Broken Link Building – Easy step by step guide to getting SEO links

This is the easiest step by step guide to getting backlinks using the broken link building strategy.

Before the guide, why are backlinks so  important?

Backlinks

To quote Ahrefs; backlinks do help you rank higher in Google and are one of Google’s top 3 ranking factors.

What is Broken Link Building?

When you find a broken link and recommend replacement content, you are doing the website, the person visiting the website and Google a favour.

You are actually helping and providing real value.

It is very annoying to read a page, click a link on the page of a dead resource doesn’t exist anymore.

There are 106,000 broken pages that contain “marketing” in the title.

When you consider there are 7 billion searches a day I shudder to think how many broken pages there are in the world and how many linking opportunities there are.

Tools you will need

How to find broken links

Open up Ahrefs, the best link database, and go to the Content Explorer tool.

  1. Enter a single seed keyword in the bar, select title and hit the search button.
  2. Filter the results by “only broken” pages
  3. Sort by referring domains
  4. You will see a list of broken (404) pages
  5. You will see the number of referring domains that link to this page

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Download : Broken Link Building Guide

Evaluating & choosing link opportunities

Now scroll down the list of pages and do a link analysis.

Look at the page titles to determine if these are subjects you could write about.

This page about social media marketing tips has 786 referring domains, which appears to be a great opportunity, but I would struggle to write such content.

However, if this is a topic that you could write about, look at the date.

You don’t want to choose a really old page.

If the page isn’t too old then click the details link and the backlinks tab to see the types of websites that link to this broken page.

Scroll to the bottom of the links and select “Show all backlinks in site explorer”

Now you want to review and evaluate those backlinks.

  1. Filter to display English results
  2. Filter to display dofollow links
  3. Filter to see one link per domain

As you can see in the example above there are only 7 dofollow links from unique domains.

That’s not enough linking opportunities to start an effective link building campaign.

There’s no right or wrong number to choose.

In previous campaigns I had a success rate of 1 link from every 30 websites with a broken link that I contacted.

Scroll down your list and find another subject that you could write about.

I like the metrics behind this page; 

  1. 163 referring domains and 
  2. was last updated 11 months ago.
  3. So click the details button
  1. After clicking the details button
  2. Click the backlinks tab
  3. Click the show all backlinks in site explorer button

As before, review and evaluate those backlinks.

  1. Filter to display English results
  2. Filter to display dofollow links
  3. Filter to see one link per domain

This page has 55 dofollow backlinks from unique domains.

Now scroll down the DR column to see how many of these domains are an authoritative website.

In this example around 50% of the domains have high quality links.

Since I know my outreach to link conversion rate it’s not worth my time creating an exact replacement page.

I can use a related blog post I already have on my website as a replacement link.

If you don’t find any suitable pages, change the seed keyword at the top of Ahrefs content explorer.

And repeat the above steps.

Alternatively, try this approach.

  1. Enter a very large industry website into Ahrefs site explorer tool
  2. Select best by links
  3. Choose 404 not found option from all link option
  4. Make sure there’s over 100 referring domains

Look down the list of pages; the url typically gives clues as to the content title of the page.

Click the number in the dofollow column for this URL to view all the links to this page.

As before

  1. Filter to display English results
  2. Filter to display dofollow links
  3. Filter to see one link per domain

Check the domain rating to make sure the majority of sites have a higher DR score than your websites.

Download : Broken Link Building Guide

In this example there are 147 dofollow backlinks from unique domains.

That’s the ideal criteria for me

  • 147 link prospects
  • High DR scores
  • A broken page that I can recreate.

When you find a “404” page with over 100 do follow external links, copy the url into web.archive.org; the Wayback Machine.

You may need to look at a few captures to see what the page used to look like.

Now I know with certain that I can create a brand new page exactly about this subject.

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Find link prospects

The next step is to find the contact information of these web pages that link to the broken page you’ve found.

We’ve going to use a combination of 2 tools; Hunter.io and Postaga.com

But first, do a link extraction and export the list of pages that link to the broken page that you found.

Now import them into a Google Sheet document, filter out any undesirable URLs (eg:URLs containing blogspot) and copy all cells in the Referring Page URL column.

Before the next step, you need to do the following:

  • Open up a Postaga.com account
  • Buy the starter plan for $49 from Hunter.io
  • Integrate Postaga.com with Hunter.io
  • Run through a test campaign with Postaga to make sure you’re familiar with the platform

Now you can move to set up a new campaign.

  1. Select New Campaign
  2. Choose the Custom option
  3. Paste the URLs from your spreadsheet into the box named URLs

Now click the analyse links button.

The number displayed in the analyse links button is the number of Hunter.io credits you will use to find and verify email addresses and contact information.

The power of Postaga and Hunter.io will jointly find the names of authors of the web pages that link to the broken page you found.

