Broken links are an epidemic.
A recent study Rowe Digital (full disclosure: this is my company) looked at 90 publishers and websites and found over 65,000 broken outbound links (i.e., links generating 404 errors).
Broken link building has existed as a strategy for many years, but its approach has continued to be honed and perfected.
In order to get results from your broken link building efforts, you must make sure your outreach and content is:
- Highly targeted.
- Personalized when possible.
- Actually provides value to the website you’re reaching out to and its audience.
The popularity of broken link building continues to grow. That means publishers and website owners are starting to get fatigued by all the various outreach requests.
Want to break out from the crowd? Offer value and a humanized message to get the recipient to consider your link for replacement.
Below is a primer on broken link building that answers many of the common questions SEO professionals ask when considering if this method will work for a client or business.
1. How Many Links Can I Get per Month?
This definitely depends on your industry, the level of effort you put into it, and the quality of the sites you target.
Why do broken link building results vary by industry?
Some industries have a lot more online content about them, so it’s easier to find high-quality blogs to target. For instance, you’d obviously be much more likely to find great prospects amongst sites that are about digital marketing than you would sites that cover industrial HVAC equipment.
If you operate in a specific niche, widen your net whenever possible.
For instance, there may not be many online publications about industrial HVAC equipment, but are there publications about industrial real estate or property management that your target audience would still read? If so, consider creating content for that wider topic, which is still of interest to your audience.
However, when it comes down to it, a minimum of one link per month is a good average across industries.
2. Who Should Use It?
Broken link building is helpful in a variety of different industries. Any company or website can benefit from broken link building if they are regularly publishing fresh, useful content that is beneficial to its users.
To get you started, here are a few examples of where it can be used.
Blogs and Publications
If you’re trying to grow your blog or online publication’s readership, traffic, or link portfolio, consider doing broken link building outreach for popular posts or guides on your site.
Often bloggers will have a free piece of seminal content, like an e-book or case study that they use to drive email subscribers or traffic. Consider taking the lead gate off that content and offering it up to other websites so they can link to it as a resource.
If you’re in the service business, such as marketing, real estate, or even custom cake creation, you can use broken link building as a way to get more targeted users to your site.
If you run a local business, look for broken link opportunities for local publications, such as newspapers or resource guides, where you can include a link to your business, which serves the same target location.
3. What’s the Process?
If you think your site will benefit from broken link building outreach, set up spreadsheets and milestones to get in the habit of a regular routine. The process is quite simple, and goes like this:
- Enter a relevant keyword into Google using the inurl:resource search operator (or variations from resource, like “library” or “blog”)
- For exact phrases, make sure you use quotation marks around the phrase for exact match (e.g. “how to fold origami”).
- Click a URL in the search results that seems like a site you could get links from and then use a browser extension/add-on to check links:
- Create a master list of all broken links you’ve found following the previous steps.
- Upload to a tool like Ahrefs to find the broken links that have the most sites/pages linking to it.
- Find the contact information of the websites or publications you want to target using their contact or about pages, or use a tool like Hunter to get their exact email address.
- Use the Wayback Machine to see what the content was about for the broken URL.
- If needed, create something similar to the content that is most likely to get the most links.
- Pitch the webmaster of the site. Use link outreach template similar to the one I shared previously on SEJ, but include the URL on their site that has the broken link and offer yours as a replacement.
For example, with a search for “fishing” inurl:blog for our imaginary bait and tack e-commerce client, we found Fishidy:
Using the Chrome plugin referenced above, we did an entire site check and found a few opportunities for our client:
“MysteryTacklebox.com” is an e-commerce fishing site, making it perfect to replace by our client, should they have similar products. From here, we can find the contact info for Fishidy’s team and start the outreach process.
4. Where Can I Get & Not Get Links?
Even though the process is pretty cut and dry, you shouldn’t try to get links from every website that has them. Target a blog or publication’s resource pages (like a content or resource library) or its individual articles.
Don’t waste your time targeting links on social media sites, like Facebook or Twitter, or news sites, like CNET. These sites move so fast and their focus is on timeliness that broken links from months or even days past likely won’t be a priority to them.
5. How Do I Convince Someone to Fix Their Link with My Content?
It’s a finely tuned process, but try to find broken link building opportunities that closely align with amazing content you already have that you know is useful.
Ideally, this is proven by traffic or social proof. If you find a good link building opportunity, but don’t have the right content for it, consider creating a piece of content similar for your site. This makes it easier for the website owner to say yes.
Another approach is to create content for blogs or news sites in your industry. Once you’ve built up trust and you know your content is worth their reader’s time, consider pitching the editor or owner a few of your own links on your website to replace in older posts.
Make sure you don’t take advantage of this relationship too often. Broken link building is as much about building trust and your network as it is about getting links.
6. What’s the Average Success Rate on Outreach?
The average success rate of outreach you’ll see will vary, based on factors like personalization.
I recommend doing a one-to-one outreach and work to get in touch with the author and develop a relationship to increase chances of success.
In my experience, we’ve seen between a 5 and 50 percent success rate, which again varies depending on the industry, effort, and the content you’re pitching.
Featured Image: Created by author, August 2017.
In-Post Images: Screenshots taken by author, August 2017.
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