This is a guide to a link building tactic called 404 link building or broken link building.
The goal is simple:
This tactic is valuable to the webmasters you get in touch with, usually meaning a better response rate to outreach.
It’s easy, too.
Like I said, this is simple. There are a handful of freely available tools that do most of the hard work for you, and I also recommend an ahrefs trial which costs £7.99 at time of writing.
This is the process, and the links will take you straight to the individual steps:
The first step is finding a list of resources to use as your starting point.
This needs to be relevant to the industry you’re working in. For this example I’ll be using content marketing examples, so just switch out content marketing for bathrooms, pet walking, or whatever else your site is about.
Head to Google and type
When Google serves you some results, scan for one that looks decent then open it. I went for the top result initially:
Once you’ve found a resource you need to do steps 3, 4 and 5 to see whether it will yield any targets. The Neil Patel link above didn’t have any dead links, nor did the following three results. So I used this link, the number 5 result for the remaining steps.
Before we do anything else we need to check that the resources the content recommends are relevant.
The one I clicked includes stuff like this:
All of it looks pretty relevant. There are blog posts on my client’s site that align with these topics, which could make good substitutions for any broken links.
Top tip: This can also inform future content strategy. If you find a broken link on a relevant topic that you’ve not written about yet, write about it next then offer it to anyone linking to the dud resource.
This is where the “hard” work begins. We need to find whether any of the links are dead. In this case there are 44 of them, which might seem like a lot of clicking.
But here’s why “hard” is in speech marks up there ☝
Just copy the resource page URL, plug it into the tool, click ‘Check single webpage’, then fill in the Captcha:
Hit ‘check’ and it will spit out some results:
All of these links are broken for whatever reason. As you can see some of them are social media links, login links and other irrelevancies.
Next, right-click one of the broken links and copy the URL to your clipboard:
Then head to ahrefs or any other software that has link analysis tools and plug in the URL.
If you have the option you’ll want to limit it to show links pointing to this specific URL only:
The screenshot below shows the ahrefs output, but bear in mind yours will look slightly different if you use another tool.
Whatever the interface looks like though, you should get a list of URLs like this:
Each of these URLs is a potential link target because they link to the dead resource.
Top tip: Assessing the quality and relevance of potential link targets is an art in itself. For a couple of reasons I wouldn’t actually pursue either of the links above, but for the sake of this tutorial I’ll continue.
Before starting outreach I recommend building a longer list of targets. Repeat steps 2-5 a few times to identify more defunct resources, and more sites linking to them.
You can also repeat step 1 if you need a fresh list of resource pages to work with.
Now it’s time to reach out to your targets. For each you need to find an email address or contact form link and, ideally, someone’s name. Targeted outreach goes down a lot better than generic “dear sir/madam” stuff.
I’ll leave it up to you to decide what to include in your outreach email, but as a rule the following things are helpful:
The steps above may look daunting but rest assured: there’s nothing complicated here.
It does take time, though. And there’s an element of practice to figuring out which resource pages and links are worth spending time on.
As with everything, practice makes perfect. If you want to skip that step and get someone to do it for you though, hit me up. I’ll be happy to help.