  1. When links have been analysed you’ll be left with a screen showing some names or authors found.
  2. Click on the link to check the author.
  3. If no name is displayed click the anchor link to view the page and find an author.
  4. Write the author first name and last name in the boxes provided and press use author.

When you reach the bottom of your list, press get contacts.

The following screen will appear.

You need to go through the list of email addresses that Postaga finds and 

  • Click the X button for contacts you don’t want to reach out to
  • Click the tick button for contacts you do want to reach out to

I would avoid sending to info@ or admin@ email addresses.

As you scroll down the list you’ll see Postaga working away finding the right person at each website and you will see a screen similar to this showing no contact found or finding contact.

When it’s finished finding email addresses the email sequence screen will appear like this.

Just choose any sequence for now as we’re going to create our own custom email sequence.

Next you’ll see the email preview screen like this.

Scroll right past it.

Scroll to the foot of the screen and press the save without scheduling button.

Perhaps this dialogue box will appear, if so, click continue anyway.

You will arrive on the campaign dashboard with your campaign in waiting mode at the top of the list.

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Download : Broken Link Building Guide

Page Re-creation

Now that you have a list of prospects lined up, you can go and recreate a better, more up to date version of the broken page you found.

Or alternatively, find relevant content that you already have that would be an appropriate replacement for these websites linking to the broken page.

After you’ve located or published your replacement page, now it’s time to create the wording for the email you’re going to send.

Email Outreach and your offer

The purpose of a broken link building email outreach campaign is to :

  1. Inform website owners they have a broken link on their web page
  2. Offer your page as an alternative

So keep it simple.

I’m going to use the SLLAM approach.

So here are the key components of their email address..

  • Subject Line – align with their interest/what they previously linked to
  • Lede – get start to the point and pitch in the first sentence
  • Links – Please credit the data/stats here : URL
  • Angle – summarise the data/findings – almost write their page for them
  • Methodology – explain methodology and have quotes they can use (not needed for broken link building emails)

Subject line

Your link to the buyer’s journey is broken Subject line

Body copy

Hi {{contact_first||there}}, Personalised

We’ve never spoken before but I’ve discovered a broken link to HubSpot’s buyer’s journey on your page. Lede

{{link_url}} Links 

I’m sure you can fix this without my help or a replacement, but I’ve got something about the buyer’s journey that’s even better. Angle

Would you like to see it ?

Regards

{{user_first}} {{user_last}}

Add a URL to your website or social channel

Let’s set up 2 emails and a campaign

  1. Select Emails
  2. New Email
  1. Enter Broken Link 1 into the admin name field
  2. In the email subject box write a line that mentions a link is broken
  3. Copy and paste the above email script into the email message box
  4. Press save
  1. Now click Emails
  2. Select New Email and create a Broken Links 2 emails and feel free to adapt the email
  3. Once you save it you should have 2 “Broken Link” emails in your list

Now we want to create an email sequence to send out the emails.

  1. Select Sequences under the Emails menu
  2. Choose New sequence
  1. Enter “Broken Links in the name box
  2. In the first Send Email box choose Broken Link 1 from the right sided dropdown box
  3. In the second action box choose Wait, then enter 5 in the Wait For How Long Box and make sure Days is selected in the right hand side box
  4. Then select Send Email and choose Broken Link 2
  5. Then save

Your screen should look like the image below.

  1. Now choose the campaigns link 
  2. Click the edit campaign button next to the campaign you previously saved.

Rename your campaign name so it’s easy to remember.

Scroll down to the Email Sequence stage and choose Broken Link from the sequence dropdown box.

Scroll to the 4th step, Email Preview

  1. Select an email address
  2. Select Broken Link 1 email and read the email preview on the right panel
  3. Then select Broken Link 2 email and read the email preview
  4. If you are happy with the content of the email click the sent test button

Then enter your email and press send.

Thoroughly check both emails and when you are happy, move to the rules and scheduling stage.

  1. Schedule – make sure this option is blue
  2. Start date – enter the date and time to send the first email
  3. Testing mode – make sure this is red and turned off
  4. Thread message – make sure this is set to blue
  5. Send on weekends – make sure this is set to red
  6. Stop on reply – ensure this is blue
  7. Schedule – press schedule to schedule the campaign.

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Download : Broken Link Building Guide

Turning broken links into won links with replies

Now you have sent your email message to prospects that have a broken link on their page you have to be ready to reply, promptly, to those you emailed.

You may receive an initial burst of replies that you need to act upon swiftly.

These replies will be your best new link opportunities to replace the broken link with yours.

Then you will receive a small drip of emails over the next week before the second attempt is sent out.

Here are the typical responses and replies you can expect to receive.

Typical responses

The majority will read and not reply to your email.

