good reason that will convince them how you found their page and not give any idea that you’re reaching out to them to build links.
- Mask your link with another useful link – In the example above, I requested two links to be added on the resource page. One of those links should be yours while the other is from a different site. The idea here is to not give away the fact that you’re building links to your site. Adding another useful site in the mix makes your email less conspicuous and increases the chances of your link to be featured on the page.
Again, the example above is merely an idea on how you should compose your own email outreach. You can use it as a basis for building your own email, but it is not meant to be used on all your contacts. You need to approach each email differently since it involves different factors as well.
You can send out the emails to potential sites to link up to
Wrapping it up
Since broken link building is grounded on reciprocity, you need to actually provide help to the site owner for them to return the favor. Simply informing them that one of the featured links is returning an error page and prodding them to include your site instead feels back-handed and does not reflect well on your brand. There’s a chance that they might deny the inclusion of your site despite your best effort because they can see through your link building efforts.
The best link building tactics are those that don’t feel like you’re actually building links. It’s all about providing value to users and fixing their problems so you can be rewarded with something in return.
The process mentioned above is an excellent way to get your broken link building campaign to a good start. Not only does it offer backlinks that provide long-term benefits for your search rankings, but you also get to help other sites improve their pages.