Like a prodigal family member, broken link building got re-embraced by SEOs after the series of Google algorithm updates known as Penguin.
Google Penguin and a slew of manual actions Google took against “unnatural” link builders cut the number of backlink methods SEOs had at their disposal at least by half, which lead to broken link building suddenly being in demand again.
That being said, let’s see what broken link building is, how it is done and what types of sites could use it effectively to reinforce their standing with Google and human users.
Broken Link Building: The Basic Model
In practice, broken link building may be carried out in a number of ways, but it essentially boils down to this: (A) you look for relevant sites that have broken links on them, (B) you determine which of the dead links could be replaced with links to your content, (C) you reach out to the site owner and ask him/her to make the swap.
What’s great about broken link building is that, any way you look at it, it’s a win-win situation. The site owner gets broken links fixed, and you get to get a relevant link to your content. Besides, no web spam gets produced in the process.
Who Would Benefit From Broken Link Building?
Broken link building may not be for all types of sites. For example, it’s hard to picture Forbes.com or NYTimes.com benefiting from it (think of the volume and the life cycle of the content they produce). Nor can I see how a site in a highly competitive niche (think payday loans) could use it to their advantage.
At the same time, there are categories of sites that are just right for this type of link building strategy. This is particularly true of any web property that uses content marketing as part of their promo campaign.
So, let’s see which types of sites could leverage broken link building and how.
Example 1: Blog
Let’s say you are the owner of NailNerd.Com, a nice little blog lightly sprinkled with AdSense (I’m not affiliated with them).
Imagine that you’d like to get some links to this blog through broken link building. What kind of sites would you search for? Most likely, these would be:
– sites relevant to the theme of your blog (manicure blogs, beauty blogs, etc.);
– sites with a blogroll, a “recommended sites” page, or similar.
Besides, it’s better if we first look into blogs that don’t look like they are set up for money-making purposes. We better first turn to amateur blogs, sites run by teenage girls, etc.
As a rule, a broken link building pro would use footprints to search for relevant sites. For instance, we could use the following queries (replace KEYWORD with any term that best describes your blog).
KEYWORD “useful pages”
KEYWORD “recommended pages”
KEYWORD “recommended reading”
To perform an experiment, let’s search for:
nail art “blogroll”
The first search result I got on Google for this query was this page. Voila, so to say, but unfortunately it’s in French – not so relevant for our NailNerd site.
However, the 7th result, Lucy’s Stash blogroll, looks more promising.
The next thing we’d want to do is (1) see if a link from this page would be profitable SEO-wise, and (2) check if any of these blogroll links are actually broken.
I explained at length how to assess a page’s SEO value for broken link building purposes in this article on my site. Basically, you’d need to use an SEO plugin (SEOquake would do) to check the page’s Google PageRank, age, incoming links, and other “telling” SEO metrics.
The next step would be to see if any of these links are broken. Instead of doing it by hand, you can use a plugin like Check My Links that will mark any broken links on a page red.
After we run the check, we can see that at least one link in the blogroll is pointing to a non-existent page.
So, the next thing you could do is to reach out to the blog’s owner, let them know about the broken link and see if they’d consider linking to NailNerd.com instead.
If you have a hard time finding the person’s contact details on the site, consider using the new gmail feature that lets you email virtually anyone with a Google+ account (provided you circle them before you do).
Example 2: E-commerce Site
For broken link building purposes, it’s better if your e-commerce site has a distinct area of specialization. If you sell a wide variety of products, it may be hard for you to execute the strategy.
As an example, let’s take GreenFingers.Com, a Scotland-based company that sells all things gardening, from garden tools, to garden furniture, to hunter socks.
If one were to search for broken link building opportunities for this site, what kind of sites would they look into? Perhaps landscape design sites or gardening enthusiasts? Let’s see.