The Role of Broken Link Building in SEO

Every business wants to maximize traffic to their website. If, at the same time, they can lure traffic away from competitors’ websites, that’s an added bonus. An easy way to attract traffic away from your competitors is to identify any broken links on their websites.

This is especially effective when you can convince the site manager to replace the broken link with a link to your own site. When you are able to make broken link building work for you, it can give you a competitive edge in SEO.

This article will explain what broken links are, why they are problematic, how you can benefit from finding and fixing them, and the important role they can play in search engine optimization.

There’s nothing more annoying than searching for something online, really getting into it, narrowing down the options, and then just as you’ve found exactly what you’re looking for, you click on it, and all you get is an 404 error message stating the page cannot be found.

An example of what a 404 error message looks like.
An example of what a 404 error message looks like.

When faced with this error message, users are very likely to give up and search for a different site. Search engines also get notified of this and it negatively impacts your SEO.

User Experience

All the broken links you have on your site contributes to making the user experience for your site worse, which directly impacts your SEO.

First impressions count, and as soon as a visitor to your site clicks a link that doesn’t work – or several links that don’t work – the more likely the visitor is to decide that your site is not worth visiting.

In that case, the next step will probably be to visit the site of one of your competitors.

Sales

Visitors to your site are all potential customers. Therefore, if your website visitors have a bad experience, for instance, if they find any dead link, they are unlikely to go ahead and buy products or services from you. More likely, they will turn to one of your competitors.

Google Rankings

If visitors to your site are having a bad experience, search engine web crawlers will probably also have a bad experience. Seeing that Google rankings are the most trusted indicator of the quality of a website, it is essential to get your SEO and SERP ranking as high as possible – and that means being vigilant about broken link building.

Seeing that Google is by far the most authoritative search engine in the world, search engine optimization comes to much the same thing as Google optimization.

Understanding the importance of link building is essential in ensuring your site is optimized, and it also give you an opportunity to benefit from broken links on other sites. Here’s where your opportunity comes in: through broken link building, you get the chance to lure these users to your own site which runs smoothly and does not have broken links.

The Odds Are Against You

Best estimates put the number of websites on the internet at around two billion,  and there are around eight billion people in the world.

Hypothetically, it sounds like there are more than enough people to view every website there is – but in reality, the majority of sites receive virtually no visitors. A relatively small number of sites get the lion’s share of the traffic.

That means that if you want to stand out from among the millions of other sites, you have to put a lot of effort into search engine optimization.

Seeing that most people already spend a large portion of their time surfing the internet, you are unlikely to be able to tempt people into viewing your site instead of doing another activity.

Chances are that if you want more people to view your site, you’ll first have to lure them away from somebody else’s site.

Broken link building is one of the easiest link building strategies and one of the most effective ways of increasing traffic to your site while also improving your SEO.

Chances are, you’ve already heard of broken link building in SEO – but what is the actual broken link in SEO definition?

In their 2016 book, Introducing SEO, Shenoy & Prabhu define link building as “a methodology that results in getting external pages of another site to point to your website”.

Fixing broken links has an important part to play in every successful company’s SEO strategy. Identifying and fixing possible broken links is a solid strategy for attracting viewers to your site, and stealing viewers away from other websites.

Links that no longer work are problematic for the owner of the site, but they also create great opportunities for vigilant internet trawlers. Any time you find a broken link on your own site or a competitor’s site, you get the opportunity to do some broken link building.

Image showing the process of broken link building strategy.
Image showing the process of broken link building strategy.

What does broken link building mean? Well, one of the ways that website owners can lure visitors away from other people’s sites is to go trawling around the internet looking for links that don’t work on their competitors’ sites.

Then, they can contact the website owner and offer to supply a correctly functioning link – to their own websites – as a replacement.

Broken link building has several advantages:

Domain Authority

Even if your site already has a high DA score, publishing relevant content on additional websites with high DA scores means a higher place in the SERPs. Therefore, website owners can go in search of high DA websites relevant to their own content that have links that don’t work.

If you find any, you  get the chance to do some broken link building – namely, replacing any broken links with your own content – which is quite a quick and easy way of reaping the rewards of somebody else’s high Domain Authority.

New Audiences

When you engage in broken link building, you quite often inadvertently come across something you didn’t know, that can help your business.

When you search for high DA sites about certain topics, or using certain keywords, chances are that you’ll find interesting, useful information – or, at the least, new audiences who might be interested in your product or service.

In addition, these related sites might have their own broken links, presenting you with the opportunity to do even more broken link building!

A Win-Win Situation

You might feel a bit hesitant to approach the owner of a website out of the blue, with a request to insert your link: many would consider such a request as spammy, and probably not even reply.

But most often, when you notify somebody that one of their links is broken – and especially when you present them with a ready-made solution to the problem – the person is likely to accept. After all, you’re helping them by pointing out something that could be affecting their SEO, and providing a better solution.

Even so, there will more than likely be at least one or two who don’t. The great thing is that, when you are doing broken link building for a bunch of different sites with one or more broken links, you can use a single email template for different recipients. Then if some of them don’t respond, it’s not such a big deal.

