Broken Link Building: A Guide for Beginners (& Email Template)

Ivan Escott
Ivan Escott
13 minute read

Broken Link Building: A Guide for Beginners (& Email Template)

Ivan Escott
Ivan Escott
13 minute read

Wondering what broken link building is and if it still works in 2021?

In this guide, we’re going to try to answer this question and discuss  everything you need to know about this link-building strategy.

Additionally, we’re going to take you through the process of using broken link building to benefit your business.

Plus, we’re sharing an email template you can personalize and use for broken link-building purposes.

We’ve got quite a lot to cover so let’s get started.

Broken link building is a link-building methodology in which you’re looking for opportunities where your website or a specific page on your website could work as a replacement for broken outgoing links that exist on relevant and authoritative websites.

Moreover, broken link building works as a scalable, white-hat, and cost-effective link-building strategy which can bring great results in terms of SEO if performed correctly.

The way this broken link-building tactic works is that you identify a broken link – also called a dead link or a broken hyperlink – which basically means that a link is linked to an empty web page or a page that’s not working or doesn’t exist anymore.

After having identified the broken link, you contact the webmaster and offer them a replacement with a corrected link.

This process is called broken link-building outreach – a little further down in this post, we’re going to give you an email template you can use when reaching out to a website owner for broken links.

You know now what broken link building is, but you probably still need to know if broken link building is worth your time.

Let’s get into it.

In one sentence, broken link building can still work in 2021, but it can be more time-consuming compared to other techniques and its results aren’t guaranteed.

Overall, we need to say that link building and acquiring backlinks is generally very important in terms of a website’s SEO performance given that link acquisition can boost organic and referral traffic, broken link building included.

Broken link building is one of the most effective link-building strategies alongside…

  • Unlinked brand mentions
  • Guest blogging
  • Resource pages link building

… to mention a few.

Compared to these other tactics, broken link building might be the one that requires more research and access to software that will facilitate the process.

However, the four different techniques that we’re going to jump into will show you how it can, in fact, be a creative process of building high-quality backlinks to your website and connecting with others in your industry.

Here’s tactic number one.

Technique #1: Find Wikipedia’s “Dead Link” pages

The first technique we are going to talk about is the Wikipedia “dead link” pages technique.

First things first, Wikipedia is a place where you can find 404 pages with lots of dead links linking back to pages that don’t exist anymore.

There’s even a Wikipedia article talking about the phenomenon:

Wikipedia dead links
Image Source: Wikipedia

All you need to do is first find these broken link-building opportunities.

In other words, you need to look for external links that have died.

To find such links, we need to do a Google search using an advanced search operator.

Here’s the operator we’re going to use to tell the search engine that we’re looking for a specific keyword in the wikipedia.org domain that includes a broken page:

site:wikipedia.org “keyword” intext:”dead link”

For the sake of an example, let’s say we’re interested in finding yin yoga-related content.

In this case, our advanced Google search operator is going to be the following:

Wikipedia dead link description
Image Source: Google

We’re clicking on the second result and opening this particular article:

Dead link example
Image Source: Wikipedia

To find the dead link, we need to scroll down all the way to the end of the article and get to the References section of the page.

As we can see, one of the references does include a link that has been tagged as a dead link and leads to a 404 page: 

Dead link example 2
Image Source: Wikipedia

Trying to get a link directly from a Wikipedia article probably won’t be very efficient given that Wikipedia editors are generally very picky with their references and the fact that Wikipedia links are nofollow which isn’t great in terms of passing on link equity.

What you can do instead is to try to build links back to your piece of content or website by finding other sites that also link back to the same dead link.

Put another way, after having found a 404 page, you can go on a backlink analysis tool or broken link checker and try to find other sites that also include a link to that page.

Ahrefs Referring domains

The screenshot above shows that there are several hundred referring domains that include a link to this dead page.

You can now scroll through the list of websites and try to find the ones that’ll be most relevant to include a new link back to your content instead.

Pretty cool, isn’t it?

Difficulty level: Medium

Let’s get to the next broken link-building technique we have for you.

The second link-building technique is to find links back to closed businesses.

As you can probably imagine, this is something that doesn’t happen all the time but when it happens, it can be a good opportunity for link builders to build high authority and quality links from relevant websites.

For the sake of an example, we’re going to use the example of Avast shutting down its subsidiary company Jumpshot.

Tech Crunch Article
Image Source: TechCrunch

In this case, if you were an analytics software provider and one of your competitors was Jumpshot, you could do a few simple things to try to acquire some of the links the company might still have.

First of all, we go to the Jumpshot website and see that the page is indeed a 404.

