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Broken Link Building

The Lazy Man’s Guide to Broken Link Building

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Broken Link Building

Ryan Stewart

I have an unhealthy obsession with being considered the world's top internet marketing expert. This blog is one of the channels I use to demonstrate that. I'm highly active on social media and love a good debate (internet trolls). Click the icons below and fire away.

I’m trying to master white hat link building – one tactic at a time.

Last month it was landing online press, this month it’s broken link building.

I was working hard at it…but…

Have you ever done it?

Broken link building is a drag man.

Diagram of Broken Link Building Process

It’s a ridiculously time consuming task:

  1. Prospecting. Using search operators to find the right websites. Then, clicking through to each result and checking if it’s relevant. Repeating this process, over and over, to build a list of potential prospects.
  2. Dead link checking. Checking relevant content for dead links using browser plugins (Check My Links, Domain Hunter) OR creating a list of URLs and uploading them to Xenu or Screaming Frog.
  3. Outreach. Contacting website owners to alert them of a broken link and offering a relevant link of yours to replace it.

My quick summary didn’t do it justice – the process is tedious as hell.

No Time for That 404

Prospecting for relevant sites takes hours and the few links you may land don’t justify the time spent.

Thing is, broken link building could yield powerful results if the process were scalable.

So, I poured my energy into finding an automated solution – I found one.

In this post, you’ll learn:

  1. What tools to use to automate the broken link building process
  2. How to shorten the length of the automated process
  3. Identifying high quality link prospects, quickly
  4. Finding dozens more opportunities with a few clicks
  5. Crafting the perfect outreach email

1. Using Tools to Automate the Process

You can use Scrapebox to automate the entire prospecting process.

The tool utilizes proxies allowing you scrape thousands of search results with the click of a button.

Scrapebox White Hat Link Prospecting

Simply input your list of search operators and export the resulting URLs into a spreadsheet. This saves you hours of time manually searching Google for relevant results.

Theres More

Thanks, Bill.

Scrapebox has an Addon which checks each harvested URL for broken links.

Scrapebox 404 Link Building

This saves you another pain in the ass step of uploading URLs into Xenu / Screaming Frog to crawl for 404 errors.

With Scrapebox, a few clicks delivers an Excel document full of sites with broken links.

For more information on Scrapebox and broken link building, check out this post from Jacob King. Or, watch his short YouTube video below.

2. Let’s Save Even More Time…

The Scrapebox tip alone will save you hours. But, there’s a few problems.

  1. Scrapebox runs on PC – I use a Mac.
  2. Scrapebox requires access to proxies – I have none.
  3. Scrapebox requires knowledge, skill and time – I have none.

Do you see where this is going?

It’s a great tool to have, but I don’t have the time to dick around with it.

Scrapebox Wish

You can!

We live in amazing time where people will do pretty much anything for $5. I’ve been outsourcing this work to a freelancer on Fiverr and the results have been spectacular.

Outsourcing Scrapebox tasks can save a ton of time, money and migraines – if you’re doing it right.

Providing the Right Information

The key to outsourcing on Fiverr is providing the exact instructions needed to complete the job.

That means 2 things:

  1. Clearly articulating what you need (your goals)
  2. Providing the exact search operators to input into Scrapebox

1. Articulating What You Need

Before you purchase the Gig, send the freelancer a message. You need to make sure they can manage your requirements.

Here, feel free to copy and paste what I used:

I need ongoing Scrapebox work done.

In a nutshell, I need a Scrapebox expert that can generate a large list of URLs based on the search operators I give them. Specifically:

1. Pull down a large scrape for the search operators I provide you (i.e keyword intitle:resources, keyword inurl: links, etc).
2. Use the Scrapebox broken link checker Addon to find which of those scraped domains are linking out to dead resources.

If you can handle this, please add me on $kype: ryanstewart00. We can chat in more details there.

 

NOTE: you have to call it $kype within Fiverr or get flagged by their filters. 

I like to connect on Skype to talk about larger orders. I pay my freelancer $75 a month for unlimited use of his Scrapebox skills.

Definitely worth the money!

