Broken Link Building: An In-Depth Guide


Key Takeaways:

  • One of the most important ranking factors for SEO is authority – i.e., how trustworthy search engines deem your content to be.
  • One strong measure of authority is the number of backlinks your site has. SEOs try to acquire backlinks through various link building strategies, one of which is broken link building.
  • Broken link building means pitching your content to sites that have broken links. By replacing the broken links with your content, sites can improve their user experience, while you gain the benefit of a backlink. Broken link building is a mutually beneficial strategy if done right.

Broken link building: A quick guide 

If you’re interested in improving online performance for your business or website, you’re probably reading article after article about content marketing, search engine optimization, influencer marketing, and other digital marketing topics. We’ve all been there, and we know it can be a little overwhelming. At Redefine Marketing Group, we’re here to help.

The core idea at the center of many of these articles is actually pretty simple. If you want to be successful and grow online, you need to build authority. In other words, your brand, or your website, or your products, need to be seen as the best in the business. Your voice should be perceived as trustworthy, reliable, and ahead-of-the-curve.

Search engines like Google and Bing know this. They build authority and the perception of authority into the decisions their algorithms make. Wondering why one brand or site shows up higher on Google than another? It’s because they are perceived to be more relevant and authoritative than the ones below them for the search term entered. If you want to compete, you need to demonstrate your authority and relevance to what searchers are looking for.

How can I build authority?

In SEO, there are a few crucial ways you should be building your authority. The main ways are high quality, relevant, and engaging content combined with the accumulation of valuable backlinks from other authoritative websites. The latter is called link building.

No SEO strategy is complete without a link building strategy. If done correctly, these authority-building efforts will complement one another, since great content organically builds backlinks, and backlinks expose your content to new readers. Without creating best-in-class content and building valuable backlinks, you’ll have a hard time moving the needle and increasing organic traffic.

Although link building sounds pretty straightforward, it often requires a great deal of effort to do correctly. Over the years, SEO professionals have developed several great link building tactics that don’t run afoul of Google’s guidelines.

In an effort to make sure that organic search yields results that are relevant and valuable to searchers, Google has gone to great lengths to make sure that no one can cut corners or buy false authority for long. This approach to link building is called “black hat” link building and, although it can be effective in the short term, it can result in severe penalties from search engines in the long run. Any company hoping to truly build authority in their space should avoid these types of link building tactics.

Link building techniques that are within Google’s guidelines are naturally called “white hat.” There are several tried-and-true white hat link building strategies, and to be as effective as possible, you should take advantage of as many of them as possible. From guest posting articles or blogs on authoritative sites with relevant audiences to creating unique tools, quizzes, or games that encourage conversation online, find ways to demonstrate your voice, expertise, and value to new people.

One incredibly effective way to build authority through link building is called broken link building.

What is broken link building?

Broken link building refers to creating new backlinks to your website from existing links that no longer point to their originally intended destination.

For example, imagine that someone has written a blog about the best HVAC businesses in your community. In that blog, you notice that the author has linked to a company that’s no longer in business. Their website is down, and so the link points to a broken page. All you’d have to do is reach out to inform them and then suggest that they consider your HVAC business instead. You could provide reviews, customer testimonials, etc. Often, the writer or site owner will update their blog once you’ve let them know that something is no longer accurate. It’s a mutually beneficial situation.

These “broken links,” if relevant to your business or site, provide an opportunity to earn a new link without a great deal of effort. Another advantage to broken link building is that you have an opportunity to claim links that may once have gone to a competitor. Often, broken link building is a great way to build authority upfront to supplement the work you’ll be doing creating content and developing tools and other engaging things to attract traffic and links.

Checking in monthly, quarterly, or annually, depending on the frequency of conversation about topics relevant to you, will consistently yield new broken link building opportunities.

Making sure you don’t have any broken links 

If your business’ website has been around for a while, chances are good that you’ve made changes. A lot of times, pages on your website have earned backlinks that you didn’t even know about.

Unfortunately, it’s also typical that the normal changes you make to your website didn’t preserve the authority earned through backlinks over time. That’s why it’s also a good idea to go looking for links that are broken, which once pointed to your own site. This technique is called link reclamation. Technically, it’s more of an authority preservation strategy than an authority building strategy, but it’s important to do it periodically nevertheless. Broken links pointing to your site can be claimed by a competitor doing broken link building.

How to Find Broken Links

You might be wondering how to find broken links. You can’t expect to just happen upon them, no matter how engaged you are in your field or business community. Fortunately, there are a few excellent methods and tools for finding broken links.

We’ll first start with search operators which provide a great means for sourcing broken links. Search operators are essentially technical filters for Google’s search engine. Search operators allow you to combine a variety filters together to narrow down your search based on the broken link building strategy. In broken link building, one great use for search operators are for using them to find pages that are most likely to have tons of external links on them. Finding these types of pages improves your chances of finding a broken link or two!

Here are a few examples that can help:

  • “Your target keyword” + inurl:resources
  • “Your target keyword” + intitle:links
  • “Your target keyword” + inurl:useful resources
  • “Your target keyword” + “favorite websites”
  • “Your target keyword” + “helpful resources”

After you’ve conducted your search using Google’s search operators, then you can check each website for broken links by using a Chrome extension called Check My Links. This extension quickly shows you which links are working and which are not.

If you’re looking for a more advanced approach to finding broken links, you can use a tool like Majestic, Moz, SEMRush, or Ahrefs. These tools will all tell you how many links a dead page is getting and what they are. Some of these tools even have specific broken link reports which tell you if a linked page has a status code suggesting that it’s no longer there or has been moved.

For example, if you use Semrush like the link building experts here at Redefine, then you are probably familiar with the Site Audit tool. Using the Site Audit tool is a quick way to research any broken external links that you or your client’s site is linking to. Here’s how to find them:

Step 1: Navigate to the Site Audit tool in Semrush. It can be found in the left-hand menu within the “On Page & Tech SEO” section

Step 2: Select the site audit you’d like to analyze for broken external links. If you haven’t set this up already, then you can learn how to do this by reading this article here.

Step 3: With your site audit open, click on “Warnings,” indicated by the orange number with a trend graph underneath it. This will allow you to see all the medium-severity issues related to the site you’ve chosen to crawl.

Step 4: In the Warnings tab, you should be able to see all the issues related to your site, and if you have any broken external links, they will appear here. If your site has some broken external links, click on the hyperlink which states “# external links are broken.”

Step 5: This will open up a list of links that your site is linking to. We recommend scouring this list of links first to confirm that they are in fact, broken. This will save you time in the long run!

Step 6: Once you’ve found a link that is broken, plug that link into the Backlink Analytics feature in Semrush. This feature can be found in the left-hand menu within the “Link Building” section. After plugging the link into the search, you’ll be able to see everyone who is linking to this broken resource. Now, the real work begins!

How to do broken link building outreach 

Once you’ve identified websites with broken links that you think you can claim, it’s time to do some outreach. Doing link-building outreach can be difficult, and there are site owners and writers online who will not be open to your suggestions. It’s important to remember that what you’re suggesting is mutually beneficial. Broken links on their pages create a poor user experience.

You should also ensure that your site is a good fit for the page or article with the broken link. If you’re able to determine what type of content or topic the original link was pointing to, it’s good to explain why the link you’re suggesting is also appropriate.

To effectively scale your broken link building efforts, you should use a template for your outreach. For readers who’ve made it this far in the article, we’ve included an email outreach template for broken link building:

Subject: Something is wrong with your site…


Hi [Blogger/Webmaster name],

I hope you are doing well this week. 

Just a few minutes ago, I came across your article on [topic/title of article] (insert link) and I noticed the link with the anchor text “[insert anchor text containing broken link]” is broken. 

So, I figured I’d reach out and let you. 

The team at [Your company’s name] has a resource that would fit perfectly in its place, you can find it here: [insert link]

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly.


{Your Name}

 Don’t be afraid to alter or adjust the template so that it’s more personalized and effective. You want to be sure you are talking directly to the person you are reaching out for a link from. If someone can tell that they’ve received a templated outreach email, they’ll be very likely to ignore it.

For anyone who is looking to grow their business or website using search engine optimization, broken link building is one effective tool to have. Building authority online takes time and effort, but it pays dividends. At Redefine Marketing Group, we have all the tools you’ll need to truly build something special – get in touch with the team today to learn more.

Frequently asked questions:

What if my site doesn’t have any broken external links to target?

If, after your Semrush Site Audit, you notice your site, or your client’s site doesn’t have many broken external links, we recommend taking a look at competitor sites. To run a site audit, you do not need to have direct access to a site; you can plug in any URL, and Semrush will crawl away! Another quick way to look at competitor’s broken links is by going to the “Backlink Analytics” section, typing in your competitors’ domain name, selecting the “Indexed Pages” tab, and toggling on “Broken Pages.” Doing this will help filter down all the pages Semrush has found that return a 400 response code AND show you how many referring domains and backlinks a site has.

What should I do if the person I emailed doesn’t respond?

If the person you’ve reached out to does not respond, test out a different email! Dig through their editorial or contact pages a bit deeper and poke around that company’s LinkedIn page. Alternatively, you can send a brief follow-up and bump it to the top of their inbox (remember, some people are busy)! If you’ve already sent a follow-up or contacted everyone in the business you possibly can, just move on.

I don’t have Semrush or any SEO tools; how can I do this on a budget?

If you don’t have the ability to get an SEO tool like Semrush, Ahrefs, or Moz, simply use Google’s search operators combined with the Check My Links Chrome extension. This process may take a bit more elbow grease but you’ll accomplish the same task!

Author avatar
Jason Martinez
Jason is a Cal Poly Pomona Alum, extreme fan of marketing, and social media advocate. As a Brand Marketing Manager at Redefine Marketing Group, he is responsible for the development and execution of strategy for reputation management, link building, and social media marketing for both the agency and its clients.
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