Broken Link Building for SEO

The world of search engine optimization continually evolves and increases in complexity. But one fact stays constant: great backlinks will give you a ranking boost like nothing else.

There are many ways to go about building these links, from guest posting to outright link buying. However, one of the most effective ways of acquiring quality links is also one of the most widely underestimated.

Broken Link Building

Broken link building has been quietly providing powerful backlinks for savvy online marketers for years. It shows no signs of becoming any less useful, no matter how search engine algorithms may shift in the future.

What Is Broken Link Building?

The basic idea behind broken link building is to find websites linking to pages that have disappeared from the web since the link was published.

Finding these broken links and suggesting your own content as a replacement offers benefits all around. The webmaster fixes a problem and increases value for their visitors. Your website gains a welcome link for relatively little work or expense.

What’s more, pages hosting broken links are usually on aged domains, which means that they pass on more authority. They’ll also often link out to other quality sites in your field, making these links exceptionally desirable from a relevancy standpoint.

This all sounds appetizingly straightforward, but as with most things SEO, the devil is in the details. How can you approach broken link building as a scalable, efficient process rather than merely an interesting concept?

Sourcing the Links

Your first task is to explore your niche for sites containing relevant outbound links. Depending on your sector, these could be informational resource sites, commercial sites with a links page, or even broad-based sites in the Wikipedia mold.

There are many ways to find potential target sites. Here are a few ideas to use as a starting point.

  • Analyze the backlink profiles of direct competitors to find links that look organic rather than bought, traded, or otherwise manipulated. Some tools that can help with finding backlinks are Linkminer, Linkody, or the free backlink checker tool at Backlinktest.com.
  • Search Google for your keyword along with "inurl:resources," "inurl:links," and similar terms.
  • Search using informational queries within your niche, such as "how to keyword," "tips keyword," and other terms likely to return non-commercial pages around your topic.

Whichever approach you choose, the aim is to put together a list of domains in your niche that host outbound links. Feed these domains into a broken link checker and compile a list of the outbound links that return an error. Visit the source pages manually to see if they are promising candidates for the next stage in broken link prospecting.

Producing Replacement Content

Now that you’ve drawn up a list of broken links, your next step should be to check your own site for potential replacement material. Although you may already have a page that provides an easy drop-in, it’s more likely that you won’t have ready-made content that’s a perfect fit.

This is important. For the broken link technique to work, you need to make it easy for the webmaster of your target website. Your content should slot in neatly and should ideally be of higher quality than the original link target. Usually, this means producing custom content for each individual broken link you discover.

How much time and effort you put into this content creation depends on the value of the potential link you’ll gain. Ultimately, however, producing high-quality content for your site is never a wasted effort, even if not every link request is successful.

Which Type of Content to Create?

If you can find a copy of the original page on the Wayback Machine, then your task will be straightforward. Simply create a like-for-like replacement, while making sure it’s not a straight duplicate. Ideally, you should aim to improve on the original to add extra value.

However, if you have no archived material available to work from, then take your cues from the linking page topic and the context of the link itself. Try to produce an excellent page that will impress your target webmaster, even if your content isn’t a direct match with the original.

Sealing the Deal

Once you’ve created your replacement content and published it on your own site, it’s time to contact the webmaster or owner of your target site. Check the contact page for an email address, social media account, or online contact form you can use to get in touch with the site maintainer.

Next, write a message that’s customized to the site in question. Your aim is to convince the webmaster that linking to your content is an easy way to add value to their site. Stress that they’ll be fixing a broken link problem as well as providing a genuinely useful resource for their visitors.

Be clear, to the point, and polite. Some marketers like to pose as an everyday user pointing out the broken link as a favor. Others prefer a more straightforward approach with no pretense. Either method can work well, but be aware that owners of high-quality sites will likely be inundated with link requests and will rarely show any patience if they spot attempted subterfuge.

Whichever approach you choose, present a short overview of your replacement content and how it’ll help the target site’s users.

If you put together the right combination of quality content and a convincing pitch, you stand an excellent chance of picking up a powerful link from an aged domain, surrounded by links to other quality resources in your niche. This is backlinking gold, and it’s well worth putting in the time and effort necessary to maximize your chances of success.

However, even if each link-hunting expedition doesn’t bear the fruit you’re looking for, you’ll still have developed a piece of content worthy of attracting natural, organic links under its own steam.

A good backlink profile should look as natural as possible, and this means striving for variety. Broken link building offers the tempting chance of a wide array of natural, powerful links that will boost the rankings of any site in any niche.


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