Broken Link to Jumpshot

We then need to check its backlink profile with an SEO tool like Ahrefs.

More specifically, we go to the Ahrefs Site Explorer and type in the domain, which in this case is Jumpshot.com:

Jumpshot domain search

Once we get the overview of the domain…

Jumpshot backlinks

… we go check the Backlinks tab from the left-hand side menu, which will get us all referring pages from referring domains to dead resources.

Broken link opportunities inside Ahrefs

Doing so will show us that there are several quality content pieces from authoritative sites like Oberlo or Moz that include links back to Jumpshot resource pages.

These high-quality links are our opportunity to link back to our content in cases where we have relevant content pieces that could work as good and relevant replacement links for the existing ones.

The success rate of this technique can be quite high because no site owner wants to have broken backlinks in their content.

Links to expired domains can undermine the quality of their content.

For that reason, using a backlink checker to identify these links can significantly help you in terms of building links back to your website.

Difficulty level: High

Keep reading to find yet another broken link-building process.

The third broken link-building technique we want to talk about is finding broken links on resource pages and list posts.

This one, even though it’s quite time-consuming and its results can’t be guaranteed, does have some potential in terms of helping you get links back to your website and resources.

To use this technique, you first need to install the Check My Links Chrome extension to your browser.

Google store example

The whole point of this technique is that we’re looking for resource pages and list posts that might mention our competitors and include links back to their website that – for several reasons – are not valid anymore.

To illustrate this technique, let’s say that we, from Respona, are looking for list posts that might refer to other outreach software tools that are our direct competitors.

Once again, we’re going to use an advanced search operator:

intitle:”outreach” AND intitle:”best” AND (intitle:tools OR intitle:software)

This will allow us to refine the results we’re going to get and will make our search well defined and, in fact, possible.

broken link Google search 2
Image Source: Google

Author’s Note: without using an advanced search operator, we probably couldn’t have gotten such relevant results and it would also have been much more time-consuming and less efficient.

As you may have guessed already, our search gets us many relevant list posts:

Outreach software lists
Image Source: Google

Naturally, not all of them will include opportunities for us to do some link-building prospecting, but in one of those, we manage to find a good opportunity.

Invalid link add-on
Image Source: iGuestBlog

As you can see, this list post about the nine best outreach software tools for 2020 includes thirteen invalid links.

Even though not all of them are links back to competitors, there are a few, like this one here that doesn’t work anymore…

Provided broken link
 Image Source: iGuestBlog

 … and leads to a 401 page.

Given that one of the invalid links is one of the main nine tools that are being featured in this list post, we could easily suggest Respona as a valid replacement to it and get featured in the list post.

Difficulty level: Low

Below is the last major technique for efficient and successful broken link building.

Technique #4: The “Big Fish” Technique

The final broken link-building technique we couldn’t miss covering is the “Big Fish” technique that can be applied by anyone, including seasoned marketers as well as beginners to link building.

Here, we’ll take you through a step-by-step process of much more than simply finding broken backlinks.

More specifically, we’re going to talk about finding broken links and reaching out to your link prospects with an efficient and relevant outreach email after having found your prospects’ contact information.

What we’re going to do here is try to find  a website with a legacy in a certain topic, e.g. SEO, and see all the websites that link back to that website.

When that’s done, we can find pages that are relevant to a page that we want to build backlinks to and use Respona to find the right contact details and do the outreach.

Like before, we’re going to use the capabilities of a tool like Ahrefs that’ll show us any broken external links and help us get started with our broken link-building campaign as well as enhance our content marketing efforts by building links back to our content.

As we’ve already noted, we first need to come up with an authoritative website with  a legacy in a certain topic.

For the sake of an example, we’re going to start with Moz.com, the successful SEO tool.

We start with the assumption that Moz probably has several broken pages.

What we do next is that we add the Moz.com domain with all its subdomains, in the Ahrefs Site Explorer.

Moreover, we choose the Broken tab from the menu on the left-hand side.

Additionally, we make sure to exclude community from the filters which means that we’re not going to see broken links that link back to comments.

As you can see, there are almost 60,000 dofollow backlinks to Moz pages that match our search query.

Ahrefs broken link building opportunities

One of the top results is from a high-authority and well-known website, Buffer.com.

Looks like we’ve found our opportunity!

The Buffer article is an ultimate guide on repurposing content and the broken link to Moz.com comes with a must-click headlines anchor text.

In cases where we have a piece of content that’s relevant to that, we can reach out to Buffer in no time and let them know that they’ve got a broken link and that we’ve got them a great replacement.

