Broken Link Building: Does It Work? (Step-By-Step Guide)

by Jason Smit

With so many different SEO tactics, is it worth doing broken link building anymore?

At Contentellect, we’ve done broken link building for several years. It remains, as ever, a practical, profitable link building tactic.

But you need a streamlined process and the right mindset to do it well.

Here’s our complete guide to broken link building with actual steps that you can do to build more links.

broken link building meme

What Is Broken Link Building?

Broken link building is a clever SEO tactic where you search for broken links (also known as dead links). Once you’ve found a broken link, you recreate the dead content on your website and ask publisher's to link to your content instead of linking to the broken link. 

dead link meme

Why would anyone agree to broken link building?

Dead links are bad for the user experience.

Since Google looks at user experience as a ranking signal, it's in a webmaster's best interest to fix their broken links.

So, by letting publisher's know that they’ve got a broken link, you're in fact doing them a favour. And by providing them with a quality alternative link that works, you stand a chance that they switch out their broken link to yours.

Is Broken Link Building A Good SEO tactic?

Broken link building is still an excellent SEO tactic. Sure, it takes time and effort, but what SEO strategy doesn’t!?

When you do broken link building well, you’ll end up with juicy backlinks and improved rankings.

Pro tip: If you don’t know what link juice and a juicy link are, should you really do link building yourself? Instead, use a reliable link building company with professional link-building services.

How can you do broken link building effectively to increase your traffic and benefit from more visitors? You follow our step-by-step guide. Duh!

broken links meme

How To Do Broken Link Building (A step-by-step guide!)

It's absolutely critical you have a streamlined process when doing broken link building.

There are four main steps in our process:

  1. Search for high authority sites that are relevant to our niche.
  2. Find a dead outbound links on these sites.
  3. Write content relevant to the dead link’s topic or anchor.
  4. Contact the site manager and suggest fixing the dead link by linking to our content.

Sounds easy enough. Now let’s put it into action and see what we get!

Step 1: Find The Perfect Site

We first need to find relevant websites to target.

You don’t want to bother with competing sites. They won’t link back to you. And there's no point going to lots of effort to get links from sites with poor SEO metrics.

With this in mind, there are two main ways to find broken links.

Option 1. Finding Broken Links with the Dead Link Checker (Free Method)

The dead link checker tool analyses broken links on a website. It's free for the first 2000 backlinks on a site.  

dead link checker

Here's how to use it to find relevant broken links.

  1. Google search for a keyword related to your site. For example, let's assume we had a website about Zanzibar. To find relevant sites we could Google the keyword “things to do in Tanzania” and come up with a list of websites that have written about Tanzania in the past.
  2. Create a list of each site that isn't a competitor.
  3. Insert each site into the dead link tool, and check if these sites have any broken links (i.e. links returning a 404).
  4. Identify broken links that would work well with either existing content or new content on your site.  
  5. Use our RAD formula to qualify sites (see description below).

What's the RAD Formula?

If you've read our guides on guest posting, niche edits, and link inserts, you’ll know that we’ve developed a fool-proof formula known as RAD.

Simply put, RAD is an acronym for:

  • Relevance: You want the target website to be relevant to your own. There is no point in having a dental care blog linking to your hotel in Zanzibar!
  • Authority: The website needs healthy, organic traffic, a high domain authority, with plenty of backlinks! The higher, the better your link-building efforts will be.
  • Due Diligence: You want to check that the website isn’t a link farm or private blog network. Those can only harm your site and drag its traffic down.

Option 2. Use Ahrefs' Broken Link Feature (Paid)

Ahrefs is a paid SEO tool that has a broken link checker built into it.  

Here's how to use it to find relevant broken links.

  1. Find a major authority website in your niche and insert it into Site Explorer.
  2. Under the Backlink profile section look at the Broken Links tab and export the file.
  3. Manipulate the file to sort broken link pages with the greatest number of referring domains 
  4. Identify broken link pages that would work well with either existing content or new content on your site.  
  5. Use our RAD formula to qualify sites to contact.
ahrefs broken backlinks

Step 2: Create Relevant Content

Finding a dead link is only step one.

More often than not, you will also need to create relevant content as a link alternative for the broken link on a publisher's website.

Don't cut corners here. 

Use the opportunity to create great content for your site. And remember to add inner links to important pages like your homepage and landing pages so that juice from any inbound links that you score get carried into your website.

Pro tip: Pressed for time? Hire a team of quality writers to write your content for you!

After creating some excellent content and publishing it onto your website, you'll need to write a compelling pitch to your target websites to urge them to replace the dead link on their site with a live link to your content. 

Step 3: Write A Compelling Pitch

Here’s an example of a compelling email pitch we use for broken link building.

You’ll notice that:

  • It's short and to the point.
  • It offers some incentive to the target site’s web admin (fixing a problem).
  • It isn’t pushy. 
broken link email template

Step 4: Don’t Forget To Follow Up

Here’s where most SEO agencies and website owners fail. They forget to follow up.

In our experience, most people will only reply to the follow-up email. So, schedule a friendly reminder about 5 days apart.

Be careful not to send too many follow-up emails. One or two is enough. Anything more may make the recipient flag you as spam.

Step 5: Rinse, And Repeat

Congratulations! You just sent your first broken link email request!

So, what’s next?

Can you sit back and relax?

Will one broken link building attempt make you rich and famous?

No. You need to rinse and repeat.

How Does Broken Link Building Compare To Other Link Building Strategies?

Broken link building isn’t dead.

In our experience, it’s a worthwhile SEO tactic that every ambitious website owner should use.

However, broken link building is a lot of work. You have to do research, then pitch and create content. Not every attempt is going to pay off.

Yet, when you follow our process and keep at it, you’ll find that broken link building is a solid tactic.

Don't have time?

Let’s help you with your link-building strategy. Our link-building services are tailor-made for each client since no two businesses are the same. Let an expert do it for you so that you can enjoy your life and focus on the things that matter to you, like running your business.

Broken Link Building FAQs

Will I get penalised for doing broken link building?

Broken link building is a safe, fantastic way to score high authority, relevant backlinks to your website. It’s also a perfectly white-hat SEO tactic, and you won’t get penalised for doing it!

What are the risks of broken link building?

Broken link building has relatively few risks. However, if you don't have a good process you risk wasting time, energy, and money.

Is broken link building worth it?

With the right process, mindset and expectations, I think broken link building is still worth it.

You may also like our guide on eCommerce link building strategies.

Jason Smit

Jason Smit is the CEO of Contentellect and believes that marketing success lies at the intersection of great content and quality links. With 15 years spent in agency environments, including Saatchi & Saatchi, Publicis Media and Performics, his experience is distilled into Contentellect's service offering. He holds a B.Com Marketing from the University of Cape Town and a PGDip. in Entrepreneurship.

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