2.  Providing the Right Search Operators

Search operators are crucial. They dictate the results you’ll get so it’s important to provide the right ones.

I keep a spreadsheet of search operators that have delivered quality results for past scrapes. Most of the operators are mainly focused on resource type pages. For example:

  1. “top articles”
  2. “top tools”
  3. “top web resources”

When typed into Google, the results will have those keywords on the page. In order to make it relevant to your site, you need to add a keyword.

For example, if I’m looking to build links to SEO related content, I would make the operators:

  1. SEO “top articles”
  2. SEO “top tools”
  3. SEO “top web resources”

For the best results, you’ll want to run Scrapebox for multiple keywords. Trying to retype 10 different keywords into 100 search operators is a bitch.

Using a simple =CONCANTENATE formula will help streamline the process.

Concatenate Formula

I’m not going to do the Excel tutorial. Instead, I’m just going to give you the spreadsheet I use.

It has the search operators and CONCATENATE formula already built out.

All you have to do is replace my keywords and drag the formula down.

Then, just send your Fiverr freelancer the search operators you want and wait for the results.

3. Scrubbing Your Results

Let’s take a moment and summarize where we’re at.

In the 3 steps laid out above, we’ve cut out 90% of the legwork from the broken link building process.

  1. Prospecting – done
  2. Dead link checking – done (almost)
  3. Outreach – easiest part!

If you use the Fiverr method I’ve laid out, you’ll have a massive Excel book with source URLs and the dead link contained in that page.

Broken Link Data Dump

Here’s breakdown of my last scrape (contained in the screenshot above):

  1. Column A – “Source URLs” – The results from the scrape based on my search operators. I gave him 100 search operators, it returned 10,000 URLs.
  2. Column B – “Link” – Those 10,000 harvested URLs were then checked for dead links. If there was a broken link on that page, it was saved into the final Excel file. My file had 700 prospects with dead links in their content.

In other words, your Excel workbook will only contain relevant articles that have broken links.

Trying to get this amount by hand would take you weeks. 

While I’ve got a great list, we still have to clean it up.

1. Add a filter to your columns

2. Remove blanks from your list

Removing Blanks

3. We now need to review each “Source URL” manually.

I know, I know, this is supposed to be saving you time. Don’t worry! I’m going to show you how I comb through thousands of URLs in less than 20 minutes.

4. Quickly scan your list of URLs – we can cross a ton off the list without visiting the link. Let’s look closer at my list:

Excel Screen

a. Removing Internal Dead Links

If the “Source URL” is on the same domain as the “Link”, then it’s an internally broken link. Contacting them would be a waste of time – we only want to target broken external links.

Example:

Source URL: http://www.pagetrafficbuzz.com/top-10-digital-marketing-articles-week-13th-march-2015/20740/
Link: http://www.pagetrafficbuzz.com/category/seo/

Don’t contact – they were linking to another page within their site. The chance of them replacing an internal link with a link to your content is nearly impossible. 

Delete all of these from your Excel file.

b. Removing Authority Links

If the “Source URL” is linking to a high authority media outlet, they’re probably not going to replace the dead link with one to your site.

Example:

Source URL: http://www.toprankblog.com/2014/05/digital-marketing-2015/
Link: https://analyticsacademy.withgoogle.com/course

Don’t contact – they were linking to Google. I don’t stand a damn chance. 

Delete all of these from your Excel file.

c. Removing Irrelevant Content

If the “Source URL” isn’t related to the link you’d propose, don’t contact.

Example:

Source URL: http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/sales-marketing

Don’t contact – I have no content on my site about sales so they’d never link to me.

Delete all of these from your Excel file.

4. Drilling into the Good Results

Once you know what to look for, you can comb through thousands of URLs in minutes. You’ll be left with a handful of true targets to contact.

We need to visit these targets manually to get contact info for outreach.

I use BuzzStream to help me out with this. If you’re serious about white hat link building, I strongly advise you get it.

You can always keep track via Excel, but for the purpose of this post I’ll be demonstrating using BuzzStream.

