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Broken link building

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Broken link building might not be the most glamorous SEO strategy (compared to guest post outreaching and others) for building links, but it sure does still work in 2022. This guide will discuss everything there’s to know about this SEO tactic, including showing you a few advanced tips you can implement immediately to benefit your business.

Finally, we will share an easy-to-personalise email template that you can use for your outreach campaigns if you decide to use this tactic for your link building SEO strategy.

With that said, let’s dive straight in!

What is broken link building?

Have you ever clicked a link and an error message popped up saying that the ‘web page does not exist’ or ‘you have typed an invalid URL?’ Well, that's an example of a broken link. This occurs when the content on a referred web page is removed without an HTML redirection.

Broken link building SEO strategy (sometimes also called dead link building) is where a webmaster builds backlinks to their site by replacing links to broken pages (404 pages) with a working link to the target website.

Usually, the process entails finding the dead links/pages, recreating content that existed on those pages, and then telling all those still linking to that dead resource to instead link to the fresh content you just created.

Is broken link building scalable?

Before we can answer your question, you should know that broken link building is a win-win situation for both you, the content creator and the target website domain owner.

The latter is getting notified about a problem on their website (linking to non-existent pages hurts their SEO and user experience).

On the other hand, you will likely get a backlink to your website if the site owner agrees to link back to your recreated content. So, a win-win situation.

Back to the question, broken link building, like most SEO strategies, gets such a bad rap today, which explains why many SEOs and website owners keep complaining that it no longer works.

But here’s the thing. This tactic still works and is scalable – but only if you have a clear process to follow.

In the following sections, we will show you a 3-step process that comprises how to find broken links, recreating dead content and tips for running a successful broken link building outreach campaign.

And yes, at the tail end, we will share a helpful email template you can steal.

How to successfully find high-quality dead pages and links

As with most things in life, the broken link building SEO strategy is a numbers game. This means that you need to prioritise web pages with lots of external links to increase your chances of finding broken ones and find enough link prospects to go for.

But how do you identify these pages? The first place to look is Wikipedia. Then there are the links-laden resource pages and finally, popular businesses that have closed recently.

Finding broken links on Wikipedia

Ever visited a Wikipedia page and observed its reference section? Some popular pages contain tens of references – and these provide an excellent opportunity for anyone searching for 404 pages.

And no, these are not your ordinary 404 pages. They are dead links that many websites are probably linking to already.

So how do you identify Wikipedia dead links?

Here’s a simple search string that works in Google:

site:wikipedia.org “keyword” intext:”dead link”

For our example, we will use the keyword ‘catwalk’ and try to see if any Wikipedia page that pops on SERPs contains a dead link – or even several.

So our Google search would look like this:

We will then click on the first result (arrowed) and this will lead us to the following page:

We will then scroll to the reference section to try and find some dead links.

And we can see there is a link that has the tag ‘permanent dead link’ which means that it’s broken. Indeed, when we click on it, it leads us to a 404 page. Voila! We now have the first broken link that we can use.

But that’s the easy part, to be honest. There’s still a lot to be done to have your site to replace this dead page. So we push on.

Another hurdle appears: approaching the Wikipedia webmasters and asking them to use your content as a replacement for the dead page is no walk in the park. Their editors are some of the pickiest you will ever deal with on the Internet. But don’t worry. There’s an easier route to use.

Open a backlink analysis tool of your choice – we swear by Ahrefs here at Profit Engine – but others like SEMrush and Majestic SEO will still work.

Add the dead link you just found on Wikipedia to the tool’s broken link checker to find sites that are linking to that page – alongside Wikipedia of course.

In our case, we found six sites in total. You can now scroll through the domains and approach those that align with your website to try and get them to link to your page (more on that later).

Find broken links on competitor resource pages and link round-up posts

As we said, resource pages and link round-up posts are other excellent places to target for the broken link building technique. Like Wikipedia pages, you can also uncover these resources using a few simple search strings. Some of the best ones that work include:

  • “Keyword” + inurl:resources
  • “Keyword” + “useful resources”
  • “Keyword” + intitle:links
  • “Keyword” + “helpful resources”

Here’s one example we found with the search string: “link building” + inurl:resources

Once you’ve found a resource page that you like, run a tool like Check My Links Google Chrome extension. This method is best when you have competitor websites and some of their backlinks are dead.

After installing the plugin, you would need to go through their old posts and find those that contain dead links. You can then recreate the dead content and reach out to your target sites requesting them to replace the dead link with your new content.  

Find websites linking to closed domains/business

This next step has a high success rate because of its rare occurrence. It’s not every day a big, successful business – ideally your competitor – closes shop. If you are lucky to find one and implement the process we share with you here, there’s no way you won’t bank good links for your business.

So let's say a website is shutting down. A good example is the recent shutting down of complete.com. If your business competed directly with this business, you could take advantage of this opportunity to acquire some of the links they had built. But how?

First, you must confirm that the website actually closed down. Next, throw their domain in a backlink analysis checker to identify every website that links to it.

You can see this site has a whopping 23,680 backlinks – all of these offer a perfect opportunity for your broken link building campaign.

By now you know the drill; identify linking websites that align with yours – in terms of niche, authority and reputation. Reach out to all of them notifying them that they are linking to a dead/expired website.

Offer a worthy replacement piece of content to which they will be happy to link to. And as simple as it might sound, you have acquired another backlink for your online business.

Here are a couple of tips for a successful broken link building outreach

At this point, you’re probably already done finding the broken links, recreating the dead content and are ready to approach the webmaster and pitch your idea. How do you do this and not mess it up?

You need to find the right contact details of the webmaster

Always go the extra mile to ensure you have the right contact details, it's THE fundamental part of your outreach process. You don’t want to do all the hard work only to send your emails to people who do not have the authority to edit websites e.g. junior writers. Besides, you want to avoid emails to non-existing addresses.

Keep your approach straight to the point and not pushy

Never outright tell the webmaster what to do, and instead provide them with the list of the dead links on their site and suggest to them that your content is the best replacement. While at this do not be push or sound desperate either.

Here is a sample email you can use. Of course, feel free to tweak it a bit to suit your exact messaging and campaign.

Hey [name]

Just finished reading through your post, [title of the post].

Such an excellent read, that had me rethink the way I run my business.

It really stuck with me when you [rephrase something they mentioned in the article].

While at it though, I noted that one of your links is pointing to a 404 page.

In case you are still updating the post, we recently released a guide that might make a nice replacement.

Want to take a look? Please check it here: [your link]

Either way, keep it up with the awesome work at [their brand name].


[Your name]

Now over to you!

As we mentioned at the start of this guide, broken link building is not dead yet – and we don’t see it dying any time soon. Sure, the whole process is somewhat time-consuming and the success rate especially with getting responses and link placement might not be the highest.

Can the process be made easier or streamlined? Absolutely! You can hire specialist link builders like us here at Profit Engine to do all the work for you as you watch those high-quality backlinks stream in and your site goes up on Google results.

Contact us today to book a free broken link building strategy call. We guarantee to make your link building efforts as successful and hassle-free as possible.

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