How to Use the Broken Link Building Strategy to Get Links

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You’ve likely read a lot about using broken links as a strategy. The questions that usually come up with this strategy are the following:

  • How do you find broken links that could turn into link building opportunities?
  • And how do you encourage the webmasters with broken links on their website to change the broken link to yours?

In this post, we’re going to look at broken link building tools, ways to discover broken links, and how to acquire them.

Why the Broken Link Building Strategy Works

Why is the search for broken links so important? It’s because it works. No webmaster that takes pride in their website wants to lead visitors to a 404 page or a business that is no longer operational.

Unlike the typical link request, you’re actually doing the webmaster a favor by not only letting them know they have broken links (a problem), but also giving them a replacement for those broken links (a solution).

I’ve personally used this approach to gain links on .EDU sites and other high authority pages. Assuming the website was still being maintained, the request was almost always a success.

The Best Broken Link Building Strategy Tools

First off, let’s look at some of the tools you’ll need to use for the strategies in this post.

  • CognitiveSEO: Their backlink reporting tool doesn’t just show you backlinks; it allows you to filter them by keywords, sort them by authority, and much more which makes it perfect to use when trying to find the best backlinks for broken links you’ve discovered.
  • Google Alerts: Keep up with the latest news about your competitors just in case one of them goes out of business. Jump on those opportunities as soon as possible, especially if you are not their only SEO-savvy competitor.
  • Check My Links or Link Checker: Browser extensions for Google Chrome and Firefox that allow you to see broken links on any webpage quickly. Use this on large resource / links pages to find out of date websites in the industries you are building links for.

Now, let’s dive into broken link discovery.

How to Discover Broken Links

The following are a few strategies to find broken (or soon to be broken) links that can help you build more links to your own websites:

1) Check resource lists.

While it’s hit and miss, the most common way to find broken links is by simply looking at resource link lists that fit the website’s industry that you are link building for to see if any similar websites are no longer operational.

For example, let’s say you are link building for an investment website. You can search for a variety of keyword combinations (such as investment resources inurl:links) on Google to find websites that link out to investment resources.


Click on the most promising results and then use a browser extension to highlight broken links on the pages. These will highlight broken links on a page.


Now, let’s say that you were building a website that covered investment rarities. You could grab the broken link off of this example and run it through your backlink checking tool. Then you could start working to acquire the thousands of links built to this domain.

2. Monitor your competitors.

What’s the best news you could discover online? How about that a competing website with a ton of links has gone out of business. If you keep up with the latest news about your competitors, you may find out one day that they are going out of business.

For example, one of my favorite tools to use to schedule tweets is Buffer. Their biggest competition was who recently announced that they were retiring. This is actually an even better broken link opportunity in the sense that while the website is not down, they are recommending Buffer as an alternative.


Buffer could now use a backlink link checking tool to see what links has built to their domain and attempt to acquire them. As a bonus, they can note that their former competitor endorses them. This is why it never hurts to monitor the news about your competition and businesses within the industry you are link building for. You never know when thousands of links could be up for grabs.

3. Don’t forget local opportunities.

If you’re working with a local business website, then don’t rule out local broken links. Yelp can be a good way to find similar businesses that have been closed in particular locations.

For example, let’s say you are link building for a tavern in the Phoenix area. You can use the following Google search for similar businesses in the Phoenix area that are now closed. intitle:closed intitle:phoenix tavern

You’ll get the following results:


Visit these Yelp pages to find the website of the local taverns, then use your backlink reporting tool to find those websites’ backlinks.


Now, look at the details. If a business has only one location and it’s closed, it will be pretty easy as their website will likely be shut down as well. For local businesses with multiple locations (some of which may still be operational), the website may still be up—your goal then will be to find backlinks specifically referencing the locations that are actually closed.

Use a backlink reporting tool that allows you to filter backlinks by keyword, narrowing down the 182 links analyzed to just the ones for the closed Phoenix location, since the ones in Chandler and Chandler are still operational.


Now you can contact the webmasters that are linking to the closed tavern, letting them know it’s closed and that you have a new place they should try instead.

How to Approach Webmasters

Now that you know some ways to find broken links, your next goal is to contact the website owners and convince them to switch out their broken links with yours. Here are some ways to approach webmasters that might improve your chances of success:

As the Business Owner / Employee

First off, you can approach the webmaster as someone from the business itself. Let the webmaster know that the website / business that they are linking to is no longer in service, but that you provide similar information, products, or services. For bigger sites and blogs, maybe even consider offering them a trail of your product or service so they can see why they need to start recommending you in place of your former competitor.

As a Fan of the Website

The next approach is as a random visitor or fan of the website with the broken link. Let the webmaster know that you love the resources they share, but you just noticed that one of them is out of date. Then offer them one (or more) alternatives.

As a Marketer / SEO

Since there is a good chance that you are an marketer / SEO approaching the broken link strategy, this one is probably the most likely to apply to you. The catch when telling people you are an SEO when sending a link request? Website owners (especially bloggers) are getting privy to the game and looking for monetary compensation for adding links. The only way to get around this is to make your request as helpful to the webmaster as possible.

