Google’s algorithm is a constantly moving target for SEO experts, as it constantly improves and adjusts thanks to Artificial Intelligence and machine learning. However, a well-thought-out link building strategy is still one of the most effective and practical strategies for SEO and continues to be an essential ranking signal.
While there is certainly more than one way to skin the cat (and even more ways to judge the person or persons responsible for this cliche), some experts will hang their hats on one approach or another. When it comes down to it, there is no one right way. Each campaign will require the right combination of various strategies for link building.
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One underrated method for building links is broken link building.
In this post, we’ll discuss the three-step approach to broken link building. First, let’s take a look at why building links is still important:
Link Building Matters: Here’s Why
Google considers several factors when determining the ranking of content for keyword or phrase. Let’s examine how Google might compare and sort to different sites that are high-quality from within the same market or niche.
Other than the words on the pages, how might one site stand apart from another?
Let’s compare Website A: “Just Making A Point (JMAP)” and Website B: “Made Up For This Example (MUFTE).” Both websites, JMAP and MUFTE, are chock full of consistently updated, polished content. They also feature a high-quality user experience and have effective Calls To Action, that drive site visitors towards conversion and/or engagement.
Google may then defer to which site has a more expansive profile of backlinks from other high-ranking and well-respected websites. Let’s say JMAP has managed to earn backlinks from several titans in their space and that they were also wise enough to include some outbound links to other sites that perform well in search engines. This will signal to Google that JMAP is the likely top option.
How To Identify Reputable Link Sources
It is important to first understand that, when it comes to broken link building, not all links are one in the same. You must learn to identify which links and sites are worth the effort and which should be avoided. This best practice approach will allow you to avoid penalties from Google in their search ranking.
Moz created a browser plugin that is compatible with Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer. MozBar will help you to determine a page’s Domain Authority and Page Authority directly on the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
Broken link building is achieved by finding broken links and reaching out to the webmaster of the site with the broken link and offering replacement content.
There is little doubt that broken link building is one of the more effective and scalable strategies for link building. The success of your efforts will depend on your ability to create engaging content of value to the webmasters so that they’ll link to it.
There is no shortage of link building tools available to you. However, there is no cutting corners. Turning to an automated solution for broken link building could put you at risk of losing quality control.
Now, let’s focus on the three-step process for building broken links:
Finding broken links is where it all begins.
Here are a few approaches for doing so:
Direct URL Targeting
This approach is the hardest to scale, so it should only be used if you want to target a specific website.
Getting a link from an industry influencer will pay dividends, but it can be difficult to create a dialogue without sounding desperate (or thirsty as the kids say these days). However, identifying a broken link and alerting the webmaster or blog editor will help you get your foot in the door. Backing it up with quality replacement content can help solidify a relationship that benefits the both of you.
One tool that can help you expedite the process of identifying broken links is Broken Link Builder. It’s not a free solution but will save you some time.
Now that you’ve targeted specific pages and identified broken links, created or selected proper replacement content to share and broke the ice with the webmaster or blog editor in a proper manner you can move onto the next method.
Targeting Resource Pages with Keywords
This approach sounds like what it is: Google keyword searches that are uber-relevant to the topics of your website.
The first step is to find resource pages that link to keyword-relevant content. Next, you’ll extract all the links from that content and identify the broken links and offer a solution whenever the opportunity comes to light.
Link Prospector will deliver gold when it comes to identifying resource pages based on keyword queries.
The keywords you target should be pretty broad and relevant to your business, whether it be your brand, product, audience or location. Next, you should try to pair those keywords with prospecting phrases to identify pertinent pages.
The arduous part comes with scraping each result from your searches before you can begin extracting the gold nuggets that are the links and then finding the broken ones that can be replaced.
Targeting Resource Pages with URLs
This approach starts with an already established website. Mining the influential website’s backlinks will help you find their resources pages and then exact the proper link building possibilities
You can find any number of tools and methods to employ for this broken link building strategy. Ahrefs, BuzzSteam and Screaming Frog SEO will help you to get the job done.
The essential step for this approach is website selection. A site has to have good authority and be relevant to you. A non-commercial site is also ideal. Then, like the other steps, you’ll extract all the external links, examine them for errors and find the right opportunities.
#2 Creating Content
As we’ve already mentioned, the content you create must be of equal or better value than what a broken link was originally pointing to. It’s crucial that you understand the goal of the original content and include all prudent information in your replacement content. That way any site that previously linked to the original content will be happy to replace it with a link to yours.
Most likely, you’ll have some content that is already prepared for this purpose or can be easily retooled to more closely contain the essence of the content from the identified broken link. In order to successfully scale this method, you’ll want to create content that can easily be used for a broad spectrum of broken links. The more niche the subject of your content, you will probably be more likely to replace broken links when you identify an opportunity. However, you’re likely to find far fewer of them. Time and experience will help you navigate this catch 22.
Let’s take a moment for a reality check. If you’re targeting a website, it’s probably because it’s one with good or even better authority than your own. So, to ensure your time is well spent on this strategy, you must create the type of content that such a site would be pleased to direct traffic to.
Here are a few tips to create content for a successful broken link building campaign:
- Identify opportunities for improving upon the original content, without changing the goal of the page.
- Update any stats or data included in the post to make sure it’s timely.
- Add additional resources and information to the page.
- Add a new (or hot) take on the subject. However, avoid sensationalism and be able to back up your points with data and/or examples.
Now, you’ll want to find the contact info for the site owner, webmaster or blog editor that you’re targeting. Then you’ll want to take the time to write an email that won’t be immediately deleted.
There are a few tactics you can try for this step, each offers a different level of transparency. The better the quality of your content, the more transparent you can afford to be right out of the gates.
- Pretend you’re a site visitor who just happened upon the broken link.
- Offer your link among other related links.
- Send a follow-up email that outlines your replacement content.
It really is imperative that you customize each email to the site you’re targeting. Sending a stock or form email will not have the same success rate as if you were to tailor it to the recipient. It will take more time, but it’s worth it.
If you need some inspiration or something to build off of, Moz offers some templates to get you going.
Broken link building does have the ability to boost your website rankings.
When done correctly and in compliance with search engine guidelines, it can be a powerful and effective tactic.
That’s why broken link building should be a part of your overall link building strategy.
Jamie FitzHenry is the founder of Grizzly, a Bristol SEO Agency focusing on helping businesses enhance their online presence through digital marketing.