Quickly Gathering Contacts

1. Open the first target “Source URL”. Make sure the piece of content is relevant to the one you would propose. 

Top Web Blogs

2. Click the BuzzMarker browser plug in. The tool will automatically find the contact information on the page.

Broken Links with Buzzstream

3. Follow them on Twitter. Retweet their latest Tweet. This makes outreach 10 times easier (trust me).

4. Outreach is also easier when you tell them exactly where the dead link is. So, we need to comb the page and track down the dead anchor text.

Traditional broken link building guides tell you to use browser plugins to locate the dead link. Those things take forever to run – I have a faster method.

On the “Source URL” page, right click and click “View Page Source”.

viewing-page-source-code

Then, click Control + F. Copy and paste the “Link” URL from your spreadsheet into the search bar.

using-code-to-build-dead-links

The search will jump to the location of the dead link on the page. Copy the anchor text from the Source Code.

Go back to the article, click Control + F. Paste the anchor text from the Source Code. The search will highlight the dead anchor text.

finding-the-dead-link

You need to record this! I use the details section in BuzzStream to record notes.

Recording 404 Notes

Again, this makes outreach much easier.

Finding Additional Dead Links

Theres More

Damn it, Bill – stop stealing my thunder!

This is where this process becomes lethal.

If one quality website was linking to this dead resource, chances are others did too.

Other Dead Link Targets

Simply take the URL of the dead resource and dump it into a backlink checker. I like Majestic, so I’ll demonstrate with that.

Check Backlinks

Sure enough, the dead URL has 6 other referring domains.

Other Referring Domains

Check the “backlinks” tab and click through to view.

finding-more-backlinks

Majestic tells you the anchor, so all you have to do is search the page for it.

finding-additional-dead-links

Add this domain to BuzzStream along with the notes – another relevant site ready for outreach.

Repeat this process for all of the URLs in the Excel file.

Make sure you check the links of the dead resource – you can easily take 1 target and turn it into 50. 

5. Crafting the Perfect Outreach

I’m not going into a ton of detail about outreach because it’s best not to over complicate it.

  1. Make it easy for the website by providing them the exact location of the link, surrounding context, anchor text of the dead link and the dead resource’s URL.
  2. Interact with them on social media before outreach. It opens up the relationship and makes it a lot easier to land the link.

I generally wait about 2 or 3 weeks after connecting via social media to perform outreach.

Here’s the exact email I send:

Hey [insert name],

I came across you guys on Twitter a few weeks ago and have really been enjoying your content – thanks for sharing.

I just wanted to let you know one of your articles is linking to a 404 page.

URL: [Insert the URL of their content] Anchor: [Insert anchor of the dead URL] Dead link: [Insert the dead link]

If you’re looking for something quick to replace it with, I actually have a great piece of content that fits in seamlessly.

You can review it here: [Insert your link]

Have a great day!

Ryan Stewart
@ryanwashere

That’s it.

If you’re using BuzzStream you can send all of these directly from the platform – it shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to connect with all of your targets.

Wrapping it Up

Broken link building is a powerful and easy way to land a butt load of quality white hat links.

Traditional methods work, but they’re not scalable. They take hours just to identify a few prospects.

The methods I’ve laid out present a viable solution to that problem. Outsource the legwork – you can land hundreds of links within a matter of hours.

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26 Comments

  1. You did bring down the manual labor a lot and hats of for that, but for me personally this is still too much pain in the ass to get links, i guess i am not as good in that WH linkbegging stuff as other, i just don’t have the patience for it, but still a great read though.

    Dave.

    • Ryan Stewart

      hey dave – you’re right, it’s still a lot of work, even with the manual efforts reduced. if you’re working with corporate type clients, these are some of the only avenues you have to build links, as they require a FULL link report + you have to report to them monthly on progress made. i still use PBNs for a lot of the SEO i do, but it’s always good to have this one up your sleeve.

  2. Excellent guide. My team has been using scrapebox exactly are you show and our results have been great.
    This is also a great way to get content ideas. Take the URL of the dead link and throw it into wayback machine. Sometimes you get lucky and the content was stored in there. Use it for reference or send it for a rewrite on iwriter. Now you have a distribution channel for your content once created.

    • