5 Types of Sites That Could Benefit from Broken Link Building

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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).

broken link building site type 1

Screenshot from NailNerd.Com

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 “blogroll”

KEYWORD “resources”

KEYWORD “links”

KEYWORD “recommended”

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.

Screenshot from LucysStash.com

Screenshot from LucysStash.com

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.

Screenshot from LucysStash.com

Screenshot from LucysStash.com

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.

broken link building site type 5

Screenshot from GreenFingers.Com

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.

The footprints we could use to search for niche sites in this case could be:

site:.co.uk  KEYWORD “useful links”

site:.co.uk  KEYWORD “links”

site:.co.uk  KEYWORD “partners and links”

site:.co.uk KEYWORD “resources”

Let’s also specify that we’d like .co.uk sites in the results, because GreenFingers.com is UK-based.

So, if I search for:

garden furniture “recommended links” site:.co.uk

the top result I get is this PR-3 page from Garden Action, a gardening information site.

broken link building site type 6

Screenshot from GardenAction.co.uk

If you check the page with Check My Links, you’ll see that one of these links points to a 404 page:

broken link building site type 7

Screenshot from GardenAction.co.uk

Judging by the description of the page, it’s a site of some Bed and Breakfast place the site owner likes.

Technically, it cannot be replaced with a link to our site – this would be a poor match. However, it’s possible to still shoot the site owner an email and let them know this link is broken (which isn’t good in terms of both SEO and user experience), and ask if they’d be interested in featuring our store on their page (they do feature several other gardening product suppliers, so, there is a chance).

By the way, if you ever struggle to find the webmaster’s email address, you may like this article by Olga Filonchuk (my co-worker).  Olga talks about how to find nearly anyone’s email address use without much hassle.

Example 3: Service Provider

Another category of sites that could do broken link building successfully is service providers (small and local business owners).

For a second, let’s pretend I own the Sweet Grace website (a cake design service in New Jersey).

broken link building site type 8

screenshot from SweetGrace.Net

Who would be my ideal link partner? Most likely, I’d need to look for wedding planners’ sites or DIY yourself blogs (since I have a few cake baking tutorials on my site).

And, the kind of footprints I’d search by could be:

KEYWORD “vendors”

KEYWORD “useful links”

KEYWORD “tutorials”

KEYWORD “recommended sites”

KEYWORD “recommended pages”

Let’s search for:

cake decor tutorial “links”

Among the top 10 results, there is My Honeys Place – an AdSense site with “recipes, DIY projects, Amazing information”.

This page (which is PR 2 by the way) is dedicated to cake recipes. And – oh, no – the link to the Rainbow cake tutorial appears to be broken:

broken link building site type 9

Screenshot from MyHoneysPlace.Com

Perhaps our Photo Camera Cake Tutorial could be a good replacement for that page? So, let’s go ahead and tell the site’s owner about that in an email.

Example 4: Freelancer/Solo Consultant

Many freelancers struggle with link building, but, once you get a solid content marketing strategy, broken link building becomes quite easy to do – even if you run a one-man show.

It would be a piece of cake for me if I were Jordan Dick from Venturi Web. Jordan has a blog, a beautiful site and a legit-looking service. Convincing a webmaster to link to his site shouldn’t be much of a problem. But one needs to find the webmaster first, of course.

Screenshot from Venturi-Web-Design.Com

Screenshot from Venturi-Web-Design.Com

The footprints we could search by in this case could be:

KEYWORD “links”

site:.edu  KEYWORD “useful links”

site:.edu  KEYWORD “recommended”

site:.edu  KEYWORD “recommended sites”

site:.edu  KEYWORD “recommended reading”

Let’s search for .edu sites, since it’s often easy to get them to provide a link to a piece of educational content. For instance, if we search for:

site:.edu design basics “useful links”

One of the first results we get is this page from Web Network Technology.

Turns out, it has quite a few broken links on it (must have been around for a while then):

broken link building site type 10

Screenshot from ECC.edu

The first link looks like a good candidate. However, it’s not so obvious what kind of content used to be located at this Web address. But we can find this out with the help of the Internet’s WayBackMachine.

Here is a saved snippet of the now-missing page from April 12, 2012.

broken link building site type 11

Screenshot from Archive.Org

Looks like a simple guide to designing a website. Perhaps an article on Jordan’s blog would qualify as a replacement. Or maybe I could put together a similar blog post (brought up to date with the latest web design trends), and pitch it to the site’s webmaster.

