Every internet user has experienced the dreaded broken link phenomenon. An attractive link catches the users attention, but ultimately leads only to a 404 error page. But these broken links can be a boon to webmasters and SEO’s who know how to turn them to their advantage. While it takes some time, and a bit of work, rebuilding broken links can help your site take advantage of active links that are already drawing attention from potential customers.
Broken Link Building in a Nutshell
At its heart, broken link building is simply the process of locating online resources from compatible sites that have defaulted into 404 error pages. With a page located, you can use the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine to get a snapshot of the page when it was active. From there, it is simply a mater of rebuilding the page, improving it and updating it with valuable content. With that done, you can now contact those sites that are still linking to the page, informing them of the broken link and letting them know that you have a similar, more current, page on your site that they are welcome to link to instead.
Broken Link Building Step by Step
To begin with, the choice of sites you will visit looking for broken links will be determined by the type of business or service you offer. Look for blog sites closely related to your own, and choose a half dozen or so that have been around for a while. You want a site that is still generating good traffic, but fresher sites are less likely to have broken links that you can turn to your advantage.
Once you have selected a few sites, you’ll want to verify the site’s links with an application like Xenu’s Link Sleuth. This will allow you to identify any broken links, and isolate any outgoing links that redirect to 404 error pages. It will take a while to sort the valuable links from the chaff, but you should be able to tell from the URL if a page is going to worth rebuilding.
Once you have spotted a page that looks ripe for rebuilding, check its backlinks with your favorite SEO tool or a simple add-on like SEO Quake. If the page has a positive link profile, it may be perfect for rebuilding. If it only has a few active links, its likely not worth the trouble to rebuild. Skip it and move on. Once you have found a page with a desirable amount of backlinks, visit the Wayback Machine and look at a snapshot of the page from before it defaulted to a 404 error. Consider how you can recreate the page, making it better, more current and more desirable to potential visitors.
Reaching Out to Other Webmasters
With the page rebuilt, and improved upon, it’s time reach out to the webmasters who have existing links to the original page. Politeness costs nothing, so your approach should be respectful. Your objective here is to help them, as well as yourself. Inform the webmaster that they have a broken link on their site that is currently directing to a 404 error. Then, let them know that you have built a new page, and that it is an improvement over the old link and offers valuable current content. Extend an invitation to the webmaster to replace the broken link with your new and improved page. Bear in mind that not every webmaster will accept your invitation, and don’t be discouraged if you receive no reply at all.
The Benefits of Broken Link Building
The major advantage to broken link building is that the pages you rebuild are already proven themselves to be desirable links. They have a proven history of being active link bait, and only fail to succeed in their function because they have defaulted to 404 error pages. When your page is accepted by the webmasters you have contacted, it is immediately linked to a site with online authority, giving your link a solid footing on which to grow. With the links reactivated, and a new and improved page in place, you can begin to promote your links via the traditional routes. Broken link building offers a rich source of proven attractive links that are waiting to be mined by enterprising SEO specialists.