Getting Started with Broken Link Building
by Quenton Fyfe
17th August 2018
If you spend time reading Internet Marketing or Online Business websites – chances are you’ve heard the term “Broken Link Building”.
But perhaps you’re not quite sure what Broken Link Building is, whether it’s something you should be doing, and if so – how to get started.
This article will get you up to speed quickly – and show you an easy way to start putting Broken Link Building to work for your business.
What is Broken Link Building?
We all know that the number and quality of links pointing to your website is one of Google’s most important ranking factors.
Counting and evaluating links is fundamental to how Google works:
Their PageRank algorithm was the breakthrough that set Google on the path to being the world’s most popular search engine – and although it’s been modified and improved many times since then, some form of PageRank is still a core part of their ranking algorithm today.
Here’s a quote direct from Google:
So we know from Google themselves that backlinks from other websites are important if we want to rank.
So how do we go about getting more of them?
The simplest way is to find a website that we’d like a link from, and reach out to the webmaster via email and ask for a link.
That works – and if you reach out to enough webmasters, you’ll definitely get some links.
The problem with simple link outreach like this is that it usually doesn’t work very well, and response rates are very low. So you’ll need to find a lot of websites to reach out to – and send a large number of emails to get any links.
What we need is a better way to build links – one that gets a better response rate than simply requesting a link – and that’s where Broken Link Building comes in.
Broken Link Building is a very simple technique to help you get more links. Here’s how it works:
- Find a website you’d like to get a link from
- Find a broken link on that website
- Contact the webmaster – point out the broken link, and ask for a link to your own website
Looks simple – and it is. But within that simple framework, there are lots of pitfalls to avoid, and opportunities to make the process more effective, and they all add up – which is why some beginners struggle with broken link building, while many experienced link builders swear by it.
What Makes Broken Link Building So Great?
Broken Link Building is one of the best link building techniques available – here are just a few reasons why:
It Gets More Links
If you do Broken Link Building right, you’ll get a better response rate, and more lots more links than you will with outreach alone. That’s the best reason of all!
It Won’t Upset Google
Google hates link schemes. They’re prohibited in Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Google defines a Link Scheme as:
And they include examples such as:
- Buying or Selling Links that pass PageRank
- Excessive Link Exchanges
- Large Scale Article Marketing or Guest Posting Campaigns
- Using Automated Programs or Services to Create Links to Your Site
So what DO Google want? They say:
And that’s the great thing about links obtained with Broken Link Building – they’re editorial links freely given by the webmasters you’re contacting. They will only link to you if they like your content – and that’s exactly the sort of link that Google likes.
It Makes The Web a Better Place
Most link building and promotion techniques pollute the web and make it a worse place. Spammy blog comments, low-quality guest posts, fake forum profiles – you name it.
Broken Link Building is different – by helping webmasters to clean up the broken links on their websites, it actually makes the web a better place!
There’s an Endless Supply of Broken Links
Links break every day as people move things around or delete them. By some estimates more than 7 billion new links break every year – that’s more than 19 million per day! You’ll never run out of broken links.
It Scales Well
You can start off small, finding a few broken links here and there, emailing the webmasters and collecting some links for yourself.
But if you want to scale up and get loads of links, Broken Link Building is a technique that scales very well. You can even outsource key parts of the process and get as many links as you need.
Why Does Broken Link Building Work?
There are two main reasons. The first is Reciprocity. Let me explain:
Reciprocity means that when someone does something nice for us – we feel obligated to do something for them in return. This effect is real and has been demonstrated in scientific studies.
Broken Link Building harnesses the power of Reciprocity to get more links: Because you’re helping a webmaster to improve their page by pointing out the broken link – they’re much more likely to help you out by granting your link request.
The second reason Broken Link Building is so effective is that the webmaster already has to edit their page – to fix the broken link – so the extra effort required to link to your website at the same time, is minimal.
In the next section I’ll show you an easy way to get started with broken link building – step-by-step:
Step-by-Step Broken Link Building Guide
Step1. Install Plugin
To do Broken Link Building you need a way to find the broken links on a web page. Clicking all the links manually in the hope of finding a broken one would be far too slow and laborious.
Luckily there are browser plugins that can find the broken links for you – and the best of these is called Domain Hunter Plus – and it’s available for free in the Chrome Web Store.
Of course, you’ll need to be using the Chrome browser – if you’re not, you can download Chrome here.
Once you’ve installed the Domain Hunter Plus plugin, you’ll find a little “crosshairs” icon in your browser toolbar. We’ll be using that in a minute to find broken links.
Once you’ve installed the plugin, it’s time to find some web pages that you want to get a link from.
Step 2. Find Some Relevant Links Pages
We’ll start out by finding some links pages on sites that are relevant to yours.
That’s because you want to get links from relevant sites – they’re easier to get, and more powerful for ranking your site.
And links pages are a good place to start because (obviously enough) they have lots of links on them – so you’ll often find some broken ones.
Start off by listing a few of the main keywords in your niche – for example if your website is about Clicker Training Labradors, you might list the terms:
- Dog Training
- Dog Tricks
- Dog Obedience Training
- Clicker Training
- Labrador Training
… and lots of others.
Start off with the main keyword from your list – in this example you would choose the keyword “Dog Training”.
Then go to Google, and search for your keyword in quotes, followed by inurl:links.html
(When you type this query, make sure there are no spaces between the inurl: and links.html or the search won’t work properly.)
This search finds pages relevant to dog training, with “links.html” in the URL. These will usually be links pages on dog training websites.
Step 3. Find Broken Links
Click on the top search result – and if it looks like a page you’d like to get a link from, click on the Domain Hunter Plus icon on your browser toolbar.
Domain Hunter Plus will then check all the links on the page, and list any broken ones it finds.
Step 4. Find Contact Details
The next stage is to find the webmaster’s contact details:
You’ll usually find a Contact Us section linked from the main menu, or in the page footer. Sometimes the site will have an email address in the footer, or there will be a contact form on the About Us page.
If you can’t find an email address by browsing the site, search Google for site:www.domain.com email.
Which often manages to find a page with contact information and an email address.
Alternatively, you could try guessing the email address – some popular standard email addresses are:
And if you’ve found the webmaster’s name but no contact details, then try:
Just try one at a time though – if you email them all, and the webmaster has a catchall email address set up, they’ll get 7 copies of your email – which might not make a great first impression!
Step 5. Outreach
Now it’s time to reach out to the webmaster, tell them about their broken link, and request a link to your own website.
Some people recommend pretending to be someone unconnected with your website who just happened to find a broken link – or pretend to be a student working on a school project.
I don’t really go in for that sort of thing – webmasters get so many link request emails, they can spot one at 100 yards – so you’re better off just being straight with them from the start.
Here’s an example of a good outreach email:
Subject: Broken Link on Domain.com – and a Favour
I’ll be honest: I was looking for sites that might be willing to link to my latest dog training article – and I found your “how to become a professional dog trainer – links” page:
There’s a lot of great information on that page, especially the section showing all the different courses and certifications available – that’s a very comprehensive list and it must have taken you ages to put it together!
I did find one broken link on the page: Doggyworld Dog Training Courses – their website seems to have closed down.
When you’re updating that page to remove the broken link, I’d really appreciate it if you could add a link to my new “Clicker Training your Labrador – The Ultimate Guide” page, somewhere on your website:
Whether you decide to link to my page or not, I hope you like the article, and I’d really appreciate any feedback you can give me.
Don’t use this email word-for-word: Use it as a guide, and write your own email, in your own words.
Notice that I’ve made the effort to find and include the webmaster’s name – and that when I complimented his website, I said something that proved I’d actually looked at the site.
People notice things like that – and you’ll get a better response to a personalised approach that shows you made the effort to visit the site than if you simply used a “cookie cutter” email template that’s the same every time.
