Broken Link Building Tactic – How to Use It to Get More Backlinks?



Broken Link Building Tactic – How to Use It to Get More Backlinks?d-tags
06 April 2023
Any long-standing website has some broken links. Even relatively newly launched websites happen to have some referral links that don’t work. Finding such dead-end links offers you a golden opportunity. You can swap them with a working link so that the web traffic is directed straight to your website. Here's how you can generate more quality backlinks using the broken link building tactic.



Table of contents

There are 6 main link building outreach strategies that grant you to acquire a number of inbound links. You may do digital PR, write guest posts, or do some dead link building.

Why would you spend your precious time on the latter? Why would you bother fixing some obvious page flaws on other people’s websites?

Imagine one of your friends recommending you a great meringue cake that you can buy in your corner bakery. Thanks to SEO and local link building, you have zero problems localizing this place on your smartphone. You set the route and go there, feeling your appetite for meringue cake rising with every step you take.

However, when you are finally at the bakery’s entrance and push the handle – it doesn’t move… The door is locked. You can’t go inside. What are you going to do next? You’ll probably try to find another place serving this irresistibly creamy dessert. From the bakery owner’s perspective, you’re a lost client.

The same happens with internet users. How so? There are no doors on the internet…

Let’s change the perspective a bit. Imagine someone is reading about bike tires. The buyer’s guide is really well-written and informative. It even features a link to bike tires review! The user clicks on the link and sees the below view:

Isn’t it an equivalent of the locked door from the previous example, but taking place online?

This is exactly why you should bother fixing broken links on websites that relate to your niche and your business. Using the broken link building tactic, you change the locks in those online doors. Once closed, they become open for your prospective customers, directing them straight to your website.

Okay, let’s talk about the benefits of dead link building using more concrete examples and less abstract language.

Here come some specifics on dead link building.

Broken link building, also known as dead link building, is a technique for obtaining quality backlinks. It depends on localizing dead links on other people’s websites in order to get those replaced with a working link, consequently moving the traffic to your website.

The best bit about broken link building is that it stays 100% within the bounds of White Hat SEO.

This fruitful link building tactic’s goal is to seize the opportunity that your competition has lost recently – they moved or deleted a page, thereby making the backlink invalid. By offering a replacement link, you help website owners, who have a couple of dead links scattered on some pages, to improve their user experience. How so?

Just look: You don’t only point out the areas of their website that may cause frustration among the users (nobody likes dead links leading to non-existent web content) but you also provide a ready-made solution (a working link to your article) to eliminate the problem. Isn’t it a textbook case of a win-win situation?

Generally speaking, the dead link building tactic consists of three main stages:

  • First, you use an advanced SEO tool (here is our list of the best link building tools in 2023) to comb through the internet and find websites* with dead backlinks.
  • Second, you reach out to the website’s owner and offer them a replacement link to your brilliant article.
  • Third, you enjoy an improved Backlink Profile and more organic traffic.

*NOTE Make sure the websites cover topics revolving around your niche and/or industry.

Even though the process of broken link building doesn’t seem to be particularly complex, it’s pretty time-consuming. To reap the long-term benefits, you need to be patient and persistent.

You don’t have the time or resources to build links on your own? Choose our link building services and let us handle it!

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Now, that you have an overall understanding of what a broken link building technique is, we can move forward and explore this subject in more detail.

Firstly, you need to have an advanced SEO tool at your disposal. It may be Ahrefs, SEMrush, or just the Check My Link Chrome extension. I’m going to walk you through the process of discovering dead links carried out on each of those tools.

Let’s move on to the first step of your dead link building process.

Here, you’re going to check whether some of the competing websites feature broken links on their pages.

STEP 1 Click Site Explorer and type in your competitor’s website URL.

find broken links in ahrefs

STEP 2 From the left sidebar, choose Best by links. This way you get a list of individual pages, which link to your competitor’s website, ranked from the most linked-to to the least linked-to.

ahrefs best by links feature

STEP 3 Now, go to the filters, which you can find right below the heading “Best by links” and click on the HTTP code to see the dropdown menu. Select 404 not found.

broken link building 404 not found

STEP 4 Finally, you see a list of all the dead pages on the domain you introduced in STEP 1.

broken links in ahrefs

Now sort them in descending order by clicking on RD (Referring Domains). This way at the very top you get the URLs that should give you an idea of the topics you should create an article or blog post about.

In the perfect case scenario, you already have such a piece of content published on your website or blog.

STEP 1 Go to Link Building (left sidebar) and click on Backlink Analytics.

STEP 2 You see the Backlink Analytics dashboard and a bar where you type a competitor’s URL.

STEP 3 Click on the Indexed Pages tab and check the Broken Pages box.

broken link building links semrush

STEP 4 You may also want to sort by External Links.

