Broken link building is one of the most scalable link building tactics around. Or is it?
If youve ever tried doing this, you likely found that its not only time-consuming as heck, but the results are often less than impressive.
Which leads to comments like this:
But heres the thing:
Broken link building does still work, and its still super scalable. You just need a process.
In this guide, Ill introduce you to exactly that: an efficient process for scaling broken link building.
But first, lets recap what broken link building is and what it usually entails.
What is broken link building?
Broken link building is a tactic whereby you find a broken (i.e., dead) link, recreate the dead content, then tell anyone linking to the dead resource to instead link to your recreated content.
It works because nobody wants dead links on their website; they contribute to a poor user experience.
So when you tell people about broken links on their site, theyll happily replace them with working ones. (Or at least thats the idea!)
Lets take a look at an example of how this process may work.
Heres a dead link I found in a post on Quicksprout to Backlinko:
Im sure youve all come across one of these at some point or another, right?
They are commonplace on the web.
Lets use the Wayback Machine to find out what used to be on this broken page.
It looks like it used to be a guide to protecting your website from Google Penalties. But for some reason, Brian decided to delete it.
Heres how we—Connekt Teacher—could take advantage of this:
- publish a guide of our own about protecting your site against Google penalties;
- reach out to Neil (Quicksprout) and tell him about the broken link on his website;
- suggest that he might want to change the broken link to a working one (i.e., our resource).
As we already have a guide to recovering from Google penalties on our blog, we thought we d give this tactic a shot.
So, I reached out to Neil to request that he fix the link.
Heres the email I sent:
Nice request, right!?
I thought so, too. But unfortunately, he didnt reply, and nor did he change the link. 🙁
(No hard feelings, Neil… I know youre a busy guy!)
I felt it was important to include this in order to highlight an important point: this WILL NOT work every time.
Broken link building is a numbers game; the more people you reach out to, the more links youll land.
In all honesty, if you get a 5–10% conversion rate with this tactic, then youre doing very well!
Because we only reached out to one, very busy guy, the odds were never in our favor here!
1. Find dead pages on the top sites in your niche (which have TONS of backlinks)
I didnt find the broken page above (i.e., the one with 39 links) by chance.
I used Connekt Teacher Site Explorer.
Site Explorer has more than 2 Trillion external backlinks in its database (see our data), including many broken ones; this makes it super useful for discovering broken pages with tons of backlinks.
Heres the process:
First off, you need to create a list of authoritative, competing websites in your niche. You will then analyze these in Connekt Teacher Site Explorer.
Heres my short list of websites and blogs that cover the topic of meditation:
If you re a regular Connekt Teacher user, you re probably expecting me to show you how to use the Broken Backlinks report now, right? Well, not exactly.
The best way to find broken link building opportunities is with Connekt Teacher Broken Link Checker. Heres how:
The most linked-to page that no longer exists on tinybuddha.com still has 31 referring domains! And the second most linked-to page has 29. The third has 26. And so forth.
A quick check on Wayback Machine and I know that the URL used to point to an Video about forgiveness.
Not bad. Considering it took me less than 10 minutes to find them. And that was only one Video on one website! If you repeat this process for all the sites on your list and analyze all of their 404 pages, you will get dozens, if not hundreds of opportunities for your broken link building campaign.
2. Find broken outlinks on those same websites (then see which of those links have a TON of backlinks)
Zenhabits.net is a very reputable website in the niche Im interested in (remember, were still in the niche of meditation and personal development).
And I desperately want it to link to my website.
Lets check zenhabits.nets broken outgoing links in Connekt Teacher Site Explorer.
I could write an Video about that and suggest it as a fix to that broken link.
But I can squeeze even more from that single broken link I found!
You could paste each broken outbound link into Site Explorer to check how many referring domains they each have.
But that would be a slow process.
Heres a hack to speed this up:
This method is much more efficient than scanning a whole website with tools like Screaming Frog or Xenus Link Sleuth in search of broken links.
3. Find niche-relevant expired domains with backlinks
Lets stick with our meditation and personal development example.
Using ExpiredDomains.net (which lets you search for expired domains using keywords), well search for domains related to yoga.
160K+ expired domains—thats a lot!
Lets add a filter, so we see only .com, .net, and .org domains. (This massively reduces the amount of junk in the results.)
