Ask any SEO expert, and they’ll tell you that link building is at the core of search engine rankings. In fact, in Moz’s 2015 Search Engine Ranking Factors Survey, the two most influential ranking factors are domain-level link features (8.22/10) and page-level link features (8.19/10). Yes, you read that right. The quality and quantity of links pointing at your site matter more than any single change or combination of changes you can make to your own website.

Links are of supreme importance, yet they’re hard to get. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg syndrome. Are links valuable for rankings because they’re hard to obtain, or are they hard to obtain because they matter so much? If you run a Fortune 500 company or create viral content, you don’t have to go link hunting. But for the average small business, it’s really hard to get genuine links. You can sit there and wait until or The New York Times link to your website, or you can be proactive. Broken link building is a great opportunity to build up your backlink profile by providing value across the web.

How Broken Link Building Works

A broken link is just what it sounds like. You click a link on a site, and it leads nowhere. Maybe the page has vanished from the internet, maybe there’s  just a typo, or maybe the webmaster on the linked site hasn’t paid his/her hosting fees. Whatever the cause, you can take advantage! Email the webmaster, let them know that their link is broken, and offer your link as a replacement.

There are many different approaches, but a good start is to Google your keyword along with phrases like “resources,” “suggested sites,” “list of sites” etc.

Let’s say a foodie website has a list of the best cookie recipes. Included on the list is a broken link to Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies. You happen to have a great recipe already written on your blog, so you contact the webmaster, let them know about the broken link, and offer yours as a replacement. If you get a response, it will likely be positive. After all, you’re doing the site a favour by fixing an error.

Broken Link Building

You can also take a reverse approach. Choose a website that you would like to target, and then mine their site for broken link opportunities. The later tactic may require returning to the site at regular intervals for new opportunities to present themselves.

Now, you don’t always have the perfect corresponding link. Instead, use it as an opportunity to scout for broken links, write corresponding content, and then offer up your link. Both strategies are perfectly viable.

For more information, The Broken Link Building Bible is a great resource. You can also install a broken link extension for your browser, which will crawl the selected website for broken links.

Why Broken Link Building is Awesome

There are four reasons why we believe in a broken link building strategy, even if can be tedious.

  1. White Hat. In the SEO world, you can be above-board and ethical with your strategies (white hat), focus on risky quick-fix strategies (black white), or a mixture of both approaches. Broken link building is a well-respected white hat tactic.
  2. Scalable. You can fix one broken link on one site, or dozens of links across millions of sites. There will always be more websites and more broken links, and thus more opportunity.
  3. Focus on Content. Every single day, the SEO focus shifts a little bit more from surface-level keyword-stuffed drivel to valuable, original, in-depth content. Broken link building rewards those who focus on providing value to the reader.
  4. Effective. Simply put, broken link building works. Nobody would be doing it otherwise, because there’s no doubt it’s a rote process.

Backlinks are at the core of off-page SEO. Stick with it and be thorough, and you’ll see that broken link building is a valuable tool in the SEO arsenal.

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Derek Cosgrove

Derek has 10 years of digital marketing experience and is a Senior Account Manager at seoplus+. He specializes in helping local businesses and Shopify stores with their digital marketing.