Broken link building is starting to get a bad rep. People think it’s a narrow, straightforward strategy, when in reality it’s not. You can get more creative with this strategy than any other link building technique out there.
Yes, you can stick to just finding broken links on links pages & blogrolls and asking the webmaster to replace one with a link to you, but you can go way further with this strategy. Not even I have begun to use it to its full potential.
Here are a few miscellaneous “outside of the box” strategies for broken link building you probably haven’t heard of before.
Ever heard of secondary link building? You can use this strategy in combination with broken link building very nicely. If you’ve already gotten a link from that specific site you’re targeting or you feel the link is a bit shady and could possibly send spam signals, ask for a link to a site or post already linking to you instead. This still passes value to you and can take the risk out of some situations.
Best practice: Do this for in-content links, but only in situations in which a highly reputable site/post would act as the replacement link (of course, that highly reputable site/post would already be linking to you). Why? If I told half of my prospects to link to one of my SEOmoz posts and the other half to link to one of my posts hosted on my blog, I guarantee I’ll have much more success with the first half. Trust plays a huge role when asking for links.
You just need to find one or two broken links somewhere on the site to get their attention. A broken link is an “in”. An “in” is a value-adding reason for contacting someone. Another example of an “in” is fixing spelling or grammar. When you have one, this is just your chance to get someone’s attention, meaning it doesn’t have to be a broken link on the specific page you want a link from. Granted the success rate might not be as high, sometimes finding a broken link on that specific page isn’t an option.
When you find broken URLs, plug them into OSE to find other places linking to that URL. Export the CSV for each and start building a master spreadsheet. Trust me, once you do this, you’re going to immediately tweet @ me showering me with Thank You’s.
For example, imagine you come across a links page with 10 broken links. You plug these into OSE to find who’s linking to them. You check out the 200 or so total pages linking to them, and you come across (on average) one additional broken link per page. Your list has now grown to 210 broken URLs. Rinse and repeat, build your spreadsheet, and never run out of prospects.
Remember how I talked about finding an “in”? In’s aren’t necessarily used only to obtain links. Finding broken links can also be used to start relationships or to get in touch with someone with regards to other link opportunities, such as guest posting & crowdsource participation.
The sooner you start using broken links for more than just one-time links, the sooner you start taking advantage of these opportunities that yield much greater rewards.
Sometimes you’ll come across an entire site that’s broken. Jackpot. If it has a decent amount of link equity, then there’s much more to take advantage of here than just adding it to your master spreadsheet as talked about above.
Plug in the site to OSE to find their top pages to determine which ones yield the most link equity. Then go to the Wayback machine to find what was on those pages. The easier it is to reproduce this content, the better.
Pro tip: Get the Wayback machine bookmarklet to quickly see what was on those pages. Trust me, this can save you a ton of time. Just drag this link to your toolbar: Wayback. Now, whenever you come across a broken page, hit the bookmarklet instead of tediously going to the Wayback machine website.
Once you find something you can recreate, recreate it, but make it 10x better. I mean it. If it has worked in the past, imagine the success you could get if it’s even better. We’re not just using this to ask webmasters to update the old, broken link with a link to you, but also as linkbait; if the old content attracted links in the past, and if yours is even better, then there’s no reason you can’t too. I like to call this strategy Double Jeopardy (actually, I just came up with it. I thought it was catchy).
Hopefully you learned a lot from each of these strategies. The best part is that they’re completely actionable. Tell me one strategy above you can’t go & try right now.
Remember, creativity pays off. Link building is about being a pioneer; the first one to conquer a new frontier always reaps the greatest reward. Do you know who was the second person to fly across the Atlantic Ocean? I bet you don’t, but I bet you know Charles Lindbergh was the first (Note: the only acception to this rule is mice. As they say, the second mouse gets the cheese!).
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Thanks, and can’t wait to hear your thoughts in the comments below!