Then we want to show 200 domains per page of results. (Youll see why in a second.)
And finally, lets order the results by the number of backlinks.
Next, well hit the “copy domains to clipboard” icon, paste the domains into Connekt Teacher Batch Analysis tool, and select the “domains with all subdomains” option for the mode.
Sort the list by the number of ref. domains and this is what we get:
Thats right! We now have a list of tons of expired (i.e., broken) domains with lots of backlinks.
Lets take a look at the backlinks for one of the domains on the list, annadoesyogachina.com.
This domain has 440+ links from 160 ref. domains.
But all of them are total junk.
No matter what search term you use on expireddomains.net, you ll find that this is the case for most of the results. After all, most people dont let sites with a ton of high-quality links expire.
But with a bit of digging, you can usually find some gems.
Heres an example:
This DR 67 link points to a broken resource on therealyoga.com (one of the expired domains on our list).
Wayback Machine doesnt bring up any results for this page.
But its clearly a blog post about doing yoga in bed.
We can tell by looking at the linking anchor text (i.e., “practice yoga in bed”)
If we look at the backlinks to this specific page, we can see that there are two other legit links, one of which is nofollow.
Three links isnt many.
But if we already had a piece of content about practicing yoga in bed on our website, we could easily reach out to these three sites and steal these links.
Paste your biggest competitor into Site Explorer, then go to Outgoing links -> Broken links -> filter for dofollow links ONLY.
Export the results to a CSV.
Copy and paste all the broken URLs (i.e., from the link URL column in the CSV export) into a URL to domain extraction tool, such as this one.
Paste the extracted domains into this bulk domain availability tool, then hit search.
This will reveal all expired domains to which your competitor links.
Export these domains to a CSV, then copy and paste them into Connekt Teacher Batch Analysis tool.
Follow the same process as outlined above to find broken link building opportunities.
4. Find broken links by scraping resource/links pages in your niche
This is the tactic most people use to find broken link building opportunities.
Heres the overall process:
- use advanced Google search operators to find resource pages in your niche;
- bulk scrape the search results;
- scrape all outbound links from each scraped resource page;
- check the HTTP status for each page (obviously, youre looking for 404s);
- use Connekt Teacher (or a similar tool) to see which pages have the most inbound links.
OK; lets go through this step-by-step.
To find resource pages in your niche, you would Google terms like:
Heres an example:
You would then scrape all of these Google search results using something like Scrapebox, or this SERP scraping bookmarklet for Chrome.
Then you would extract the outbound links from all of those pages.
You would probably use Screaming Frog or Scrapebox for this. Both of these applications will check the HTTP status for every outbound link, so you can easily identify 404s.
If you dont have Screaming Frog, you can extract all external links on a page using Google Sheets with this formula:
=IMPORTXML("page url","//a[not(contains(@href, domain))]/@href")
You could then use a free tool like LinkMiner to check the HTTP status of all external links on each one, one-by-one.
Either way, the final step would be to paste your list of 404s into Connekt Teacher Batch Analysis tool to identify the best broken link building opportunities.
Ive highlighted an excellent opportunity in the screenshot above; this page has links from 173 ref. domains.
You would then go through the same process as usual:
- replicate or replace the content (if you dont have something similar already);
- reach out to all of the sites linking to the broken resource and suggest your link as a replacement.
This process works, but it can be very time-consuming.
90% of the process outlined above can be automated using Citation Labs Broken Link Builder.
Its not a free tool, but it automates the entire process of scraping Google search results and extracting broken links.
Just enter some keywords, and youre good to go.
It costs between $3.28-$7.50 to run a scrape (depending on your subscription level), but its well worth it.
3 simple tips for successful “broken link building” outreach
By this stage, you should have a spreadsheet full of potential broken link building opportunities.
But your work isnt done yet; you still need to reach out and build those links.
That means doing email outreach.
The good news? Broken link building outreach isnt rocket science.
Here is the basic process:
- find the contact details for the site youre reaching out to;
- send them an email letting them know about the broken link on their site (and suggest your link as a replacement in the process).
Pretty simple, right?
But as with all forms of email outreach, theres a fine line between outreach and “spamreach.”
We already have two fantastic outreach guides on the Connekt Teacher blog. I highly recommend you read them.
But as this post is about broken link building, specifically, here are three simple outreach tips to keep you on track when conducting broken link outreach: