Broken link building is probably one of the oldest link building methods going.
Not only is it completely white hat, but it’s a very effective way of gaining links from authority sites who you may not necessarily have been able to get onto with other methods (or certainly not as easily, anyway).
There are quite a few different spins on the broken link building technique, and today I’m going to share my favorite with you guys.
Using this exact method, I’ve been able to gain high authority links from major sites in an array of different niches for my clients.
And the best bit is…it’s guaranteed to work every time.
Conventional broken link building will usually have a relatively high conversion rate depending on your niche. But my take on the tactic works time and time again, no matter what industry you’re in.
How Broken Domain Link Building Works
It all starts the way that every good night should end.
With a crawl.
Except this time, you won’t be crawling your way out of a 90s bar in Camden Town at 6am sluring your way through the entire B*Witched back catalogue. C’mon, we’ve all been there, right? Don’t be looking at me like I’m the strange one. You’re all as guilty as me and you know it.
Instead, you’ll need to grab the URL of the authority site we want the link from and stick it into a crawler. My go to tool for this sort of stuff is usually screaming frog. There are loads of different crawlers out there to choose from, but for me, screaming frog will always be the daddy.
Once you’ve set screaming frog off crawling your chosen website, you might as well go make yourself a brew. Take 10 mins off. You’ve earnt it! (I told you this method was pretty awesome)
OK so once you’re done with your power nap, the crawler should be just about done with its end of the deal.
If you use screaming frog like I do, you’ll end up with a list of all sorts of useful info in. The bit we’re interested in however, is the tab that says “External”.
On here are a list of all the outbound links found on that site. More importantly than that though, it also gives you the response code of the pages that are being linked to.
Now this is where my method deviates slightly from traditional broken link building.
What most people will do at this point is scan down the response code column and look for any 404 errors. They can then use archive.org to recreate the resource on their own site and then contact the webmasters and ask for the broken link to be re-pointed.
Then they’ll grab a list of everyone else that’s linking to that same resource – chances are if an authority site is linking to the dead page, then others will be too – and ask them to do the same.
That’s a great tactic, and as I said earlier, it usually gets a great response rate. Webmasters are happy because they’re fixing up their site, you’re happy because you get the link you wanted. Sorted.
But what if there was a way to bypass that whole pesky “permission” thing?
Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting we start hacking the site or anything like that. But I am suggesting that we might not necessarily need to even contact the webmaster to get the link.
Here’s What I Do Instead…
While everyone else is filtering away looking for 404 response codes, I’ll go down the list and look for the stuff that doesn’t produce any response code.
These will usually appear in screaming frog as a response code “0”, and they might say something along the lines of “connection timed out” or “connection could not be established”. Something like this is what we’re looking for:
A 404 code is a server response code to tell the browser that the page has not been found. So that means, by virtue of the server returning a response code, that there is still someone maintaining hosting on that domain.
The pages that return no response code however, have no server at the other end. In other words, there is no site on that domain.
That means that the domain is no longer being used.
So if you click on that result in screaming frog, and then look down towards the bottom of the window, you’ll see something like this:
This section tells you the exact page on the crawled domain where the link can be found, the exact URL of the broken link and the anchor text which is being used.
This is useful, as we can now go straight to the page that has the link on and check out what we’re dealing with.
Securing The Domain
So from here, you’ve got 2 possible outcomes.
Either the domain being linked to is registered to someone who is no longer using it, or the domain is not registered to anyone.
If it’s the latter, then you’re game on.
However, if the domain is already registered, you’re going to have to do a bit of hustling before you can drink up the lovely link juice. Thankfully though, there are a couple of ways you can go from here.
1) Contact the current owner. It sounds so simple, but I’ve had great success before simply by checking out the whois records and emailing the current registrant and offering them a few quid for the domain they’re not using. My biggest tip here would be to keep the email fairly casual. Something to the tune of “hey, I notice you’ve only got 4 months left before website.com expires, do you fancy making a few quid of it before that happens?” usually gets you a foot in the door.
2) If your judgement says that the site owner probably won’t be tempted to part with it, then get yourself over to a drop catching service (these guys are pretty good ) and get ready to pounce the second the current registration expires and the domain becomes available to register again.
What To Do With The Domain Once You Have It
There’s a couple of options here, and what you do next with the domain is probably a judgement call that will depend on the project you’re working on. Personally I like to mix between the 2.
Register the domain, throw up a site – you can always use archive.org to recreate the old site if you’d prefer to do that – and link back to your own site from there. Just remember if you’re doing this, you’ll need to recreate the specific page that’s being linked to by these authority sites. It’s no good having all those quality links going to your 404 page. Someone could really take advantage of that ;)
Alternatively you can save yourself the hassle and just 301 redirect your new domain straight into your site.
Which of these options you choose is really going to depend on your specific situation. Important factors to consider are things like what the site used to be about (is it closely enough related to your site for a 301 to appear natural) and what sort of link profile it’s got (remember that a 301 effectively passes on all links from one page to another, so if you’ve got a load of spammy links in there as well as those lovely authority ones, it might be silo site time rather than 301).
And there you have it. A link from any site you like, for less than $10.
The beauty of this technique is that every large authority site will acquire broken links over time. That’s to be expected. So if you look hard enough and are crawling the right pages, you’re in with a good chance at bagging your link.
Then once you find the broken link, you’re guaranteed to get it. There’s no contacting webmasters and just hoping they go along with your suggestion.
Some Bonus Tips
I know this post has turned into a bit of a long one, so if you’ve stuck around and managed to read this far, then you deserve a treat.
Here’s my little bonus tip…
Think carefully about the type of pages where you’re likely to find links to sites which no longer exist. More specifically, think about the age of the page where you’re going to find these links.
For example, you’re not likely to be scanning through last weeks news stories and find a link to an expired domain.
Start scanning older pages where the broken links would have already had time to expire and become available.
Thinking carefully about the types of site you target can dramatically reduce the amount of time you spend hunting down those expired domain opportunities.
It’s turned into a bit of a monster post again, so a big thankyou to all of you who have read this far. Every one of you is an absolute legend, and I want to thank you all for your continued support for the blog!
Want more great tips like this?
Submit your email below and join hundreds of marketers who get my latest posts, as well as exclusive email content, delivered straight to your inbox.