The Broken Link-Building Guide

Table Of Content

Do you know that  66.5% of website links in the last decade send users to broken pages?

Yes, link rot is a growing menace and is the premise for broken link building. A broken link-building strategy scours websites locating inoperative links. It then generates relevant replacement links.

Besides yielding excellent link-building opportunities, broken link-building cleans up the web.

Causes of Broken Links

Ahrefs, a leading SEO tool, attributes 47.7% of link rot to dropped links. Below are other factors that cause broken links.

  • The page’s domain is nonexistent.
  • It has a duplicate page that has better page crawl features
  • It has poor URL ratings
  • Robots.txt has disallowed the said page for a minimum of two months

Some other causes of broken links include the direct removal of links. Crawl, non-canonical, not found, and 301/302 errors also cause minimal link rot.

Opportunities in Broken Link Building

So, what are the opportunities in locating and replacing inoperative links? First, an effective broken link-building strategy can highlight link-building opportunities to pages that have established authority.

So, say you want to land a link-building opportunity in an authority digital marketing content portal. Use your broken link-building campaign to locate highly relevant and pre-qualified, but broken links authority pages.

Then send a request to the webmaster. Request them to replace that broken link with relevant, highly converting content.

In addition, a well-thought-out broken link strategy can grant you rights to links that previously drove traffic to your competitors. Lastly, when you locate and eliminate link rot, you supplement your link-building plan and increase your target page’s growth.

A 3-Step Broken Link-Building Strategy

  • Find pages with dead or broken links
  • Create content that is relevant to the dead page
  • Reach out to relevant prospects through email outreach

Step-1: Find pages with dead or broken links.

So, how can you discover website links that no longer direct readers to the pages they once referenced? There are a few strategies that you can use to solve this task.

  • Perform Small Scale Link Research

Let’s say your website ranks for the ‘digital marketing’ keyword. First, make a list of SERP competitors ranking for the same keyword. So, how do you do that? Easy peasy. 

Go to your Google search page and run a search on the ‘digital marketing’ target keyword. 

serp competitors research on a keyword
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  • Perform Large Scale Link Research

First, scrap authoritative resource pages for broken links. Use advanced search terms from tools like the Moz Keyword Research tool to find more keyword searches for your digital marketing portal. Some advanced keywords include;

  • Digital marketing course
  • Dow to do digital marketing        
  • Digital marketing agency
  • Role of digital marketing
  • Digital marketing examples

Next, use manual Google advanced search operators to view top competitor domains. For instance, you can zero in on reliable authority resources using the commands and operators below. 

  • “digital marketing” + inurl:resources
  • “digital marketing” + intitle:links
  • “Digital marketing” + “helpful resources”
  • “Digital marketing” + “useful resources”

Next, use SEO tools to locate broken links.

  • Use SEO tools

Next, compile a list of your competitor sites. These web pages have links that would supercharge your link-building ROI. Now, locate any 404 pages within these domains using backlink analytics tools. You can, for instance, use Semrush to find broken links using the process below.

How To Identify 404 Pages Using Semrush

So, hypothetically, you are looking for broken link-building opportunities on the domain at the top of your keyword search list. In this instance, it is Google’s digital marketing learning page.

First, head over to Semrush’s home page. On your far left, scroll down below the competitive research and keyword research tools to the link-building tab.

Click on the Backlink Analytics tool and paste your domain. The Backlink Analytics tool has, amongst other reports, competitors and broken page reports. Open the New and Lost Backlinks report to view 404 error codes on the domain.

finding 404 pages using semrush
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After that, click on backlinks associated with a URL to view an individual backlink report. Finally, you will access all the pages referring to their websites to the broken link.

Next, use the Active tab to filter your broken links report. This action will eliminate lost links, leaving you with a highly actionable broken link list. Finally, export your results, and you are ready for the broken link-building method part 2.


Use the platform’s Authority Score (AS) to vet the quality of your links. Use high AS links in your broken link-building method. Low-quality links from low authority score websites may not be worth the effort.

Then, your list of 404 pages requires further opportunity qualification to vet their potential. So, how can you achieve this feat? First, filter them to establish the 404 pages that are a stronger target. 

You can evaluate this valuable insight by analyzing the number of backlinks that point to each potential opportunity. If your SEO tool data reveals that a 404 page has loads of backlinks targeting it, then that is an ideal backlink opportunity. 

Then, you can contact the admins of these orphaned linking domains for link-building opportunities. Save time on 404 pages with a low number of backlinks.


How do you identify the perfect backlink opportunity? The best targets are non-commercial sources. A page with an incentive to acquire links already has a link-building profile and plenty of artificial link noise. Authoritative websites are also excellent link-building options. 

Authority sites attract essential web links and will increase your domain’s SEO metrics. Lastly, filter backlinks pages by their relevance to your niche.

Step 2: Produce Relevant Content To Replace The Dead Page

The next step in your broken link-building strategy is to vet your link prospects. Again, focus your attention on quality links.

broken link building opportunity
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You can, for instance, use your SEO tool filters to exclude spammy and low-quality subdomain broken links. Also, zoom in on Dofollow links to steer clear of low-value blog or forum comment links. Next, ensure that you exclude any links from low-traffic domains.

After that, do some research to ascertain reasons why the broken link was in use in the first place. Homing in on deep links that recommend a resource will be more rewarding than working on general links. Finally, you can use the Wayback Machine to study the broken link’s content. 

The Wayback Machine may not load the old page’s CSS or images, but its content will reveal why domains choose that content for linking purposes. Use that information to create a captivating replacement page.

Then, ensure that the new page is as in-depth and an excellent replacement for the broken link. Alternatively, find another page on your website whose content is as comprehensive. This phase will ensure that web admins are spellbound by your new page’s experience enough to offer you broken link-building opportunities.

Step 3: Reach Out To Relevant Prospects

When prospecting for suitable link-building opportunities, you will not always have an audience. The broken link-building strategy has been around for some years. Consequently, many web admins avoid broken link-building requests. So, how can you reach prospects to ensure that you convert your hard work to wins?

1.   Be sincere and helpful in your approach.

2.   Contact the right person. So, avoid generic info or sales@website addresses. Research and identify the right contacts.

3.   Build rapport with web admins first before asking them for linking opportunities. Also, send simple and precise emails when prospecting.

4.   Show appreciation and be extra helpful to the web admins to build a positive and rewarding relationship.

A good rule of thumb when reaching out to prospects with your alternative link is to be suggestive rather than forceful. Allow the webmaster to make their decisions as they deem fit.

How Do You Find Your Prospect’s Contacts?

Study your domain contacts, about us, or bio pages to discover site owners, webmasters, or editor names. Then, build a rapport by learning more about them on social media.

Next, use that information as a conversation starter. Then, tools like can dredge up email addresses.


Is broken link building worth it?

There is a huge split between SEO experts regarding broken link building. As an illustration, Mark Webster and Gael Breton of Authority Hacker refer to it as a waste of time. “No one is doing broken link building at scale anymore,” they say.

However, as per Aira’s research, 39% of SEO experts use the broken link-building method alongside content marketing, guest posting, and reactive PR to build links.

An impactful link-building strategy brings relevant, high-quality backlinks from other domains to your website. For this reason, this strategy still rocks as a link-building method.


An effective broken link-building strategy has advantages over popular link-building alternatives like guest posting. It is an evergreen strategy with assured long-term results. Use the tips above to start or generate more wins with your broken link-building method.

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