Link Reclamation

Link reclamation is the process of recovering lost links, both internal and external.

Why is Link Reclamation Important?

In SEO, there is a term called “link rot”, or “link decay”.

It means that over time, links have a tendency to stop referring to their original target URLs for one reason or another.

There are many reasons why links can decay, but the most common are:

1. Websites disappear

Over time, websites can disappear from the internet for a variety of reasons. The owner may have taken the site down, the domain may have expired, or the hosting provider may have shuttered the site.

2. Pages are removed 

Even if a website is still online, individual pages within that site can be removed or relocated. This can happen if the website undergoes a redesign, if the URL structure changes, or if the owner decides to remove a page for any reason.

3. Links are changed 

If a website changes its internal linking structure, any links pointing to pages within that site will likely break. This can happen if the website undergoes a redesign, if the URL structure changes, or if the owner decides to change the way links are formatted.

4. Content is changed

If the content on a page is changed, the URL is often updated as well. This can happen if the page is updated with new information, if the page is renamed, or if the page is deleted altogether.

5. Domain names expire 

Domain names have to be renewed on a regular basis, and if they are not, they will expire. When a domain expires, any website associated with that domain will no longer be accessible.

Whichever the reason is, lost links are no longer able to pass on any PageRank, meaning that their SEO value has diminished to zero.

Additionally, if any internal links break within your website, it can lead to crawlability issues and poor user experience.

Unlinked Mentions vs Link Reclamation

Unlinked mentions should not be confused with link reclamation.

As the name suggests, an unlinked mention occurs when somebody mentions your website/business, but does not link back to you for some reason.

Unlinked mentions are also sometimes easier to turn into links than to reclaim lost ones.

This is because if someone has mentioned you already, they probably wouldn’t mind making that mention clickable (especially if you provide some sort of incentive for them).

When it comes to reclaiming lost links, however, it can be trickier to get webmasters to link to you again.

Sometimes, removing a link to you is a conscious decision from their end – in that case, unfortunately, there is not much you can do to persuade them otherwise.

And, if the link is no longer valid because you yourself changed your page’s URL, some webmasters can refuse to help you out as it’s really not their problem.

Remember – webmasters, SEOs, and content managers are busy people, so pulling favors for random people that email them out of the blue isn’t always the most attractive of ideas for them in the middle of their workday.

However, reaching out to them in an attempt to get back your link is still very much worth it.

The following example is a search of our own lost backlinks – all prime opportunities for a link reclamation campaign.

lost links report in ahrefs

Now, let’s take a look at exactly how you can reclaim lost links – both internal and external.

There are many tools available for the purpose of backlink monitoring, but we use Ahrefs, so that’s what we’ll use in our example.

It covers both internal links and backlinks, and only takes a couple of minutes to audit.

Auditing Your Internal Links

To check your internal links, simply navigate to the “internal Backlinks” tab of Ahrefs.

auditing internal borken links with ahrefs

Then, from the “Target HTTP code” filter, select “404 not found” or another code.

As you can see, we don’t have any broken internal links.

How to Run a Link Reclamation Campaign

To check for lost backlinks, navigate to Legacy > Lost Backlinks.

lost links report in ahrefs 2

Here, you will find an overview of all your lost backlinks, as well as exactly when they were lost and even the reason why they are considered “lost”.

The only links you really have to worry about are the ones that say “link removed”, but even then, you should still double-check the web page to see if the link is actually removed or not.

Sometimes, Ahrefs may register links as removed even if they aren’t actually lost if it runs its crawl, for example, at the exact moment when someone is updating the page and falsely flag your link.

You will also see links with the tags “301 redirect”, “crawl error” or another status code.

A 301 redirect simply means that the page that has your link is now redirecting to another page.

This frequently happens when somebody updates the URL of ther page, for example, changing the date in the URL slug from “2021” to “2022”.

Most of the time, your link will remain in the content though – but you’re still welcome to double-check it.

However, manually double-checking each link can be quite time-consuming though, so we advise focusing only on ones that actually say “link removed”.

Once you have a list of pages that have removed your link, you can upload them into Respona to find contact information, or, if you have recently collaborated with that website, simply reach out to them and ask whether it’s possible to put your link back.

To import the sheet into your Respona campaign, click on the import button on the right side of Respona’s search bar.

importing a .csv into respona

Press “Upload .CSV File” and select your file.

Once uploaded, assign your file fields to their corresponding Respona attributes.

assigning file fields to respona attributes

Then, click “Finish” and wait as your opportunities are imported.

Feel free to use our template in Step 2 – Create a Sequence – just make sure to personalize it before launching your campaign.


Subject: Small favor—fix something on your post?

Hey {First Name},

My name is [Name] and I am a [Job Title] at {Company Name}—{Something about the company}.

I saw that, up until recently, you were mentioning us on {Page URL}. Thank you for that — we really appreciate it.

However, I noticed that the link back to our website was recently removed.

Could I ask you a small favor?

I’d really appreciate it if you could place the link back where it was.

Here’s the page where you originally linked back to: {Lost Link URL}

Let me know what you think!



Running a Regular Audit

Link rot never stops, so to maximize the effectiveness of your link reclamation campaigns, you should conduct regular audits of both your internal and external links.

We check for lost links once a week and recommend that you do the same.

Best Tools for Link Reclamation

To run a link reclamation campaign, you need some type of backlink monitoring software.

The three most popular choices are Ahrefs, SEMRush, and Moz.

Each of these tools is priced at $100/month (SEMRush starts at $120), but they are well worth the money

ahrefs homepage

Besides backlink monitoring, Ahrefs also offers a heap of other functions useful for various SEO tasks, be it competitor research, keyword tracking, content research and even website speed.

Overall, it’s a must-have in your SEO tech stack.

semrush homepage

SEMRush is another all-in-one SEO tool that can do everything you would ever need it to do and more.

However, its UI is a little bit cluttered, so if you have no previous experience with the tool, it may take you a while to actually find the functions you’re looking for.

moz homepage

Moz’s Link Explorer concludes our big trio of backlink monitoring tools and allows you to run extremely in-depth link audits of any website, track new and lost links, and even check link spam scores.

Bottom Line

So, link reclamation should absolutely be part of your link building efforts as any links that are lost or removed stop you from getting PageRank from that page.

The best way to reclaim lost links is to simply ask the person why they removed your backlink and inquire whether they could add it back.

A small incentive like an indirect link back can also tip the scales in your favor a little bit.

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