Broken link building is a viable link building strategy that, to this day, continues to fly under the radar. For those unfamiliar with the concept, broken link building starts with identifying websites that link to dead pages. From there, the goal is to create similar content for that website to link to.
Websites disappear all the time -- that's the nature of the Web. The good news is, you can use the broken links they leave in their wake to improve your own search engine rankings.
The first step to broken link building is keyword research. Before we begin, you'll need to break yourself free of your typical keyword research habits. Your lawn care company won't be trying to nail down "lawn care Columbus" today. Instead, you'll be looking for websites that serve as resource centers -- the kinds of websites that would compile a list of the top lawn care posts.
The best way to do this is to consider broader categories. In this case, you'll want lawn care or lawn maintenance.
Here are some search operators you can use to help with your search. As you prospect your niche, you should notice footprints that occur between pages likely to link to you. Keep note of those for use in future prospecting.
[your category] + "top websites"
[your category] + "top articles"
[your category] + "more links"
Allinurl:top 10 list + "your keyword"
Allinurl:links.html + "your keyword (good for resource pages and broken links)
You get the idea. Experiment with different phrases you think could bring up websites that would link to your content.
Compiling search results
This is a time suck, but there are some things you can do to make this more efficient, enabling you to scale broken link building. Here are a couple ways to find broken links quickly:
One early SEO tool that never seems to run out of good uses is Scrapebox. This tool removes a lot of the headaches from the prospecting process.
Scrapebox enables you to search and return data from Google search results at scale. From there, you can use an Add-on called "Scrapebox Broken Links Checker" to see if any of the pages have broken links. Using this app will save you hours, if not days.
This free tool will crawl a website and display broken links. That is great, once you have a list of sites to crawl. One easy way to find niche sites to crawl for broken links is by checking blog aggregators like Alltop. They list good blogs in many niches, you just have to plug them into the link checker and wait for it to do its job.
With either tool, once you find a link to an external page that no longer exists, plug that URL into a link tool like Ahrefs to find the other sites linking to that missing page. Doing this can easily turn 1 "404" page into numerous link opportunities. Export a list of the sites you find and consolidate them all into a spreadsheet for further review.
Narrowing down results
Now that you have a website that links to pages in your company's industry, we need to narrow things down a bit more. We'll narrow the field by getting rid of any results that have only broken internal links (websites linking to their own missing pages). Website managers are far less likely to replace an internal link with a link to an outside resource. Targeting broken external links only will increase your odds of success and save you time.
Finding relevant websites
There's still more trimming down to do. Next, we're going to review the results to ensure the websites remaining are actually relevant to your business. After all, what good is a backlink that comes from a bowling website instead of a lawn care website? Google is smarter than it used to be -- links from unrelated websites aren't going to benefit you as much (unless for local SEO) as they did before. They may even hurt your rankings, so it's better to be safe than sorry.
Creating new, matching content
Now that we have our perfect list of candidates, it's time to identify what exactly the broken links were linking to and create replacement content. It may help to use the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine to look at the dead URL for some inspiration. Do not copy that content verbatim, though. Focus on creating good, original content that a website manager would want to link to.
Reaching out to websites
Here's the fun part: reaching out websites with broken links to a) be the good guy and help them fix a mistake, and b) be an even better guy and offer them a new link. Look for an email address in the "Contact" section of the website, or, if one isn't published, use a contact form. If you strike out with those two options, you could also try a WHOIS search to see if contact information is available there.
Once you find a viable form of communication, be polite and helpful. Let the website owner or manager know that you found a broken link while browsing the site. Follow up by offering a link to your own content as a replacement -- IF they find it meets their standards.
Don't be pushy about it, and respect the fact that this person may have a lot on their plate. If you get results at all, it might not be for several weeks.
On that note, follow up is CRITICAL for broken link building. Like salespeople, link builders should follow up until they get a firm no, and stop only then if it cannot be further discussed. Don't worry, website owners are not shy to tell you "no" or many worse things for contacting them so, you can usually tell when they really are not interested.
As mentioned earlier, broken link building is time consuming and repetitive, but it is a good way to get solid links on good sites.
Creativity, follow-up, and good prospecting can take you a long way in the link building game.
About the Author
Travis Bliffen is the founder of Stellar SEO, a Web design and marketing firm located in Franklin, TN. Travis and his team are equipped to handle any size SEO project and have helped numerous businesses to date build a rock solid online presence. When you are ready for more leads and sales, it is time to get #stellarized. Connect on Facebook or Twitter @theseoproz.
I am fiercely competitive and passionate about SEO, which means working with myself and the Stellar SEO team will put you on the winning side. Nothing about SEO is guaranteed, but we make a habit of helping brands dominate, even in the most competitive of industries. Since 2012, my company, Stellar SEO, has become one of the most highly regarded names in Search Engine Optimization. Taking the unconventional route, my journey to becoming an SEO industry expert began after reading a magazine article with a "Best Business to Start" headline. Starting with no funding or prior business experience, I began researching everything I could about entrepreneurship and SEO. In the process, I personally tested every theory, piece of sales advice, and "proven" method to deliver effective link-building campaigns. I found that there is no one-size-fits-all method or magic guru tricks to link building.