Broken Link Tactics: Achieving Quality Backlinks by Tying Up Loose Ends
There are plenty of white hat tactics for achieving high quality backlinks on the web – but one of the most foolproof ways I’ve come across involves fixing loose ends, so to speak. It’s commonly known as “broken link building,” a strategy that focuses on finding webpages linking to external pages that 404. In the process, you’ll not only help said site’s webmaster by bringing broken links to their attention, but you’ll also be able to suggest your own link as a resource and broken link replacement. Meanwhile, there are a number of ways you can go about this – all worth your consideration and time:
Check your own site(s) for broken links/404s
Before you focus on other websites’ 404 error pages, it’s important to examine your own. Whether you have just one website that’s been around for a while, or you’re in charge of many websites at an agency level – you may find that your own 404 pages could be costing you in terms of SEO. An external site could be trying to link in to you, but if it’s pointing to one of your 404 pages, your website is likely missing out on valuable PageRank/link juice that the external site is attempting to pass along. By using tools like Ahrefs or Moz’s Open Site Explorer, you can see exactly which sites are linking in to your 404s.
Let’s say your website is a manufacturer of parts for wind turbine construction. Yes, your industry is pretty niche, but you do have your fair share of competitors you’re battling against for top spots in SERPs for a number of valuable key terms. Let’s say that while analyzing your backlinks, you come to find that that the site Green Energy World News* (*made up) is linking to one of your 404 pages. The 404 page was once home to a product category, but since, you’ve moved those same products to another URL on your site. Therefore, the next step here would be to contact Green Energy World News, provide them with a new, relevant link on your site that doesn’t 404 and thus, you’ve just repaired a broken link bridge, so to speak. Not only will you likely benefit from this in terms of SEO, but you’ll also provide Green Energy World News’s viewers with a better website experience.
Use Google search operators to find industry-specific resource pages
Now, let’s say you provide consultation services to companies that need help developing disaster recovery plans. Part of your website lists how-to’s, whitepapers, and just a lot of other great resources you’ve worked hard to develop. Therefore, you have quality content on your site and because of that, it’s possible that other sites dealing with your industry are going to want to link to this content.
One of the top ways websites choose to link to other sites is through resource pages they think will valuable to their readers. So in this case, you’re going to want to look for resource pages that specifically deal with your industry – that being, disaster recovery. Here’s how you can use search operators to narrow down the field:
Search for the term “resources” in website titles, along with adding a key term to the search query
This is achievable by using the search operator “intitle:” Here’s how you’ll want it to look in the search field…
This will search for any websites with the term “resources” in the title, along with those websites specifically dealing with disaster recovery (hence why we have “disaster recovery” in quotations).
Search for the term “resources” in website URLS, along with adding a key term to the search query
Resource pages won’t always have the term “resources” in the title, so a way to cover all your bases is to search for webpages that also have the term “resources” in the URL. Here’s how your search using this operator should look typed into the search field:
From there, you can compile a list of web results that sound promising (For an in-depth list of Google search operators, check out GoogleGuide.com).
Now here’s where broken links come into play: Scan those promising resource pages for any broken outbound links. For this, I’d recommend a browser extension like Check My Links (there are, however, others). Activate it and it will highlight any links that 404 in red. From there, you’ll want to contact the web admins, politely point out the broken link(s), suggest your own webpage(s) as a resource that can be added, and then sit back, and hope they add it.
Embrace time travel
As you stumble upon those resource pages with the broken links, it may be important to figure out exactly what made it worthwhile originally for the site to link out to the pages that now 404. Perhaps it’s some kind of tutorial or piece of evergreen content. Whatever the case, you’ll be able to find out exactly what that 404 page discussed by plugging it into the Wayback Machine. Since the content no longer exists, you can do this: Craft your own unique content covering the same issues that the broken link once discussed. Not only that, you can make it even better than said 404 link. Once you’re done crafting the content, simply suggest your webpage to the webmaster as a replacement for the old 404 URL.
Searching for 404s and recommending your own links to replace them should be just one of the many white hat link development tactics in your arsenal. As Google stated earlier this year, backlinks are still (and will continue to be) one of the top 3 ranking factors in the search giant’s algorithm, along with having unique content and RankBrain. By addressing 404s, you’re not just helping your own SEO efforts, you’re helping patch up the web in order to make it a more informative, interconnected place.