SEO has revolutionized internet marketing campaigns, with the use of well-placed backlinks that direct traffic to your site. With a linking strategy, you can increase sales, build a stronger brand and create awareness across markets that may have been inaccessible to you. We all know that marketing activities are a number game and the numbers don’t lie. However, lost backlinks can also have a negative impact on your SEO.
Backlinks are now the most important factor in search engine rankings because they can increase your SERP rankings and they improve the amount of organic traffic your site receives. When you start losing backlinks your rankings suffer, your ROI gets hit and it leaves users with a negative experience.
Lost backlinks are not to be taken lightly as they can become very costly to your business and prevent you from reaching your marketing objectives. You need to pay particular attention to the backlink analysis from your crawlers and use those backlink reports effectively to address the issue of lost and broken links.
In this article, we look at how to recover lost backlinks and what to do to ensure you fix lost or broken links so they don’t become detrimental to your website. Link building is not an easy process and lost backlinks devalues your link building strategies and can be very time-consuming to fix. We also look at link reclamation activities and see how they can benefit your SEO.
Table of Contents
Why Did I Lose Backlinks?
An increase in the number of broken or lost backlinks can be due to a number of reasons as you will see after running a backlinks analysis.
Here are a few reasons for lost links you might see in your backlink report:
- Expiration of poor quality backlinks
- Disappearing sites
- Changes to your website
Poor quality backlinks are bound to have a short life span on any site. This is why it’s imperative that you do quality audits on your backlinks to ensure they meet the required standard and prevent lost links and broken links. The aim is to create high-quality content; low-quality links don’t provide much SEO value and eventually will die off.
There are several reasons a site may disappear, the site could have been changed and bought by someone else who changes the branding which can leave you with lost links. You have no control over the longevity of other websites, but you can make sure you choose your target sites carefully to avoid lost links. Aim for sites that are well respected and fit well with your target market and your niche.
Disavowed links are those low-quality links you send to Google to remove in order to improve your rankings. They also contribute to your stats of lost links. During this process you may inadvertently include links you did not want disavowed. It may sound silly, but it it’s possible especially if you outsource your backlink analysis process.
Another reason for lost links is URL changes. If you remove pages on your site that have a link connecting to it then when a person clicks on it, they will be taken to a 404 ‘broken link’ page.
Another contributor to this problem is the removal of 301 redirects, though this may be necessary as part of your audits it may be wise to check if there are any existing links pointing to that URL so you won’t have any lost backlinks or other broken links.
Google rankings are influenced by a number of factors such as effective keywords, which means extensive keyword research is very important when creating content marketing strategies. Backlinks are a vital ranking factor and every business can benefit from good link placement as part of improving your website’s SEO.
How Do I Recover Lost Backlinks on SEMrush?
There are a number of tools available that you can use to conduct a backlink analysis and find all your lost backlinks. You can group lost backlinks into two categories; broken links and removed links. The former refers to links that still exist but are inaccessible, so when a person clicks on the link instead of being re-directed to your site they get an error 404 page. Removed links mean that a change was made by the publisher, maybe due to low-quality content or irrelevance. These tools will provide detailed backlink reports.
During the lost backlink analysis, you can cross-reference all your existing links to all those you have created before and see which are still active. If you have been running periodic crawls then this process is easy. SEMrush offers a backlink audit tool called Lost and Found to assist in this process.
In the SEMrush backlink analysis chart above you will see a breakdown of domain categories (New, Broken, Lost) you can also see how these domains have performed over the last 30, 60, and 90 days. The new domains have no backlink profiles and are an opportunity for link building.
When you select the broken backlinks you will see a list of all the broken links and the lost backlinks filter will show all those links that you have lost in the past three months. This gives you a chance to reclaim all those lost links. Most tools work similar to this example.
What To Do With Broken Backlinks?
Once you have collected your backlink reports you then check if a link was broken due to a change on your site (disavowed or change in page settings). The easiest way to fix it is to amend your site again. There are several strategies you could employ to rectify this:
Restore an Old URL:
This is a simple substitution method where you restore the old page where the lost backlinks originate from.
This is a common solution to reclaiming a broken link, you simply redirect to a page with the required content. Redirects are time-consuming, but they are worth it if you want to avoid broken link building strategies.
Another alternative is for you to create a functional 404 page, this interactive page will have all your company information, branding and navigation. When a user clicks on a broken link and lands on a hard 404 page instead of it reading ‘page not found’ they will land on navigational page where they can still gain access to your site.
Delete Lost Backlinks:
As a last resort you can delete lost or broken links, especially if they were of poor quality. Then your backlink analysis will be based on high quality content.
Why Are My Backlinks Not Showing?