I get good open email rates because I send personalised emails to personal email accounts.

If you don’t get many replies, don’t worry that’s where the second email attempt will prompt the people you emailed.

It’s a number game; have patience.

Remember to get 10 backlinks you’ll only need 30 to 50 email replies.

You will get some out of office replies.

Ignore them.

You will get some bounced emails; again ignore them and delete.

If you are getting a lot of bounced emails you need to re-think or revise what you did when you searched for names and email addresses.

Screen Capture Tool to highlight the broken link

Have a screen capture software such as Snagit open and get ready to take a screenshot and highlight the broken link when people ask where to find the broken link on their page.

Draw an arrow or link from the url to the broken link and put a mark next or box around the broken link.

Use screen capture software to highlight the broken link then reply to the email, attached the broken link and suggest the page you created as a replacement link.

Typical replies

Our guest posts started at $200

I reply with a message like this “I’m just starting out with building links. Can I add you to my contact list for future link building opportunities that client may be willing to pay for?”

Here’s the new link to replace your broken link.

Thank you, please send your link

Just go ahead and send your link and thank them.

I have forwarded your message to our team

Fantastic. I’ve taken a screenshot of the broken link and attached it along with a suggested replacement link; can you forward this message to them as well ?

Right now we are not interested in adding more links to our website.

Not a problem, I’m not adding links, I’m suggesting you replace a broken link.

Here’s a screenshot of the page with the broken link and a suitable replacement for you.

It would be nice if you’d mention our website

Not a problem. I’ve added a link here for you.

No thanks, we’ll take care of it

Not a problem, have a good day.

Please remove me from your mailing list

My apologies, you’re not on a mailing list, this was a one off email sent from my personal email account.

I was just reaching out to you since I found a broken link reading your page that may give readers a poor experience.

You won’t hear from me again.

Download : Broken Link Building Guide

How to remove and block emails

If you get an email reply such as ‘remove me from your mailing list‘ or an angry response, I recommend you block the user’s email address.

Log into Postaga

  1. Select Account
  2. Enter the domain in the domain blacklist box
  3. Enter their email address in the contact blacklist box and save.

I’ve forwarded your email to our team for their consideration.

Fantastic. I’ve taken a screenshot of the broken link and attached it along with a suggested replacement link; can you forward this message to them as well ?

Are you open to a link swap or exchange?

Why not ! What’s the page you want to link to and I’ll add a link on a relevant page on my website?

We don’t have time to revisit old posts and fix links

You can reply ‘not a problem‘ or you could run their entire website through a broken link tool like Screaming Frog.

I found the website had 853 broken links so I emailed back.

Not a problem but be aware your website has 853 broken links that I just scanned.

Not a good experience for users or Google.

Here’s a screenshot of the broken link report.

May I suggest you or your web manager do some ‘spring cleaning’ soon.

All the best, Fraser

Thanks, the post/link has been updated.

Great, have a great day.

We have removed the link and happy to replace with your suggestion. Please write new copy and send your link and a new image.

In this case I wrote the copy in my content management system and added in my link and then sent him the html code.

Here’s the copy in html to save you time updating your page and a replacement image.

I hope that works for you.

Any questions just let me know.

No problem, not a problem

I use 2 phrases to diffuse any negative responses.

No problem.

Not a problem.

There is no sense starting a bad email exchange with someone when they say no thank you or won’t replace their broken link.

Life is too short for arguments or damaging your reputation.

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Repeat

My first broken link building campaign was a success.

I got 20 backlinks within the first week.

I created the Video Marketing Statistic link campaign and I honestly thought it would be an outstanding success.

One backlink.

So even if you fail the first time around, do not give up.

Repeat the process.

The more I practice, the luckier I get !

Analyse each step of this process to improve your link conversion rate.

  • Are there greater than 100 link opportunities with a broken link ?
  • Can you significantly improve the page content, design, user experience and resource on the page you’ve re-created?
  • Are you finding the right contact information contact about each target website?
  • Review the subject line and email message you are sending them ?
  • Are you being perceived as helpful or are you coming across too pushy and strong?
  • How are you replying to emails ?
  • How many follow up attempts do you have lined up ?

Summary

Broken link building is one of many link building strategies to earn backlinks and domain authority.

The broken link building method is an incredibly time consuming but rewarding process.

I estimate the entire process takes around 30 hours for one link building campaign.

But I justify the hours I spent against the cost of buying links.

40 hours x £75 per hour = £3000

versus

10 links x $352 = $3520.

The time you take will reduce as you get better at finding broken pages and recreating content on your website.

Broken link building is not a tactic for the managing director or marketing director within your company.

I recommend you use this guide and give the outreach process to a junior member of staff or a trusted SEO agency or freelancer.

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Download : Broken Link Building Guide