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February 24, 2014

Broken Link Building: Best Practices and Insider Tips

Photo Credit: Baitong333 via

In search engine optimization, you get what you give. The most effective SEO techniques are not quick fixes. They take some time to implement, and they require more effort than simply slapping a few keywords haphazardly on a guest blog post. But they also offer long-lasting return on that investment.

One lesser-used but effective SEO technique is broken link building. If you’re not familiar with the term, broken link building is essentially this: A marketer notices a site, preferably one of high quality, with a broken link. He suggests to the webmaster removing that link and replacing it with an alternative, which happens to be a site that the marketer is trying to promote. That site then benefits from the high-quality backlinks.

Here’s a look at how to go about implementing this strategy.

Finding the Right Target Blogs

Before you can offer to fix a broken link, you need to target the right sites. Shy away from sites that publish hundreds of articles every day such as or Their content has a relatively short lifecycle and they are not as concerned about broken backlinks.

But there are sites that will welcome the assist, including:

  • Blogs
  • E-commerce sites
  • Consultants (i.e. a freelance social media consultant)
  • Small, local business providers

These sites share three things in common.

  1. The webmaster is more easily accessible than on big sites, where you’ll have to hunt for the right person to contact.
  2. They often have an area of specialization that you can match to the site you want to market.
  3. They’re small enough that broken links will hurt them. Often they don’t have the time to hunt down and fix these links themselves.

Ideally you’ll want to find dead pages that are relevant to the client you are trying to promote. Say your client specializes in selling Mustang parts. You will want to look for dead pages that deal with cars, car sales, used cars, and so on.

Finding Dead Links

Once you have a general idea of what type of site you’re looking for and what it specializes in, it’s time to do a little digging for dead links. Most people use keywords to search out pages. This is probably the easiest and smartest approach.

While most companies target very specific keywords, in this case you’ll want to broaden your reach, simply because it’s doubtful you’ll find a page within that narrow specification. If your client is a dentist in Albuquerque, N.M., try keywords like “health care” or “Albuquerque resources” in addition to phrases you usually target in SEO.

Now it’s time to find those dead links. This can be an arduous undertaking. First you’ll need to pair your keywords with a number of search operators, which will help you to find relevant linking pages. Moz has a very extensive list of these phrases, including examples like “intitle:links” and “inurl:sites.”

The next phase is culling the results. There are a number of
choices on how to do this, including:

  • Doing it by hand, employing a tool like the MozBar to pull out the results you want;
  • Using a search engine ranking page scraping tool;
  • Employing the Bing API

Once you have your results, you’ll need to extract the links and check each page’s header for 404s. Luckily there are tools you can use to automate this process.

Other methods you may want to use to find the best pages to target include resource page targeting, wherein you know exactly what site you’re trying to find the 404s on, and direct URL targeting.

Fixing the Broken Links

Now that you know what link you are targeting, the next step is to create the content you’ll be offering as a fix.’s Way Back Machine is a great resource for helping you figure out what the broken link content was. It basically provides a snapshot of the link as it was before it went offline.

Once you’ve created your content, the outreach portion of the project begins. Find the correct contact information for the webmaster. Explain that you came across the dead link on the site. Offer your personal suggestions for updating it with a new, viable link.

This part of the process is not an exact science. Some outreachers are transparent about their personal interest in replacing the broken link. Others find that technique doesn’t work. Probably the best chance you’ll have for the webmaster biting on your proposal is to be very straightforward and helpful. Personalize your pitch to the site. Don’t use a template that’s impersonal and vague.

A Real-World Example

Let’s use an example to illustrate how this process might work. 12 Keys Rehab, a Florida rehabilitation center, recently built an Alternative Medicine Resource List with dozens of links for people interested in the benefits of alternative medicine for the mind and the body. As the page notes, a similar resource list was once offered by a medical librarian at the University of Pittsburgh. When the school decided to take down the list, 12 Keys Rehab repurposed and republished the list based on the online archives. The content on the list fits with the center’s approach to rehab, which emphasizes the body and spirit.

The old list had been linked to by a number of high-quality sites, which were stuck with a dead link. An outreacher for 12 Keys Rehab approached these sites and politely pointed out that the old link was defunct. It offered the new version of the list and received a generally positive response, because these high-quality sites didn’t want dead links gumming up their pages.

A Creative Solution

The final outcome should be a win-win for your client and the site you’ve targeted. The site gets to remove a dead link that reflects poorly on it. And your client gets a link from a high-quality site – or sites, because if you’ve done this right you’re hitting a number of sites up with your new content – that helps improve your client’s SERP. Though broken link building takes a lot of time, the end results are worth it.


Adrienne Erin is an internet marketing enthusiast who writes for SiteProNews twice weekly. She loves to see businesses like Global Elastomeric Products, Inc. succeed on the web. Follow her on Twitter at @adrienneerin.