Broken links – backlinks that point to an outdated or incorrect URL – are a constant problem in SEO, but they are also the source of countless broken link building opportunities. For many SEO experts, broken link building can be a surprisingly effective way to gather some extra backlinks.
Unfortunately, broken link building is not a foolproof link building strategy. Between creating relevant content and actually securing broken backlinks as your own, it can be hard to build links using this method.
If you are interested in leveraging broken link building opportunities for your own business, then it is important to understand how to identify broken links – and how you can take advantage of them.
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A broken link is any link that does not point to a valid URL anymore. This could be deleted blog posts, a web page that is no longer being hosted, or entire websites that no longer exist.
In simple terms, a broken link does not point to anything. The URL is either a broken page or a generic error page on a site that still exists.
The idea behind broken link building is a simple one. A broken link has to have existed for a reason: sometimes, that broken link used to direct traffic to a website, while in other cases, that broken link was purely for SEO reasons.
Either way, a broken link has a purpose, and broken link building is all about finding broken links and using them for your own website and content.
Most site owners do not like broken backlinks links and do not want to send visitors down a broken link to broken pages that do not offer them anything. It can make their own site look worse or frustrate new arrivals who are using them as a source of information.
Through broken link building, you can strike deals with site owners to get the broken link redirected to your own site. This gives you the value behind the broken link while they fix their broken links without having to substantially change their content.
Why do site owners agree to broken link building?
The big factor that makes broken link building work is that it preserves the original content. In a broken link building campaign, you are trying to find broken pages that are relevant to your site and content since those are the broken links that are easiest to claim.
By presenting a website manager with similar content that fills the same niche, you are giving them a way to repair their dead link with relevant websites and content.
Website owners do not like to change their own content too often, especially not if the content is already being linked to by other websites and has gained a lot of attention. By offering them a replacement resource, you free them from having to alter their content to remove the dead link entirely.
How does broken link building help?
Broken link building is basically a way to gather links. Dead backlinks are still backlinks, and having those dead links point back to your own site stops them from being dead links. You are gaining external links that previously went to a dead page.
Doing this can help give you an edge over competing websites. Using a broken link opportunity can allow you to steal links from dead pages, bolstering your own link profile in the process.
Turning the right dead links into working links can be like getting high-quality backlinks from a site in a regular way – you get a portion of the authority of the original page, giving you a boost to your SEO.
While some people have claimed that dead URL broken link building no longer works, the vast majority of dead links still pass along some value.
The main difference is that search engines understand broken link building now, so they are applying the same standards as they would for regular link building.
Broken link building is not an easy way to get better SEO, and it definitely will not always be a success. However, gathering the right broken links in the right ways can still really help with your own site’s SEO.
There are four core methods for capturing broken link building opportunities.
- Find broken links, either from data about competitors’ websites or broken links in the same niche as your business.
- Find pages – based on a specific topic – that connect to a lot of broken links or link to content that no longer exists.
- Find resource pages that are out-of-date or do not point to valid pages.
- Find a working link that points back to irrelevant content or a new site that took over an old site’s URL.
In general, you want to find links pointing to either incorrect or dead content. A website manager will be more likely to replace the broken link if it is an actual dead link rather than pointing to a redirect.
Find broken links on competitor sites
Using site and link explorer tools on your competitor’s URL can show you all of the backlinks pointing to their site, including invalid links. This lets you find dead pages, such as product URLs that are no longer valid or blog post URLs that were deleted.
Explore your competitor’s sites and get an idea of how many broken links there might be. Then, using whatever link-building tools you have, filter them to see which dead links have the most potential behind them.
Once you know which broken pages and backlinks to target, contact the original sites that set up those links and see if they want to replace the dead link with a link to your own resource pages.
Remember, relevancy and context matter. Targeting a broken link about a product that you and your competitor both sell is easy, but you can’t usually target broken pages that are specifically about that competitor.
