Links break over time.
This typically happens when websites remove pages or change URLs during a website overhaul.
Link reclamation is a quick and easy way to help your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts and fix those broken links.
While 301 redirects will restore some SEO value to those inbound links, a link reclamation project is the only way to retain the full link value.
What Is Link Reclamation
Link reclamation is the process of locating and fixing broken links on your company website and contacting other websites that link to yours.
Carrying out a link reclamation project is necessary any time:
- Content is removed.
- URLs are changed.
- A website is redesigned.
It seems like the concept of link reclamation is constantly in flux.
More and more link builders are skewing toward technical SEO and our ideas on SEO continue to evolve.
Still, for link builders starting out, link reclamation has always been a hard phase to navigate — partly because the “rules” for how a website should be built can be confusing when crossing the lines between web developer and SEO manager.
Over the past few years, I’ve worked with brands and the struggle – to work with web developers who are open to SEO changes – is real. It isn’t a new struggle by any means.
Before you know it, it’s been one week, two weeks, three weeks, and you’ve got little to show for it.
And as you prepare your monthly report, a pressing question emerges: Why are the 404 errors not cleaned up?
You’re pretty sure the intern is laughing at you, and creating custom content is just too far beyond your reach at this point.
The struggle is real, people.
But the thing is, building links doesn’t have to be difficult.
How to Regain Lost Link Value
Before You Begin
Create a spreadsheet with the old URLs, anchor text, new URLs, and locations of the broken links. A tool like Ahrefs or Majestic can help with this part.
The best fix for internal linking problems is to manually go to the page with the broken link and replace the URL.
To fix broken links from external websites, 301 redirects and a link reclamation project are the only way to retain those links.
A direct link always holds more value than a redirect, so it would be best to wait a few weeks after the link reclamation process to put the redirects in place.
After all, why would other websites want to bother fixing their links when you already set up a redirect for them?
How Many Links Are There to Reclaim?
Now you need to figure out how many pages are linking to your missing pages.
Run each URL that came up as a 404 status through your link building tool to see every link and anchor text pointing to the missing page.
Do this for every missing page.
This step will make the spreadsheet quite lengthy.
If some pages come up as 404s, but there are no pages linking to it, there may be a problem with the old redirects already in place.
Clean up 404 Errors
Cleaning up your on-site links doesn’t have to be difficult or end in a web dev meeting so long and intense you need to nap after.
Ahrefs is a great tool you can use to watch for links that go down, site migration for new HTTPS URLs, and eliminating redirects.
After you’ve cleaned up 404 errors, reach out to the website linking to that particular page to let them know about the broken link – and give them the corrected link.
Even though you’ve added the 301 redirect, it still helps to have the correct link listed.
By day 90, I usually have at least 20 new links in my backlink profile.
Brand Mentions & Image Links
Cleaning up 404 errors is not the only way to reclaim your links.
You can also do this through brand mentions that are not linked to your website.
You can also reclaim your image links. You can use a tool like Tineye or a manual search operator like allintitle: [insert title of photo] to discover where your images are being used.
You can easily find pages using your branded content, which makes for a quick link building win.
Not All Links Can Be Reclaimed
Depending on the age of the links, the response rate is about 50 percent on average.
The older a link is, the less likely you will get a response.
Most people will gladly fix the links because it affects their visitors.
The key to getting better responses from outreach? Avoid looking spammy and be as informative as possible in the initial contact e-mail.
A few weeks after doing your outreach, make sure you’ve set up 301 redirects for all webpages that previously showed up as 404s.
Even if the broken links were fixed, it is still highly beneficial to set up redirects for those pages.
Timeframe: Month 1, 2, 3, and every quarter
Results detected: 4-12 months after implementation
Average links sent per month: 5-10 depending on site
- Screaming Frog
Benefits of link reclamation
- Link reclamation regains lost link value which can quickly increase your rankings and link profile.
- Link reclamation is an easy way to start off a link building campaign because you’re not actually building links, you’re simply cleaning up old ones.