Broken Link Building Guide – The Easiest High Authority Backlinks You’ll Ever Get
This article was originally published as a part of the Smash Digital Inner Circle.
It’s the private newsletter for our clients, partners, and friends, where we share one super actionable SEO tip that has worked well for us, every week.
If you’d like to get these months before the public, you now have the chance to do so by filling out the form below.
Backlinks – The Primary Bottleneck of First Page Rankings
What if all that wasn’t enough to secure the top positions?
Backlinks are what you’re looking for.
They’re the main ranking factor in Google and what SEOs spend the most time and money on.
This week, I’m going to show the easiest way to get super high authority backlinks to your site, without sending out tens of thousands of spammy emails or spending thousands on guest posts.
Broken link building is the magic word.
Time to learn: 10-15 minutes
Impact (1-10): 8
Tools required: Ahrefs
Let’s get to it…
What Is Broken Link Building and Why Is It SO Powerful?
In short, broken link building is finding pages on your competitors’ site that already have backlinks to them but the content doesn’t exist anymore.
As a website owner, you already know how fickle websites can be.
Whether it’s a bad redirect, some other technical issue, or content a website owner thought was irrelevant… Things happen.
When these pages go down, they retain all of the backlinks they had, and hundreds of webmasters end up with a broken link on their site (which isn’t good for their users nor SEO).
This is a great opportunity for us.
Unlike most other outreach-based link building strategies, you’re not going to start your email with “hey, please do me a favor because my blog post is so amazing”.
You lead with a value proposition.
“Your website is broken, I’ve done all of the work for you, now you can fix it and serve your readers better.”
And that’s exactly what we’re going to do:
- Find broken pages in your industry that already have links to them
- Figure out what content was on that page and why it was linked to
- Create our own version of that page
- Let everybody who links to the broken page know
Step 1. Finding Broken Pages With Links
Broken link building used to be an “advanced tactic” because of the time it took to find these pages and check if they have any links to them.
Our favorite SEO tool, Ahrefs has almost made it too easy to do this.
If you haven’t signed up for it yet, they do have a 7-day trial for $7 you can use to give it a try. It’s a must-have if you want to grow your organic traffic.
We’re going to head to Content Explorer in Ahrefs and type in a broad topic related to our niche.
Let’s pretend we have an email marketing software, so I’m going to type in email marketing, and set the results to “In Title” to add more relevancy.
Then we’ll also set the filters to only show broken pages that are in English and sort them all by the amount of referring domains they have.
We can immediately see a ton of link building opportunities.
For example, Adestra’s consumer adoption and usage study has over 139 different websites linking to it, ranging from GoDaddy to ActiveCampaign.
This is just one of many opportunities in the email marketing space.
Let’s dig deeper…
Step 2. Identifying the Reason for the Links
If we click on the result in Content Explorer and go under “Backlinks” we can see that people are linking to it in reference to a statistic they’d included in their post: “poorly formatted emails get deleted in less than three seconds”
It sounds like they were also an email marketing software and did some sort of survey or customer analysis and provided statistics (back in 2016).
We can use Archive.org to see exactly what was on that page:
Now, while we can’t download the exact report, I’m sure we can find it with some Googling around.
Next up, the most important step…
Step 3. Creating Content with the Same Intent
This is the part that is going to make or break your broken link building campaign.
Before we can start emailing people and asking them to link to our resource as a replacement to the broken link, we need to create it and make it look trustworthy.
Now, a lot of people simply steal that entire content from Archive.org and reupload it as their own. We don’t do this and we don’t recommend you doing this, you can get in a lot of trouble with this.
The easiest way to set this page up and still get decent results is make a recap of the page.
Check this example out from one of our businesses, Smash VC:
We found a bunch of broken links on MarketingPower.com and decided to use just one page to get links from each of them.
This page got links from over 19 different websites, with domain ratings in the 50s to 70s in many cases.
The content starts off with a short recap of what MarketingPower was, what happened to it, and then we have short overviews of their “best articles”.
These are the articles that were broken and the bits we highlight in the “overview” are the reasons people were linking to them (e.g. a specific statistic or quote).
Basically, we hit 5 birds with one stone and were still able to provide value to the people who were going to replace their links to this article.
The advanced way to do it would be creating a better, more up to date version of the broken page.
In the example from earlier, Adestra’s consumer study was from 2016. If you’ve got an email marketing app, it may be worth asking your audience the same questions they did and creating a 2019 version of that same study.
This way you’re not just reaching out with a replacement, but in fact, an upgrade.
Not only will this serve as a broken link building page, it’ll likely also attract new links when marketed right.
Step 4. Email People Linking to The Broken Page
Let’s head back to Ahrefs and paste in the URL of our broken link in the site explorer.
Click on “Backlinks” in the left-hand menu and we can see every single link pointing back to that page. We’re going to export this data and start looking for people’s emails.
The person who’s email you’re going to be looking for is going to vary based on the size of the site.
For a site such as Entrepreneur.com (or equivalent) you’ll want:
- The author
- The editor of the section/column
For a medium-sized company/site, such as an agency:
- The author
- The Content Marketing Manager
- The Chief Marketing Officer
For a smaller site or personal blog:
- The author
- The owner of the site
These are critical distinctions. If you’re going to be emailing the CEO or CMO of Entrepreneur.com about a broken link, you’re not even going to get a response, let alone a link.
The email finding itself is quite easy.
Once you’ve identified who you’re looking for (i.e. author vs owner), you’ll want to find their full name using the site’s about page or LinkedIn.
While you’re there, you might already be able to find the email address.
The most common places I find emails are:
- Contact page
- About page
- Author page
- LinkedIn profile
- Their twitter
If these are a no go, I use a Chrome extension called Hunter. They have a massive database of emails for every website on the internet. If you’re doing this at scale you could also use a tool like AeroLeads, which lets you find emails (and other contact details) very quickly.
So I can head over to the page that is linking to our broken page and click on the Hunter icon to see what emails they find.
Let’s pretend we were looking for a Karl Kangur on Campaign Monitor but Hunter didn’t find the email…
Well, we can see quite clearly that almost every email at CampaignMonitor.com follows the same format: first name plus first letter of last name and their domain.
I’ll blast off an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and call it a night.
There are other similar tools you can use to increase your chances of finding the right email but in most cases, this should do.
Still couldn’t find it? Check out our in-depth guide to finding anyone’s email address.
Step 5. Profit
We’re at the last step now and it’s actually reaching out to those people and asking for the link.
Now, I’m not going to share my actual templates for this because:
- Templates end up in junk/spam folders when people use them too much
- Their conversion rates drop super fast
Lucky for you, this is one of the easiest emails to write.
There are two main templates I use and depending on the industry, one or the other will work better – you’ll have to test it.
The first one is a bit shady – you’re pretending you were reading their blog, ended up on a broken link but needed the information (e.g. for a blog post, school paper – get creative). You did additional research and found it at X site (link to your site). You wanted to give them a heads up.
Super subtle, kind of a hit or miss.
The second one is more straightforward – say you were doing research on the topic and found their broken link, you were doing research on the topic anyway so you decided to make a page around it. Let them know they should either delete the broken link and the paragraph around it or replace it with your resource.
That’s all there is to it.
See you next week with yet another actionable SEO strategy.
Meanwhile… Let’s Smash it!