Look for a broken page about a certain topic
Link building is all about topics and relevant search keywords, so hunting down resources page (or any other kind of dead link) that share a common thread with your own business is a great option.
For example, exploring broken page options related to technical writing is great if your company offers a technical writing service. You are more likely to get proper web traffic and receive an SEO boost, and you have a higher chance of actually getting the website owner to change the link in the first place.
While it is incredibly hard to filter backlinks like this outside of tools like Ahrefs Site Explorer and Content Explorer, you just need to think about the relevance it has to your business. SEO is not usually about how many backlinks you have but about how many are worthwhile.
This way of tackling the broken link building process streamlines everything by focusing on the topics first and foremost. This lets you pick out broken pages that are directly relevant to your business and the service, product, or resource pages that you want to promote.
Look for dead links on resource pages
Resource pages are a part of a site that links to a range of resources. This could be an extra section at the bottom of a blog post or a completely separate page on a site – either way; they are linking to content that is either mentioned on the site or relevant to it.
As you might expect, these pages tend to draw in a lot of traffic and have great SEO potential, especially if they are coming from sites that are already ranking quite high. Since the site is linking to that niche, the contents of the site also tend to be quite relevant to the pages that they link to.
This naturally leads to a situation where resource pages can be ideal for broken link building. You have a page full of backlinks – often including a few dead page links – that revolve around a particular topic. In some cases, they are even included on the same page as the relevant site content.
Broken link building on resource pages can be tough since your content needs to be equal to or better than the original dead link content. However, if you can show off content that fits as a replacement for the original dead page, you can secure a very solid link on a new site.
Replacing Irrelevant Content
Sometimes a dead link does not actually go to a dead page – instead, it can be a page that simply does not have the same kind of content (or is even the same site) anymore.
This is quite common with sites hosted through specific hosting services, where a dead link may be recycled and used by another owner if the original site ever disappears. Of course, it can just as easily happen if a blog post gets deleted or a website changes its focus.
While these will not show up easily on a broken links report since they are not technically broken pages, they are still important for dead link building.
Whether the website manager deleted the content on that URL or the dead page’s URL was replaced by another site’s page, capitalizing on these issues can be a great way to earn extra links.
These can actually be quite easy to target since irrelevant content tends to be something that most sites want to avoid. Link building using irrelevant links can be quite a simple process – you just need to offer the website owner your replacement link.
Broken link building, just like regular link building, is all about link quality. While a large number of links can certainly help, you do not want to waste time and money on link building outreach that is not actually going to help.
Identifying broken links that can actually benefit your website and/or business is important. If you are not doing dead link building carefully, you might be wasting a lot of effort on links that are not even really going to help your SEO at all.
Looking over your broken link options is important, so make sure to consider the specifics behind what they can offer. Building links in the wrong way can just end up adding more links to your existing content without giving you any benefit beyond that.
Quality is key. A good link is one that adds a lot to your SEO and provides you with some tangible benefits, even if that is just higher rankings for specific keywords.
Backlink quality is generally dictated by a few core things: the original page’s value in the eyes of search engines, the relevancy of the page the link is coming from, and the keyword being used in the content.
Ideally, you want very relevant links with accurate keywords coming from sites that are well-known and well-respected. A site with good SEO and search rankings of its own is far more likely to give you a link that will benefit your own site too.
Bad quality links are things like spam links, links from sites that have a very flimsy link portfolio, or links with keywords that are not even related to the content in question. A forced unrelated connection will not contribute much, and spam can actively damage your SEO instead of improving it.
The higher quality a link is, the more “link juice” it will provide. You want to choose good referring domains that offer good links with high-relevancy keywords – at least as your main source of links.
It would not be wrong to say that link quality is basically desirability. The more desirable the backlinks pointing at your site would be, the higher quality they tend to be.
Broken Link Types
Try to understand the original context of the content that the link pointed to. It is important to provide something that “lives up to” the original; otherwise, the site’s owner may simply remove the link altogether.