There could be a number of reasons why your backlinks are not showing since there are hundreds of factors that impact the Google algorithm.
Some of them include:
- Pages ranking above you have more backlinks than you do and when a search is done their backlinks appear first.
- Your website is new, and this translates to a number of things such as not having enough authority. Comprehensive backlink reports will show you this.
- Not enough high-quality backlinks, as you create more high-quality backlinks you build a better profile for your site and prove your page is worthy.
Do Backlinks Help SEO?
Backlinks are crucial to SEO, but the aim is to have backlinks from high-ranking domains that are popular. Backlinks can improve your rankings because Google sees them as external validation of your site’s quality. They drive traffic to your page which in turn increases your brand recognition and sales. The more lost backlinks you have on your profile the less credible you are. Creating backlinks correctly minimizes the risk of lost links popping up on your backlink reports.
How Do I Create Backlinks To My Website?
Here are some tips on creating backlinks to your content:
- Find backlink opportunities that fit your niche market and are highly ranked by google analytics as well as highly rated by users. Look at the kind of content they host and create similar content that they can feature.
- Reach out to webmasters and form backlinking partnerships.
- Look at where your competitor’s backlinks are and see what works for them. You can always capitalize on your competitors’ weaknesses by taking over their broken backlinks.
- Make use of unclaimed mentions, with the SEMrush Brand Monitoring Tool you can collate your brand mentions and contact the authors where your brand was mentioned and ask them to officially link you. This also forms part of link reclamation.
- Monitor your linking strategy to ensure you minimize lost links and can fix broken ones quickly. A backlink analysis will assist you here.
How Do SEO Backlinks Work
For successful SEO backlinks, you need to have high-quality content that is unique and has thorough keyword research. This content is then backlinked to the domain, when a user clicks on the specific keywords in the blog or post they will be routed to your page.
How Do I Fix a Lost Backlink?
Once you have your backlink reports you should know how you lost your backlinks and whether or not you will start link reclamation or rebuilding the link. For high-quality links that are still relevant for the hosting site, it is better and more affordable to reclaim them. If there were quality issues or the domain has changed then it may be beneficial to invest time and money in new link building, this also applies to internal links.
Removed Link Reclamation Process
When a link is removed or modified by the publisher, it usually means the content no longer fits with their audience or is no longer relevant. Check the content of the link against the publishing site. If you find that it no longer matches then you can write new content that will be aligned with the publishing site.
Sometimes the content is no longer relevant to the reader for example in 2019 an article on ‘how to prepare your child for online learning’ was highly relevant and would have created great organic traffic for your site. In 2023 it’s not something readers need as much.
If the site in question is still within your niche then you can create new high-quality content for the blog and contact the webmaster and ask for clarity or more information regarding your lost links. If it was due to relevance you can request to submit a replacement. Replacement links are a more affordable link building exercise than establishing a new partnership.
Looking at our example above a replacement link may be something like ‘getting your children active during online learning’. A simple and straightforward e-mail will do, the webmaster already knows you so you don’t have to ‘sell’ your broken links. Point out how beneficial this post will be for them as well, and be specific in your request so there is no confusion.
Below is an example of a link reclamation email:
Hi (site owner),
I trust you are doing well.
I noticed that one of the links you had in your post (mention post name) pointing to my website has been removed. I understand in light of current events the link was no longer relevant, I have updated the lost links with new relevant content (insert new link) for the linking page . I really think that your readers will appreciate the information in the new post and will find it useful.
Great blog. Looking forward to hearing from you.
It’s also advisable to send a follow-up e-mail if don’t receive a response within a reasonable amount of time, this will give the webmaster a sense of urgency. There are also broken links email templates you can use for link reclamation if you don’t want to write the email from scratch.
If this doesn’t work then consider finding a new site where you can develop new link building strategies. Broken link reclamation may be more affordable than developing new link building strategies, but it is very time-consuming. Sometimes it may be better to cut ties and start a new relationship.
What Is The Difference Between Broken and Lost Backlinks?
Both broken and lost backlinks have a detrimental impact on your Google rankings. Let’s take a look at the differences between the two.
- Don’t open the site page and show an error.
- A lost backlink may have been removed by the publisher.
- A change in the publishing site domain will also cause backlinks to be lost.
- These links return a 404 error.
- When you make a change to your site’s settings or remove a page with the content this will break a backlink.
SEO marketing is an ongoing process. You have to check your rankings and your links and monitor any changes that arise. One of the best ways to ensure this is done consistently is to add backlink audits and reclamation to your marketing strategy. Lost backlinks create a bad user experience and negatively affect your rankings. Finding and reclaiming lost backlinks is a necessary maintenance process for your site to achieve it’s marketing goals.