Let the webmaster know about their broken links, and then let them know about a good alternative or two, including the website you are building links for. If you focus your email more on helping the webmaster and less on your SEO goals, you’ll likely end up with a good response.

Additional Broken Link Building Resources

Want to learn more about the broken link building process, or simply want to make it easier? Here are some additional resources:

Do you use broken links as a part of your link building strategy? What tips and tools would you suggest?

Kristi Hines
Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, ghostwriter, and blogger who develops high-quality content for businesses.
Kristi Hines
Kristi Hines
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  • John Grginov

    Woah, I’ve never thought about this technique before! Now that I think about it, it makes all the sense in the world to do this. You help a webmaster to fix his page and you get a huge SEO benefit.

    Here’s how you can make this even better.

    1) Get top 10 results for a keyword you’re trying to rank for
    2) Find all the broken links in their website
    3) Filter out the ones that aren’t related to your niche
    4) Contact the webmasters telling them about those broken links. Explain them how you found those broken links so they can do it on their own in the future. Then nicely ask if they would replace those links with yours.
    5) Repeat for page 2 / page 3
    6) Repeat for all other keywords you want to rank for

    • Sahil

      Hi John. Finding and reporting broken links certainly helps businesses to let people know about its brand, build new relationships, build authority in the niche and also build good rapport with the owner/webmaster of the authoritative site where the broken links were found. As an add on, our site might also get a natural link from highly authoritative sites, which will certainly help our site get the natural and quality links to improve its domain authority, hence its search traffic and conversions. Turning a ‘Page not found” into a “business found” sounds awesome! Thanks for the great post Kristi.

    • Kristi Hines

      Great additional tips – thanks for sharing John! 🙂

  • Sanket Patel

    Broken Link building is a technique that builds the link on another website that is no longer working and also asking for a link that point to your website. Broken Links leads to a 404 page, it is also relevant to your niche.
    For checking broken links , I always use web master tool and get replace of it. SEOs always want the quality of web and sometimes that fewer broken links are better as well. There are also so many tools like Open site explorer, W3C’s link checker , Domain Hunter + , Screaming frog etc.

    • Kristi Hines

      Thanks for sharing the extra tools to try Sanket!

  • Digitalideaz

    Love the post and points mentioned by you, explained everything in such a comprehensive manner that i have no question to ask, It really worked for me. Thanks

    • Kristi Hines

      You’re welcome!

  • Chandler

    Hey Kristi, thank you for the nice post. Its good to read these nice methods to find broken links. I especially like the section ‘Don’t forget local opportunities’ , I quite like it. It is a good way to find broken links for those who operates their business locally.

    • Kristi Hines

      Not many people mention the local approach to broken link building, so I thought I’d throw that in!

  • Geromme Talampas

    Kristy, Thanks for sharing this very detailed post. When I’m doing this technique I used queries like:


    I love the tools you suggested.

    • Kristi Hines

      Great search queries Geromme – thanks for sharing!

  • Deni Saputra

    Great share Kristine!
    As pushed me to return to the field of link building that I ‘ve left off for a while just after penguin out.
    Useful one!

    Thank you

    • Kristi Hines

      You’re welcome Deni!

  • Saurabh

    I didn’t know the broken link strategy to build backlinks. But I wonder, why they will link to me, in spite, they will just redirect those links to some other URL of their website.

    • Kristi Hines

      You’d be surprised how many people will be thankful that you tried to help them out and will not feel like researching something new to replace the broken link with. Hence they’ll go with your suggestion.

  • Pavel H.

    It’s really interesting technique for getting new links, especially as Sanket Patel mentioned these links can be really strong ones. But it will only works with “more” popular phrases. Anyway, great article!

  • Aaron

    Kristi, Thanks for the very informative post!

    Btw, I am more confused with the broken link opportunities.

    Site A has links to Site B which happen to be a broken link. So when I contact the Webmaster for Site A, and letting him know of the broken link, how would he place my link instead of Site B’s link? He would either remove the link and contact Site B’s webmaster and get a valid link and will replace the broken link.

    I feel that ‘linking opportunities with broken links’ are very less or not at all possible. Were you able to gain links by this? Was it successful?

    Do I miss anything here? Thanks again!

  • Salman Aslam

    Kristi kudos for putting up such an actionable post as I’m flooded with theories , predictions and what not.

    Time to get busy 🙂

  • Russ Jones

    Might want to add (by iAcquire) and (by CitationLabs) to this post – two awesome tools for finding BLB opportunities.

  • Sam

    Very good article Kristi.
    1 thing I’d like to add: when you find broken links on a website and the link is broken because the domain name expired, it’s sometimes a good idea to register the domain yourself and build a new site using that domain.

  • Pankaj

    I didn’t know the broken link strategy to build backlinks. But I wonder, why they will link to me, in spite, they will just redirect those links to some other URL of their website.

  • freddy

    great info 🙂

  • Syed Aly

    thanks i was researching for broken link building tools. Great informative post to me