In general, you have two types. General links are recommendations to a whole resource, such as external links to entire online stores. The other, deep links, are more context-focused and are often external links directly to a particular page for a certain reason.
These are different for a reason. Other sites hosting general links may be more likely to recommend a similar site in general, whereas deep links are more specific but also usually more valuable.
If you offer something that almost perfectly replaces the previous content, you can expect deep links to be fairly easy to get. However, if you deviate too much or do not offer the same kind of details that the original had, you may end up not getting the link at all.
Creating More Content
You can’t claim a broken link without having content that matches it, and that means that you often have to create some new content if you do not have a relevant page already.
This can be easier than it sounds, but you need to make sure that the content’s context, tone, and goals match up with what the link would suggest. If the original content does not exist as indexed pages anywhere, then you have to make assumptions.
For example, a helpful resources page about accounting will probably be linking to pages that relate to doing your own accounting work, calculating important parts of a tax form, or getting third-party tools and help with your accounts.
You want your indexed pages to generally match up with the links, even if that means using a range of SEO tools to figure out the specific keywords that you should probably be including.
Insert Obvious Linkable Details
You don’t need to use a backlink analysis tool or backlinks report to figure out which parts of your content matter most – just make sure you include some “bait” that will make the page actually worth linking to.
Building up these sections is important. Even if you are extending the content with unnecessary extra words to make it longer, you need a section of content that contains relevant keywords and phrases that will maximize the benefit you get from the links.
Keep in mind that there are no surefire ways to get the perfect outcome straight away. The good part about hosting the content on your site is that you can always make changes, though – as long as you make a good first impression, you can tweak the content as needed in the future.
Include Actual Value
One mistake that many people make with content (including guest posting on other people’s sites) is not really saying anything. While this might not matter if you are inserting the content onto a site yourself, it does matter if you are trying to convince a site owner to add the link.
Expect content to get rejected if it does not offer any value beyond just filling a space. Of course, this might not apply if you are paying for the replacement – it depends on the preferences of the site owner and their own personal standards for what they will tolerate linking to.
Doing outreach is surprisingly easy. Using tools like Ahrefs Site Explorer and Check My Links can help you find a range of referring domains with broken links, then you can simply approach those referring domains with content prepared for them.
Getting in touch with the owners of the referring domains is important. Showing them the results of tools like Check My Links can be enough to convince many of them, especially if you show them the Check My Links details so that they can inspect the links themselves.
Basically, you want to show them that there are broken links and offer a replacement, sending a follow-up email if they do not reply. In the meantime, you can use Check My Links and other tools to search for additional opportunities elsewhere.
If they accept, then great. If they do not, then at least you will not have wasted much time on that website owner. And if they are vaguely open to the idea, you can begin to work on a more refined way of targeting them.
A large part of this kind of link building is based on common sense. Think about the things your customers might put into the search bar and the keywords that you would get the best results from targeting.
While highlighting broken links is useful, you need to know a way of actually using them, and you need to find or prepare content that suits them.
Tools like Check My Links are great for breaking down the link profile of a site, but Check My Links can’t tell you the best kind of content to create or the keywords that will matter the most for that specific link.
Think carefully about each decision you make, and do not overextend yourself. Going too far away from the niche that your business occupies can make it even harder to secure these links.
Whatever you decide to target and whichever ways you push for more links, just remember that there are countless different broken links out there you can target. Do not get hung up on a specific link, especially not when there are always others you might be able to acquire instead.
Scott Calland is a highly regarded content specialist with an English Degree. He has a passion for creating compelling content as a UK journalist that engages, informs, and entertains readers. With over 10 years of experience in creating news publications as a reporter, Scott has developed a keen eye for detail and a deep understanding of how to craft content that resonates with audiences. Working closely with data analysts Scott’s research on topics is unrivalled for latest news updates.
Scott is also an investor in Searcharoo.