Broken link building can be a great way to build backlinks to your site. It can also be very time-consuming, and in the end, you’re at the mercy of the person you’re asking to change their links.
This broken link building process leaves many to question — is it really worth it? The short answer is, it’s totally worth it. If you do it right. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you will waste substantial time and have little — if anything — to show for it.
These broken link building tips are broken into categories to give you insight into how to navigate the various stages of the broken link building process.
Also, read Advanced Link Building Strategies.
Start with the right broken link building tools
Everything to do with broken link building can be done manually, for free.
This is not a great idea. You’ll spend a lot of time performing tasks that can be easily automated — for free.
To find broken links on a website, your best bets are the following Google Chrome plugins:
- Check My Links
- Domain Hunter+
If you’re not happy with those, you can also use:
- Xenu’s Link Sleuth (not for Mac)
- Broken Frog — a suite of SEO tools that includes broken link finding.
- W3C’s Link Checker — developed by Mozilla.
These will let you scan an entire webpage to find broken links without having to manually check them all yourself. This is perhaps the single biggest time — and effort — saver in the entire broken link building process.
How to Find Broken Links
To find the links, a good old Google search will get the ball rolling. You can model your queries as such:
- Your keyword + links
- Your keyword(s) + resources
- Keywords inurl:links
- intitle:KEYWORD inurl:links -exchange
- intitle:KEYWORD inurl:resources
- inurl:links KEYWORD –
Switch your search settings to only display the top 100 results. You can enter the list of links into Xenu or Screaming Frog to quickly check for 404 pages contained within them.
After removing any pages without broken links, you can then go and add individual sites to any of the tools listed in the first tip. These will generate lists of broken links within these specific pages for you to peruse.
You can then check those broken links to discover who else is linking to them. This will develop your contact list for when you start emailing people.
You now have broken links and people to contact. Great!
Time to start emailing? Not yet. Here’s our next tip:
Determine link quality
Not all links are created equal. It will be worth your time trying to broken link building some of these results; others you’re better off leaving well enough alone.
There are a few things to consider.
- Does the page have good link authority? Are these broken links on pages that turn up at the top of search results, or bottom?
- Is the site active? An inactive site from five years ago won’t be much use.
- Is there social engagement? A post that’s been shared but has broken links can be a goldmine.
- How does the site look? A poorly designed site isn’t likely to live as long as a nicely designed site with a slick layout. Longevity is important.
These are all good indicators that the site is worth pursuing.
But there are plenty of indicators the site is not worth pursuing.
- Too many broken links. Over ten can be a good sign the site’s probably not worth your time.
- Spam links. If there are links going to viagra, iPod sweepstakes, and things like that — probably not the kind of people you want your site associated with.
- Too many links, period. A site that’s just linking to a thousand other places isn’t going to send any appreciable traffic your way.
Curate your list to sort the wheat from the chaff so you’re not wasting time on broken links that won’t help.
OK, now you’ve got this list, it’s time to start emailing.
Don’t miss Types of link building techniques.
Tips for finding contact details
The most obvious methods are:
- Check the contact or about page on the website.
- Look for a contact form built into the website.
But this won’t always return useful results. Sometimes you have to dig deeper. Google searches can actually be useful here:
- Google site:DOMAIN.COM email
- Google site:DOMAIN.COM @DOMAIN.COM gmail.com hotmail.com yahoo.com msn.com live.com
If that doesn’t work, you could also try looking for a Twitter handle. This can be a good way to find people and start a conversation prior to reaching out about broken links.
Template your emails (but not too much)
Once you’ve got your list of broken links and your contact details, it’s time to start sending off emails.
This can take a long time when you’re sending an email to every. Single. Page. You’ve found relevant broken links. Templating the email will cut down a lot of time.
But you don’t want to template it too much. It needs to be a bit personal and feel like it was written by a person. The second you look like you’re a bot, people are going to ignore your request to fix their broken links.
The other key thing is to not just have one template. Different websites will require different approaches.
The basic template will be the one-and-done email. You contact the website owner, point out the broken links, present your link and maybe one or two trustworthy links, with them well and hope for the best.
A template might look something like this. This is paraphrased from moz.com’s excellent blog on broken link generation:
Subject Line: (FIRST NAME), (DOMAIN.COM) broken links
Hello (WEBSITE OWNER FIRST NAME),
My name is (YOUR FIRST NAME) and I wanted to let you know I really liked your post about (BLOG POST TOPIC — DON’T USE ACTUAL TOPIC TITLE, DON’T USE MOST RECENT ARTICLE). I particularly enjoyed the part about (QUOTE FROM POST) because …
In any case, when I was looking at your (DESCRIBE PAGE/POST), I saw (A/SOME) broken (LINK/LINKS).
Give SPECIFIC LINK(s)
When you are settling the page, I likewise figure you ought to consider including these two resources:
(Comparative TRUSTWORTHY WEBSITE #1 NAME – WWW.DOMAIN.COM) – (BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF SITE – NOT A CORPORATE DESCRIPTION OR SLOGAN)
(INDIVIDUAL ANECDOTE ABOUT HOW THESE TWO SITES HAVE HELPED YOU).
I trust this email reaches you securely and causes you out a bit.
I am waiting for your reply soon.
-(YOUR FULL NAME)
This is your absolute basic broken link generating an email template. Says everything you need it to, and then gets out.
Sometimes you might want to put pressure on the webmaster to contact you before you let them know about their broken links. Start the conversation in a friendly manner, and be honest about the fact you’d like them to link to your site. Tell them they have broken links, but don’t provide the links unless they ask you about them. This way you know you’re more likely to get a link out of them.
I encourage you to read the moz.com post and check out their email templates. They cover a range of situations for getting your broken links built, from the blunt to the begging. By creating a library of templates, you’ll allow yourself to quickly adapt to any situation when approaching webmasters about broken links.