Buffer opportunity

To reach out to the Buffer team – as well as to authors of other similar articles – in a seamless and effective way, we first need to start a new campaign with Respona, without having to use any additional link-building tool.

Creating a campaign inside Respona

We’ll naturally name our campaign, after the purpose of it, Broken Link Building Campaign.

Starting an outreach campaign in Respona

All new Respona campaigns start with a simple search that requires a keyword or topic and a search source.

Depending on the type of campaign, you’ll have to choose a relevant keyword as well as a relevant source to make sure that you’ll get the most relevant results.

Respona Web Search source

In this case, we’re particularly interested in finding the contact information for that specific Buffer article.

For that reason, we’re choosing the Web Search source and type in the blog post in the search bar.

URL Search 1

We do the same with yet another blog post we’ve been able to find from our Ahrefs search.

Once we’ve found and selected our opportunities, we get to the next step.

URL Search 2

Identifying a dead URL is one thing; building a truly successful outreach campaign is another.

The success of our campaign partly depends on the quality of our outreach, which starts with a great outreach email.

Respona offers a wide variety of different outreach email templates you can customize and use for your outreach purposes.

However, for this particular campaign, we’re going to use a new template that we’re going to write ourselves.

Creating a personal template

Once we add the content, the email creation pop up window, and our screen will look something like this:

Broken link building template

Here’s our email template in full:

{first name}, you’ve got a broken link

Hey {first name},

Happy {day of week}!

Just finished reading through your post, {url title}.

It was such a good read, I had to share some thoughts.

It really stuck with me when you pointed out that [article summary snippet].

I noticed, however, that {broken link URL} doesn’t seem to work anymore (the link goes to a 404 page).

In case you’re still updating the content, we recently released a guide that, honestly, I think will be a good replacement.

Want to take a look? I got you: [article url].

Keep it up with the stellar content :)

Thanks,

[Name]

As you can see, the tool automatically grades our email content to help us make sure that we have a high chance of getting a reply.

Email pitch grading tool

When we’re done editing our email, we’ll see an overview of our email sequence.

In case we add any follow-up emails, they’ll appear right under our initial outreach email.

Moving to the next step

We click on the Next Step button on the right-hand side of the screen – exactly as shown above – and we’re ready for our automation setup.

Contact automation setup

Setting up the automation basically means that we’re giving Respona additional guidelines in terms of the prospects we want to assign the opportunity to.

To be more precise, we’re telling Respona to:

  • Assign the opportunities to authors of URLs only if the author works for the company, which means that they will have editorial access and authority to replace a link
  • Assign an opportunity to up to one person when no other author is assigned
  • Assign a catch-all email address if no valid email address is found for the prospect
  • Assign a company generic email if no person with the defined criteria is found

Clicking on the Next button on the bottom right corner will get us to review the automation.

Automation review

Once we’ve run it, we’ve got ten out of ten opportunities assigned to contact people which means that we’ve got a 100% success rate in terms of finding contact information for our link prospects.

Fully finished contact automation

As you can see, all our selected opportunities are in the with contactstab and have been assigned to a contact person.

Author’s Note: In general, it is better to reach out to more relevant prospects to increase your chances of getting replies and, as an extension, more links.

Opportunities with assigned contact information

All that’s left to do is to personalize our outreach email accordingly.

Personalized email pitches

Personalizing our outreach email might include several elements such as adding excerpts from the original article, adding links back to your resources in relation to each prospect’s interests as well as simply adding the prospect’s first name or company name in the opening line.

All these elements can be quite helpful in terms of showing your prospect that they’re the only recipient of your email and you’re not just sending them a generic email that doesn’t quite apply to them.

Unpersonalized opportunities

When you’re done personalizing your email body as well as your email’s subject line, you can go on launching your campaign and sending these killer broken link-building outreach emails to your prospects.

Launching a broken link building campaign

Difficulty level: Medium

Let’s close with some final thoughts.

Now Over to You

That was it!

Broken link building might seem like a hard and time-consuming thing to do in the first place but as soon as you get into it you can clearly see just how beneficial it is.

If you feel like exploring the power of broken link building, make sure to give the four different techniques a try.

Also, feel free to request a demo with us to make the process of actually reaching out to the authors that include the broken link building opportunities you’ve identified as easy and hassle-free as possible.

Good luck with your broken link-building efforts!

Ivan Escott
Ivan Escott
Ivan is the partnerships manager at Respona, the all-in-one PR and link building tool that combines personalization with productivity. Along with creating content, he looks for unique ways to build meaningful relationships with other bloggers.

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