Example 5: Intermediary Site

By intermediary sites I mean all sorts of platforms, comparison websites, communities, hubs, portals, and other resources, the value of which lies in aggregating or comparing data in a niche.

Let’s say you are relatively new presentation sharing website Speaker Deck.

broken link building site type 12

Screenshot from SpeakerDeck.Com

When searching for prospective sites with broken links, you’d probably aim for review and rating sites, pages with top [something] lists, posts with best [something] articles, etc.

So, the footprints to use could be:

KEYWORD “list”

KEYWORD “best”

KEYWORD “top” 2014

KEYWORD “review”

For example, as you may know, bloggers love making “top 10/20/… presentation sharing sites” lists. So, we could go ahead and see if any of them have broken links we could use to our advantage.

If we search for:

presentation sharing sites “list”

one of the top 10 results we get is this article on Hello Bloggerz by Obaidul Haque.

Luckily (for us), one of the ten presentation sharing sites mentioned in the post is unavailable (SlideSix).

broken link building site type 13

Screenshot from HelloBloggerz.Com

And here is a WayBackMachine snippet of it from October 1, 2012:

broken link building site type 14

Screenshot from Archive.Org

It does remind one of “our” site, Speaker Deck, doesn’t it? Then why not email the blog’s owner and inform him about the broken link. For once, I’m sure Obaidul Haque will see through my intent (which, in all honesty, is to build a link), but it’s OK, since he has nothing to lose: our replacement link is highly relevant and we’re going to help him fix a broken link, so we could try anyway.


These were just isolated examples. In reality, the directions in which you can search for relevant sites that may present broken link building opportunities would only be limited by your imagination.

And, although broken link building may be hard to implement for certain types of online businesses, if you run a blog, an e-commerce store, a local biz, a freelancer site, or an online platform, you can use this method effectively to develop some quality links to your site.

Do you know any other types of websites that could leverage the broken link building strategy? Do let us know in comments!


Image credit: CGinspiration at Shutterstock.com. Used under Shutterstock’s Standard license.

Alesia Krush

Alesia Krush

Alesia is an SEO and a digital marketer at Link-Assistant.Com, a major SEO software provider and the maker of SEO PowerSuite tools. Link-Assistant.Com is a group of SEO professionals with almost a decade of SEO experience.
Alesia Krush
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  • http://www.bdreports24.com/ samir

    Nice speech ! thanks

  • http://www.adxinternetmarketing.co.uk/ Ed Dorset

    Thanks Alesia, good advice. I have used broken link building with great success for a number of clients in competitive keword search markets. It does take time but I have found the results to be worth it.

    • Alesia Krush

      Thanks, Ed! I agree (hence the article) .


  • http://www.lionleaf.com/ Matthew

    Very handy information. Gonna try applying this one the sites that I’ve been working on.

  • Maria

    You probably should have gotten the site owner’s approvals before you used them as examples in this post…it would have been the courteous and professional thing to do.

  • Lisa

    This is very helpful and insightful but you didn’t ask the owners of the example sites for permission to be criticised for your article. It would have been polite and ethical to contact them first and ask to work with them.

    • Alesia Krush

      Hi Lisa,

      Perhaps you are right, but I didn’t really mean to criticize anyone’s website in the article.
      Each ans every site mentioned in it is in fact a great site .
      As for broken links, almost any website on the web has some. That’s because sites you link to come and go, and you never know when a link may become broken,
      So, if this is perceived as criticism, let it be known that that’s the last thing I intended.


      • Jordan

        Alesia, you have my blessing. I was mighty flattered that you used my site as an example. Thanks for the useful tips and thanks for the link 😉

  • Joe

    Hi Alesia,

    I am new to link building, but I have read about broken link building campaigns. I really liked your article and thought you mentioned a lot of useful tools. My question/concern is the effectiveness of broken link building. I remember reading about how getting a link on a page with 20 other outbound links does not look very good to Google (almost looks like spam), as opposed to getting a link on a page with no other outbound links. Can you expand on this at all? Thank you!

    • Alesia Krush

      Hey Joe,

      That’s why one has to analyze the page before trying to get a link from it. If it is relevant, has high PR and legit backlinks, and ranks well on Google, then a link from it shouldn’t hurt.
      Also, such pages have different numbers of links on them. Some have dozens, while some have fewer than 10.
      And, perhaps you have heard of Dejan SEO’s PageRank Split Experiment. The conclusion was that, if you get a link form a high-PR page, even if there are lots of outgoing links on that page, it still helps rankings.

