404 error page on laptop screen

Developing a successful link building strategy takes time, and there are a lot of methods to consider. One of the first methods that should be considered is broken link-building.

If conducted correctly, this can significantly increase your website’s authority and in turn increase organic traffic to your site.

In the past, Google ranked websites based on the volume of inbound links it had from other external websites. However, since Google’s 2012 Penguin algorithm update, this has changed, and now the quality of the link matters far more than the quantity of links. That is why it is important to be selective about which sites you target for broken link building.

In this article, I will provide you with a step-by-step guide on why broken link building is so important, and how to go about successfully achieving links to your site by using this effective SEO strategy.

Why Consider Broken Link Building?

This method carries significant SEO value and if done correctly, it can increase your website’s authority and in turn grow your online presence. When you fix a broken link, you are gaining a link from a page that has already hopefully been indexed and “seasoned” a little, which may include ranking for some key terms and have some page authority.

If a website has broken external links, it can harm the site’s SEO. This is a key point you need to get across to webmasters when pitching to fix broken links. If a webmaster leaves a broken external link on their website, then this is bad for their own site.

To successfully build broken links to your site, there is a process that you need to follow. You must make a plan before executing your strategy if you want to achieve your SEO goals. One of the main goals of generating links using this strategy is contextual relevance. This means that the sites that you are aiming to build links from are as relevant to your website and business as possible. For instance, if you own an online pet store, you would not aim to generate links from an online office furniture trade magazine.

Use SEO Tools to Find Broken Links and Reclaim Them for Your Site

There could be many reasons for a broken link, such as the specific page the link is connected to no longer exists, or there is an issue with the server hosting the site.

The best way to find out if you have broken external links is to use an SEO tool such as SEMRush, Ahrefs or Moz. They all come with site audit tools that allow you to investigate what issues you have with your website, including broken links.

To make the process clear, I will demonstrate how to use SEMRush’s Backlink Audit tool. This is a quick and easy way to find what broken links your site has on external pages, which will help you to begin structuring an efficient broken link strategy:

1. Open the Backlink Audit in SEMRush

SEMRush is a fantastic way of finding broken links. To do this, you will need to navigate to the Backlink Audit tool on SEMRush’s dashboard menu, located on the left-hand side.

SEMRush Backlink Audit

2. Open the ‘Lost & Found’ Section

From here, you will want to click on the ‘Lost & Found’ section which will give you three different types of links to your site – New, Broken and Lost. You will want to untick ‘New’ and ‘Lost’ and only select the ‘Broken’ tickbox.

Selecting this presents broken link data. This chart shows exactly how many broken external links your site has and the date that these links were disconnected.

3. Click on the ‘Broken’ Tab to View Your Broken Links

Once the tab has been opened, you can locate where the broken links are, the anchor text and the server error attributed to the link e.g. 404, 403, 500 etc.

The list also provides the date of the most recent server status update, as well as the domain authority (AS) and the toxicity score of the site hosting the link.

Broken Links

You can also export the broken link list as a CSV file and open it in Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel as a spreadsheet.

How to Find Broken Link Opportunities From Your Competitors

SEMRush also has a fantastic tool for discovering broken link opportunities through your competitors. Using the Backlink Analytics tool, you can search a competitor’s domain and discover the external links that are broken, as well as the type of server error that’s causing it.

To do this, use the following step-by-step guide:

1. Search for Your Competitor

In SEMRush, click on the ‘Backlink Analytics’ section on the left-hand side of the dashboard. Once this has opened, enter your competitor’s URL in the search bar and click analyse.

2. Click on the ‘Indexed Pages’ Section

Once you are on the Backlink Analytics section of SEMRush, open ‘Indexed Pages’ to view all of the crawled external pages linking to your competitors’ website.

3. Tick the ‘Target URL error’ Box to View Broken Links

This section will initially open all results of the indexed external pages linking to the competitors’ site. Once you tick this checkbox, it will only show results for broken links, alongside the server error that’s caused the issue.