Like with Ahrefs, by following these steps using SEMrush, you get a list of your competitors’ broken backlinks. The same list also helps you create ideas for new articles and blog posts that you can write and offer to the website owner as a replacement for those pages that aren’t available any longer.

This one is super easy to use. All you need to do is…

STEP 1 Download and install the Check My Link Chrome extension to your browser.

check my links chrome extension

STEP 2 Go to your competitor’s website and click on the Puzzle icon to run the extension.

A new window “the Link Results” pops out, marking all invalid links with red. These are your go-to broken link opportunities.

Yes, you’re right, we’re going to use Ahrefs again. However, now we’re taking a different approach. This time you need to open the Content Explorer dashboard. You can find it on the top navigation bar.

STEP 1 Select Content Explorer.

STEP 2 Use the search bar to type a keyword related to your niche or industry. However, before clicking the Magnifying glass icon, change the Everywhere filter to In title. This way you make sure the articles you’re going to see in a moment are of the highest relevance to your business. Okay, now click the search button.

STEP 3 What you see is a list of articles, blog post and other web content featuring your keyword in the title. Since we’re doing dead link building, we need to fish out only the articles with broken backlinks. To do that, filter for Only broken pages – you can find the filer right above the Pages over time chart.

EXAMPLE: Let’s imagine you have an online gardening store. You’ve just finished writing a comprehensive article compiling the best gift ideas for the enthusiasts of gardening. In this case, you may want to try checking out the “gifts for gardeners” keyword. This way you get a list of websites with broken links to articles on the very topic.

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Check the Quality of the Domains with a Broken Link

Naturally, not every single broken link opportunity is worth pursuing. To verify whether or not you should try to get a particular backlink replaced with yours, you basically need to do two things:

  • first, you should evaluate domains and decide if they actually can strengthen your Backlink Profile and website authority, and
  • second, you need to ask yourself if it’s really worth replacing the dead link with your URL.

You need to know that Google’s algorithms check the relevance of the websites that direct their traffic to your website.

EXAMPLE: Again, you’re still the gardening store owner. Let’s imagine you spot two websites – both look okay and have high Domain Ratings. One of the websites is a blog about indoor plants, and the other is about fishing. You can be pretty sure that a backlink acquired from the former website will positively impact your ranking, whereas the one on the fishing-related website won’t do much. Actually, the more unrelated backlinks are connected to your website, the worse for you.

According to Google Search Essentials, having many unrelated backlinks may imply using some Black Hat SEO techniques, resulting in being hit by Google penalties. That’s why you absolutely need to make sure to check whether the pages with broken backlink opportunities are related to your niche. Another issue concerns the Domain Rating.

Newsflash: Domain Rating metric isn’t Google’s invention. It’s a kind of indicative metric powered by machine learning. Its goal is to give you a general idea of how trustworthy and authoritative a given website is. In other words, DA estimates the probability of a given website ranking well on Google.

So why should you even care to check it? If a website with a high Domain Rating links back to your website, this increases your chances of Google perceiving your website as trustworthy. This is basically one of the reasons you perform the broken link building in the first place.

Okay, once you pick the website that may pass some authority and trustworthiness onto your website, it’s time to weed the best dead links out.

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Even though it may sound pretty logical, sometimes verifying the link quality may escape our notice. To check the referring domains report:

STEP 0 Go through Find broken links with SEO tools, #1 Ahrefs.

STEP 1 Click on the number under the Dofollow category.

STEP 2 Look through the Anchor and backlink report. Click on the small upside-down triangle sign that you can find at the end of a given link to see the Link statistics.

STEP 3 Voila, you get the number of Ref. domains that a given broken link has.

Naturally, the higher the number of referring domains, the better. How many backlinks should you consider enough? Truth be told, there is no universal number of further backlinks a page with a broken link should have. Basically, it depends on your niche.

EXAMPLE: If you sell skincare products, then probably a page featuring a dead backlink with around 50 referring domains may be perfect. However, if you write about survivalism which – let’s face it – is far less popular than beauty-related topics, then having a shot at a broken link found on a page linked to 10 referring domains is what you probably should find pretty satisfactory.

Okay, you’ve just identified the broken link you’d like to replace with your website URL. Now it’s time to…

Create Quality Content to Replace the Broken Link

If we lived in a perfect world, the ideal replacement article would be already written and posted on your website. Although it actually may happen, such a scenario is rare. In the vast majority of cases, you will be required to write a completely new piece of content to fulfill the same purpose as the original article – but explain the discussed issue better and clearer, of course.

In case you’re wondering how you’re supposed to find out the aspects that used to be covered in the unavailable article, here is a quick tip. Go to Internet Archive and use their website library. This is how you can eyeball the copy published on the page nobody can access any longer.

When you finally have a general understanding of what you should write about and what points to cover, you may also wonder how to make your copy way better than the original.

To help you with that, answer the following questions:

  • Is there anything I can explain more clearly?
  • Is there any outdated information that needs to be updated?
  • Is there any lengthy description I can transform into easy-to-follow bullet points/steps, or even convert into infographics?
  • Can I ask some experts on a given topic to share some valuable insights with me, thus making my copy more authoritative?
  • Can I give some unobvious tips on the subject so a reader learns something useful from the article?
  • Can I run a new survey and present new findings on the same subject?

The list goes on but you get the idea, don’t you? Do your best to make the replacement article more useful than the original piece. This way you increase your chances of getting your article accepted by the website owner.

So, your broken link building tactic has got you that far: You found the broken links, shifted through the spammy or low-quality websites, picked the quality backlinks with a high number of referring domains, and even wrote an amazing replacement article. Now is the time to take the last step, which is…

Reach out and Offer Your Link as a Replacement

Surprisingly, this step may be the most demanding and time-consuming of all the above steps – especially if you’re planning to contact dozens of website owners. Naturally, you may take a shortcut and send a generic e-mail to each one.

Will that save you time? Definitely! Will it give you the looked-for response? Doubtfully.

That’s why it’s way better to personalize the messages, even a bit. Take an extra effort and try to find the name of the person you’re writing to. Naturally, if that’s a blogger, you won’t have any problems digging this information out. In case you want to contact a company, go to the “About us” tab, and look for a person responsible for PR or marketing.

Finally, if possible, try to address some common qualities shared by their brand and yours.

Later, you need to craft the message.

You may write something along the lines of the following:

Hey [Name],

Just like you, I’m [V]*. I’ve been browsing your website/blog and noticed an article on X. Hands down, that piece of writing is entertaining and highly informative. Since it got me absolutely absorbed, I wanted to see if there is more to discover, so I clicked on the link leading to Y. Sadly, it seems to be broken as it took me nowhere. 

I have no idea whether you have any intention to do so, but in case you’d be looking for a replacement article to swap the broken link with a working one, let me suggest checking Z. This is a review** I’ve written quite recently. I think it makes a perfect substitute for the dead link featured in your article: It covers the same topic, is relevant, and—at least in my view—it adds tons of value to the readers.

In case you’d like to take a look, here’s the link:

Obviously, I don’t want to put any kind of pressure. Just thought I could help.


Your Name

[V]* put here a thing or two that both of you have in common. This can be your occupation or area of interest/study.

** article/guide / manual / post

Again, please consider the above template as a draft to spark your creativity. Try to personalize it as much as you possibly can as this increases your chances of taking over the quality backlink. Also, do your best to avoid sounding like a machine or robot. You’ll get way more responses when you use natural and conversational language.

The last piece of advice is as this: Try to contact those who didn’t reply to you once again. Send them a follow-up email, just to let them know you’re still waiting for their response. Don’t be too hot-headed, though. Wait more or less two-three weeks before writing another message.

Also, don’t flood them with messages unless you want your email address to be flagged as SPAM.

Broken Link Building – The Takeaway

Link building statistics show some shocking discoveries: 90.63% of websites get zero organic traffic from Google. It gets even more surprising after realizing that 66.31% of those websites have no referring domains that would direct the organic traffic from a page to their website.

That’s clear proof that backlinks help you rank higher on Google.

That’s why jumping on all available opportunities to acquire more backlinks is worth its weight in gold. Replacing broken links with working links that lead to your website pays off big time. Even though the positive results of dead link building won’t be seen overnight, the long-term effects this tactic provides will make your website become more authoritative and trustworthy over time.

Also, remember to stay relevant to what your business does. If you sell stationery, go through blogs and websites related to art & craft, scrapbooking, and calligraphy. If you’re an owner of an educational app, check blogs and websites related to teaching and personal development.

If you’re a fitness instructor who has just launched their own fitness program, go through websites and blogs created for gym-goers, yoga enthusiasts, and even those who look for some cool gym wear ideas.

Broken link building gives you the recognition your brand deserves. Sadly, it’s rather a lengthy process, especially if you need to write a new piece of content every time you succeed at finding a dead link that you can use to your advantage.

If you happen to need a helping hand either with link building services or content creation – we’re here for you. Let us know if you need us and we will gladly try to find the opportunities that are out there for you.

Kasia Śliwa SEO Delante
Kasia Śliwa

Off-site SEO Specialist

Off-site SEO specialist, link building expert. At Delante since December 2018, she took her first professional steps in organizing large events. Student of journalism and social communication. Passionate about dance, music and good cinema. Loves listening to people and discussing with people with opposing views.

Kasia Śliwa SEO Delante
Kasia Śliwa

Off-site SEO Specialist

Off-site SEO specialist, link building expert. At Delante since December 2018, she took her first professional steps in organizing large events. Student of journalism and social communication. Passionate about dance, music and good cinema. Loves listening to people and discussing with people with opposing views.

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