Broken Link Building: Score Links Like A Pro


We’ve all heard about broken link building (sometimes called ‘dead link building’). Search any top SEO or inbound marketing blog and you will find a horde of fresh articles on the topic. Broken link building is rapidly becoming a favored tactic of inbound marketers and SEOs around the web, and with recent Algorithm updates, this white hat technique is sure to stay. Here I want to run through my personal broken link building tactics and how to execute them. But first, let’s run through what broken link building actually is, and what makes it so important.

What is broken link building?

Broken link building is an inbound link acquisition strategy that at the root consists of finding 404 or “broken links” on other sites around the web. The idea is to find these broken links on others’ sites, contact them about them and how to fix them, and in turn receive a link for your good deed. These can be either outbound links or internal links. Both can be beneficial to your efforts in different ways.

Why is broken link building becoming so popular?

We all know the SEO landscape has changed drastically in the past year and with it, so have the tactics we use for link building. These days, less focus is put on “building links” and more on relationship building with others within our online communities.

One of the greatest hurdles of relationship building within our industry is gaining others’ trust. The first and greatest way of doing so is to provide some sort of value to them right from the start. In that vein, broken link building is probably the quickest and easiest way to provide a site owner/manager with helpful information specific to them.

Why it works

Think about it this way…there are only two types of people who will be responding to your broken link building outreach: those that care about fixing their broken links, and those who do not. We simply aren’t interested in the later, so we’ll throw them out of the picture for now.

The other half are most likely in the wheelhouse of providing great value to their visitors as well as making sure their sites are up to par in the eyes of the search engines, and if done in such a way, will be happy to offer you a link in return for your help.

Performing broken link building


  • Google Chrome “Check My Links” Plugin: This is one of the greatest plugins ever, seriously. A few second crawl of a page and it spits out all the broken links (by code) in different colors.
  • Screaming Frog: Top notch crawler that allows us to find all broken/404 internal links on any site.
  • OSE/Some form of backlink analysis tool: We all know it, we all love it, and the limited free version works well for this exercise (though the full version is even better)
  • A website that doesn’t suck: No site worth getting a link from will ever link to a sketchy site…fact.

How to do it

  • Advanced Search Queries:This is by far the most popular method of finding broken links to target in your broken link research. Using Google advanced search queries allows you to pinpoint areas of opportunity for reach out with virtually no cost involved. This tactic involves using a variety of different advanced search queries relating to you niche to find the easiest ways in. For example, if you are broken link building in the healthcare niche, you might use search queries such as “healthcare site:links/resources” or “healthcare intitle:links/resources”. These would allow you to find sites in your specific niche that have resource or helpful link pages that would be easy to nab a spot on, if at first you provide some helpful information.
    Once you have targeted your specific site, I would first use “Check my Links” to crawl the link/resource directory for broken links. 9/10 times you will find broken links here. If not, check a few other pages, and if all else fails, use Screaming Frog to find 404s within the site itself.
  • OSE Competitor Backlinks:Another popular way of finding sites to use broken link building reach out is by using Open Site Explorer (OSE) to find competitor backlinks. From this data, you can find and target sites that would easily link to yours once you have reached out and provided value. Typically, I look for link list and resource pages, as well as guest posts and reviews. Once again, after finding your link targets, use broken link finding methods as mentions above to sniff out those broken links. I have yet to find a site that didn’t have at least one, and that is the truth.
  • Screaming Frog Method:This tactic is one that is less known in the industry because it requires more work and is hit or miss, but the reward can be greatly beneficial. The tactic involves using Screaming Frog to crawl your competitors’ sites, finding all the 404 URLs on their sites. Once you have this list, run a backlink analysis on each of these 404 URLs to see who is linking to them. Once you have found sites linking out to these pages, simply reach out and offer to allow them to link to the corresponding content on your site instead. 9/10 times I have found the site moderator are too lazy to hunt out information on their own (a sad truth) and would rather link to my corresponding content, than to find the needed information on my competitors’ sites. A gamble for sure, but a great risk/reward method.
  • Buzzstream Method from Paddy Moogan: I won’t go into a ton of detail here, but Paddy Moogan has an awesome take on broken link building that you can read up on here

About Josh Patterson

Josh Patterson is a young entrepreneur and inbound marketing strategist out of Baltimore, MD. Josh is currently the Senior SEO Strategist at WebMechanix. Connect on Google Plus.