SEMRush Target URL error

4.Click on the ‘Backlinks’ Column and Begin to Seize Broken Link Opportunities

You will want to click on one of the numerical figures under the ‘Backlinks’ column to open the page results for your chosen broken link. This will take you to a list of all the indexed pages that contain these links to the chosen site.

SEMRush Backlinks


From here, you can target the pages that contain links back to the site. This section includes the page source, the number of links on the page to the website and the hyperlinked anchor text. These are all valuable resources to help you contact the webmaster and provide them with the correct information when trying to replace the links.

Another thing worth mentioning is you need to select pages that have a high Authority Score. The higher the domain authority that contains a link back to your site, the better SEO value it carries.

SEMRush Backlink Features

You also want to ensure you target more “NoFollow” links, rather than “DoFollow”. NoFollow links carry less value, so you want to avoid these. To do this, click on the ‘Follow’ tab which will open all of the pages that contain ‘DoFollow’ links, which carries more value on Google.

Backlinks

You can also export the list as an Excel or CSV file and you can also open these in Google Docs. From here, you can open the Link Building Tool in SEMRush and import this list along with an outreach strategy that includes contacts of the webmasters for the pages that have broken link opportunities.

Use Chrome Extensions and WordPress Plugins

You can download Google Chrome extensions that can provide you with more information about broken links. Tools such as Check My Links are excellent for searching through websites and pinpointing any links that lead to an invalid page. To find broken links through Check My Links, all you need to do is install the Chrome extension and pin it to your Google taskbar. Once activated, you can see broken links that are highlighted in red on web pages.

Tip: You can also find broken internal links on your own website by using the Broken Link Checker plugin on WordPress. You will be able to find the number of broken links on your site, where they are located within your site, and also have the option to customise your notification settings by receiving emails when a broken link has been found.

Create an Outreach Strategy

There is one question you need to ask yourself before developing your broken link-building outreach strategy – How will I achieve my goals? That is the question you need to keep in mind. If you do, you will structure a coherent plan that will keep you engaged with relevant webmasters. As a result, this can increase your likelihood of replacing a broken link with an outgoing link to your site.

It is also important to ask yourself the following questions when structuring your outreach strategy:

If you implement an outreach strategy by asking yourself these important questions, you are well on your way to achieving a successful broken link-building campaign.

You will need to include the following information in your outreach strategy to help you execute your campaign:

Implementing Your Strategy and Contacting the Webmaster

Now that you have completed all of your research and structured an outreach strategy, you can begin to contact the webmasters of the sites you have identified in your audit.

The best thing you can do is to prepare a well-structured email template to send out to your targeted contacts.

You need to make sure that the webmaster is convinced from the beginning. These are the key things to consider when opening dialogue with your key contact:

If you structure an email by considering this strategy, then you are more likely to achieve your broken link-building goals.

A good example of a link building email would be the below:

Hello (webmaster’s name),

I was recently searching through some Digital Marketing websites for some reading material and I came across (webmaster’s URL). I love the website and the content on there is excellent. However, I couldn’t help but notice that there was a broken link on your site and I thought it was best to let you know about it.

The broken link can be located here – (page URL and anchor text)

I do happen to have a similar page on my website. Would you like to replace the link with the below page instead?

(your page URL)

Let me know if this works for you.

Kind regards,
James Lovick

Ultimately, there are dozens of ways you can do this, but more times than not the above approach will at least open dialogue with the webmaster. From here, you are one step closer to building a broken link back to your website.

Remember - Broken Link Building is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Search Engine Optimisation is never a short-term process. Most methods can take weeks and even months to take effect, and broken link building is no different.

Once you have launched your campaign and started to implement your broken link-building strategy, it is important to make sure you dedicate your time to this on a monthly basis.

It is also important to check your organic traffic on a weekly or monthly basis. This will be an indicator as to whether your link-building strategy is working or not based on your conversion rate.

If it’s been a month and you haven’t seen any big changes, remember – DO NOT PANIC! This will take time, and the more broken links you replace on external sites, the more organic traffic you will generate back to your website.

Need help with a broken link-building strategy to boost your website’s SEO? Get in touch with us today.

James Lovick

James Lovick

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