You need all the help you can get when you’re building a website. It’s a competitive industry; no matter what business you’re trying to build, you can guarantee that others will be just as vociferous in trying to get customers or clients as you are. That’s why you need to try and gain every advantage that’s available to you. One of the ways you can do that is to make sure that lots of sites out there are linking to you (provided they’re above board, of course); this increases your authority and makes people more likely to see your site “in the wild”.
There are plenty of strategies for doing this. Generally speaking, it’s a bad idea to try and buy links, because Google will heavily penalise you for doing so. However, there’s nothing wrong with reaching out to other sites and asking if they’ll link to you, and one of the best ways to achieve this is via a practice known as broken link building. So, what exactly is broken link building? Let’s find out. Here’s our complete guide to broken link building!
What is broken link building?
In a nutshell, broken link building refers to spotting someone else’s broken links and offering to switch out one of your links for the broken one. Let’s say that your fitness business, Mike’s Fitness, is looking to build some organic backlinks. You sell fitness equipment and you ship around the world, so you don’t mind where on the globe your links come from.
With broken link building, you would spot a link on someone’s website that led to a fitness equipment shop and offer to swap out your own link for theirs. A typical email might read like this.
Dear (site owner name),
I was browsing your site and came across an article titled “10 Best Treadmills You Have To Try”. The article was really well-written, but I couldn’t help noticing that the shop link you’ve set up to one of the treadmills is broken.
Might I suggest linking to my site, Mike’s Fitness, instead? We sell the same treadmill as the one you’ve included in your article, and it’s even slightly cheaper than the site you originally linked!
Thanks for reading my email, and I’m looking forward to working with you!
Obviously, you can change the wording and other aspects of the email to suit you, but in a nutshell, that’s how broken link building works.
How can I identify broken links I can target?
It’s basically impossible to try and find broken links if you’re not using some kind of software. This is because there are millions upon millions of websites out there, and even searching through a fraction of them manually for broken links will take you far more time than will ever be practical.
As such, you should use a tool like Ahrefs’ Site Explorer or Moz’s Link Explorer to look for sites that have broken links. You can do this for your own site as well, and we’d recommend doing so, because having broken links on your site is a surefire way to get Google to ignore you while it’s crawling for pages.
Using one of these tools, you can filter pages that return a 404 Not Found error message, which is the error that displays when a link is broken. You can then target the links leading back to those pages and contact their sites’ webmasters to ask if you can swap out a link of your own. It’s that simple!
Does broken link building work?
The jury is out on whether broken link building definitely works all the time or not. Many content creators and digital marketing gurus say that it does work, but that you need to put the right amount of time and effort into it, otherwise you’ll find it an ineffective strategy. Some skeptics say that it doesn’t work at all, and that your time is better spent elsewhere. We don’t have a definitive answer on this, but given that broken link building can be streamlined easily once you know what you’re doing, the effort is likely to be worth it for the return.
Some tips for broken link building
If you’re going to embark on a broken link building journey, then there are some tips you should bear in mind. Here are some basic tips and tricks to help you with your broken link building endeavours.
- Search for content as well as websites. Don’t just look for relevant sites; search for content as well. There are tools out there that help you look for content about certain topics, and that content might contain broken links, even if it’s not on a site specifically dedicated to that topic.
- Check your competitors. Your competitors might actually be a good source of broken links; they might be linking to something they don’t offer, but you do, and if the page is dead, you might be able to convince them to link to you instead for that particular service.
- Try resource pages. You might have seen those “50 Best Resources For X” pages out there. Those can be a good source of broken links, as they’re often very long articles with links to pages that die frequently. If you’re looking for broken link building strategies, starting with resource lists is a good idea.
- Make sure to check domain authority. Searching for broken links without vetting websites and link quality first is a bad idea. Again, there are lots of SEO tools out there to help you figure out link quality, so make sure to use one of those in order to ensure the link you’re swapping out is worthwhile. You don’t want your link on a disreputable page, after all.
- Create content if it doesn’t exist. This should be obvious, but broken link building isn’t limited to just content you already have. Why not identify broken link opportunities for content you could create to suit the purpose? This way, you can fill niches in the market as and when you identify them.
- Decide on your approach. You could either send requests to replace broken links to lots of webmasters at once, or specifically target them one-by-one. However you decide to do it, make sure that you’ve thought your outreach approach through.