Getting an Edge Over the Competition

It may feel kind of sneaky to go trawling around looking for broken links on other people’s sites, and using them to do some broken link building to your own advantage.

However, you can be sure that your competitors would jump at any chance they got to profit from broken link building on your site!

Link building, even utilizing broken link building strategies, is a legitimate way to improve your rankings. You should accept any broken link building opportunities you can.

So there you have it: plenty of good reasons to scout out all the web pages on your own site along with a competitor’s site that has a dead link, and do a bit of broken link building. But how do you actually go about finding and fixing broken links?

Well, basically, you have to use your website as you expect your users to use it: click all the links, and see if everything works properly. This is a good practice to have in place not only for link building, but also SEO.

Alternatively, if you can’t spare the time to do this, or you’re worried you might not pick up all the broken pages, there are plenty of reliable paid tools that can be used.

Hiring a professional to do your link building is a great option if you don’t have time for this process yourself. For a fee, you might well save time and other resources if you choose this option, plus you can be sure you’re getting a top-quality service.

In the free method, the first step is making a list of websites where you’d hope to do some link building. If you’re aware of related sites or competitor sites, go ahead and list them; if not, list some relevant keywords and Google them to identify potential websites.

If you’re using Google Chrome, you’ll find free link building tools and plugins – like Check My Links – to help you in your broken link building quest. Once you’ve installed the plugin, visit the first site on your list.

Example of the Check My Links browser extension button that enables you to check your links.
Example of the Check My Links browser extension button that enables you to check your links.

You’ll probably need to go quite a way back into the blog archive of the site, since older posts are more likely to contain broken links than newer posts.

There are a wide array of link building tools available which range from free to paid options. Once you enter the domain name for one of your target websites, the tool will provide a list of all the dead links on that site.

You can use online tools and browser extensions to find broken links on other websites. Image reference - Sitechecker
You can use online tools and browser extensions to find broken links on other websites. | Sitechecker

Some of the more advance tools will also show the number of referring domains each page has. However, this is usually a feature only found on paid plans.

Once you’ve identified some broken pages, you can use the Wayback Machine to access a previous saved version of the page, so you can see how it used to look before it got broken.

That will allow you to reproduce similar content for the page, along with your own improvements and search engine optimization to make it even better than before.

Using Wayback Machine to see the oldest version of a post or article.
Using Wayback Machine to see the oldest version of a post or article.

Link building is pretty easy to do when you find broken links on your own site, since your team has full access to the content on your own pages. There are normally several things you can do to keep your internal links working properly and your search engine optimization high.

First, update your pages regularly, and remove links to any events that have passed, promotions that have ended, etc.

Second, check for typos. That’s why you can’t just look at a link, and see that it looks more or less ok. You have to actually click it, then if there was a typo in the link that you didn’t see, you’ll soon find out, when you don’t get taken to the page you were expecting.

Third: use intentional redirects. If a page is broken, but contains valuable links that you need to retain, you can use 301 redirects to direct traffic to the correct page, without losing the other links the damaged page contains.

A 301 redirect is a good way to combat broken links without losing the link.
A 301 redirect is a good way to combat broken links without losing the link.

Finally, you might decide it’s not worth trying to salvage a page that’s very outdated, or that never really worked as well as you hoped: in that case, just delete the whole page.

If you find a broken external link on your page, you won’t be able to do your broken link building yourself. If you still want to link to that external page, you’ll have to notify the owner of the website about the broken link, and wait for that person to fix it.

Alternatively, you can search for similar content at a different address to use instead.

This could even work out as a way of killing two birds with one stone: you can replace any broken link with a link to high DA websites (see “Domain Authority,” above). You will not only be directing more viewers to your site, but also boosting your site’s DA performance, with very little effort on your part.

On the other hand, you may decide to remove the broken link altogether. It might just not be worth the effort of fixing or updating broken pages that just aren’t working for you. Having no link at all is better than having a link that doesn’t work.

Just as there is a way for finding broken links, there is also the paid option for broken link building. For example, if you use Buzznberry’s broken link building services, you get a guarantee that all links will have an Ahrefs DR30 or more.

In fact, depending how much you are willing to pay, you can choose content with DR30-39, DR40-49, or DR50-59. You can pay a fixed rate per link, or get a discounted rate when you choose the monthly package.

Conclusion

To summarize, link building should play a central part in any company’s business strategy. Every broken page negatively impacts the user experience of your customers, your sales, and your Google rankings – which could lead you into a self-perpetuating downward spiral.

Finding each broken link in your own content allows you to fix it before your customers get the chance to become annoyed and decide to take their business elsewhere.

If you’re quick, finding a broken link in somebody else’s content will give you the chance to replace that broken link with your own content before your competitor even notices that the link is down and certainly before the site owner gets a chance to fix their link.

Publishing your own content on sites similar to yours can allow you to benefit from having content on additional high-DA pages. It can allow you to reach new audiences or markets, and, best of all, it’s both in your own best interests, and the best interests of the owner of the site with the broken link.

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