      • https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/105713460323923270242 Rick Lomas

        I’m a big user of Link Research Tools at the moment and there is one page on their site that I keep going back to all the time: http://www.linkdetox.com/faq/ this explains the rules that can signal a bad link. If you have Link Detox you can use Alesia’s broken link method to find potential links and then upload them into Link Detox in the ‘what if’ mode – then straightway you can see the real powerful opportunities as well as the dangerous ones.

      • Joe

        Wow that is great to know. Thanks for all of the helpful information!

      • Brian

        What would be a PR that would make getting a link worth it? So far, I have found broken links from pages ranging anywhere from 1-3.

      • Alesia Krush

        @Rick ,
        Thanks for the recommendation! I have certainly heard about the tool, but didn’t get a chance to give it a solid go. I guess I should now!

        It depends on many other factors. For example, if a page is PR2, but everything points to the fact that the link will be hard to get (no contact info, no good replacement material available), then maybe it’s not worth it.
        In bulk, even PR1 links could be worth it, especially if they are relevant and if it shouldn’t take too much effort to get them. By the way, PR3 links are a different story altogether. I’ve seen many great pages that have PR3. Again, we’re talking about PR of the page, not the PR of the entire domain. 😉

  • https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/105713460323923270242 Rick Lomas

    That’s a very neat article. The Check My Links plugin is now installed and ready to go, this is brilliant especially on hobby/enthusiast type of sites, where all they want is a site that works 100%. I’ll follow you on G+. Thanks again 🙂

    • Alesia Krush

      Thanks, Rick!
      Yes, that’s a really handy plugin that can be used not only for broken link building,


  • http://happy-valentinesday.org Khushal Rao

    let’s see would it be beneficial for my site or not, gonna try….

  • http://gurueffect.com Michael George

    Wow. I rarely bother to read SEO articles, because most are repetitive nonsense and simply trumpet the words of Matt Cutts. Rarely do I come across anything and think, “Wow. I never thought of that.” Well Alesia, today I’ve learned something pretty damn good. Thanks for sharing this excellent article.

    • Alesia Krush

      Michael, thanks!
      I’m very happy to hear that. Comments like your is what inspires me to keep writing 🙂


  • http://bloggerscale.com/ Preeti Kaur

    I also happen to run a beauty blog so I totally fit the bill. Thanks for sharing. Will start working on it soon

    • Alesia Krush

      Hi Preeti,
      Do you really? Glad to be of help!

  • http://andevelopers.com/ Ranjeet

    Thanks !
    really great tips and great article
    again thanks!

  • http://fruition.net Steph Riggs

    Often broken links are considered big cause of failure in your SEO technique. So it is very necessary to find broken links and make them search engines’ friendly. The footprints and 5 websites discussed by you are sounds helpful for the SEO experts and bloggers. Big thumbs up for your great post 🙂

    • Alesia Krush

      Hi Steph,

      Thanks for the thumbs-up! By the way, as far as 404 pages on one’s own site are concerned, it’s good to check for those from time to time, and see if anyone important is linking to them. This way you will not be handing over a broken link building opportunity to a competitor.


  • Gokhan

    This article is really amazing. I’ve installed the tools you’ve mentioned. Now we can consider benefitting from broken links on other web pages.

    Thanks Alesia.

    • Alesia Krush

      Thanks, Gokhan!
      Make me happy that you’ve found the information useful.


  • http://www.myoptimind.com/ Jeric

    That “Check my links” tool for Google chrome extension is really helpful! 😀

    • Alesia Krush

      Thanks, Jeric!
      Seems to be everybody’s favorite, huh?


  • Avizit

    I am new to link building, but I have read about broken link building campaigns. I really liked your article and thought you mentioned a lot of useful tools.

  • Florentina

    Love the combination of good footprints and the “Check my links” plugin for 404 pages! Already found a couple of good ones , thanks!

    • Alesia Krush

      Thanks, Florentina!
      Good to hear you’ve already had positive results.


  • Shriwal

    This is great, thank you for sharing. This is quite important for my site. I really believe in your tips and I get many ideas for site of mine.
    I was just searching for this and what do you know it came up in my feader just then 🙂

  • Eric Sornoso

    Great article. I just added Check my Links to my toolbox.

  • http://famastudio.it Fausta

    Great article, I just needed a refresher on the type of bvacklink to build. Thanks