Once you’ve sent your first outreach email, note down the domain and email you sent it to – so that you won’t end up sending several emails to the same website by mistake. Then move on to the next result from your original Google query and repeat the process.
Keep working down the search results, checking for broken links and contacting webmasters until you run out of relevant results.
Step 6. Repeat with Query Variations
Once you run out of search results, there are several variations on the Google query we used, that will return more results:
Instead of “inurl:links.html” try:
And instead of “links” try the word “resources”, with each of the extensions .html .htm .php and .asp
Once you’ve done those, try some queries using the “intitle:” operator instead of “inurl:” – these will return pages that have your keywords in the page title. For example:
- dog training intitle:”useful links”
- dog training intitle:“related links”
- dog training intitle:”useful sites”
- dog training intitle:”recommended sites”
- dog training intitle:“resources”
These queries will turn up lots of new pages you can search for broken links. Some of the results will be the same as ones you’ve already seen – and that’s why it’s important to keep a note of every website you contact, so you don’t end up emailing the same website more than once by mistake.
I suggest using a spreadsheet as your “Master List”. You can keep a note of each website, when you contacted them, whether you’ve followed-up, as well as the responses and links you receive.
When you’ve finished going through all these variations for your first keyword – start all over again using the next keyword in your list. In most niches this will give you plenty of prospects for Broken Link Building.
Step 7. Send Follow-Up Emails
As you know yourself – webmasters are busy people – they’re not just waiting around for your email to drop in. Sometimes they’ll plan to deal with your email later, and never get around to it – it just gets buried in their inbox.
That’s why, if you haven’t heard back from a webmaster, it’s important to follow-up – by sending a second email, just to remind them.
Rather than writing a whole new email – my favourite follow-up technique is simply to forward the original email to them and add the text:
Just re-sending this in case you missed it:
It’s very quick to do, and looks very natural.
I normally follow-up 8-10 days after sending the first email, and I reckon I get about 20% of my links from the follow-up email – so it’s well worth doing.
I don’t usually send any more follow-ups after that – you’re in danger of getting into diminishing returns, and there’s a risk of annoying people and getting spam complaints if they feel you’re nagging them.
Broken Link Building is a Numbers Game
As I said earlier, probably the best thing about Broken Link Building is that you will typically get a better response rate (i.e. more links) than just doing email outreach and requesting a link.
But that doesn’t mean you can just send out a handful of emails occasionally and expect great results.
Broken Link Building is a system that works – but only if you work it! Response rates vary, depending on your market, how well you write your emails, and of course the quality of your content.
You should aim to get at least a 2% response rate from a Broken Link Building campaign, and as you learn more about the process and get better at it, you could see response rates of around 5% – or even more.
So if you consistently spend some time doing Broken Link Building, you’ll soon see a steady stream of new links to your website, and your rankings start to improve.
Taking it to the Next Level
This article has given you everything you need to get started with Broken Link Building, and get some new links to your website.
But I’ve just scratched the surface – there’s a lot more to Broken Link Building than I’ve been able to cover here. So I’ve created a course to show you everything you need to know: It’s called Broken Link Building Mastery.
In the course, I’ll show you how to use more advanced techniques and tools to really scale the process up, so you can quickly find thousands of broken link building opportunities, and get more links in less time.
With 24 video lectures, step-by-step checklists, fill-in-the-blanks email templates, and more, Broken Link Building Mastery has everything you need to start building links at scale, so you can get lots of backlinks any time you need them.
You’ll also be able to ask me questions about any aspect of Broken Link Building that you’re not sure about.
So if you’re ready to learn how to do Broken Link Building at scale, build hundreds of links, get great rankings in Google, and drive more traffic and sales, then click here to find out more about Broken Link Building Mastery.
1. “Facts about Google and Competition“. Archived on Wayback Machine.
2. “Link Schemes” on support.google.com