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 Use this on large resource / links pages to find out of date websites in the industries you are building links for.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 is a freelance writer, online marketing consultant, social media enthusiast, and author of Kikolani which covers blog marketing and blogging tips.


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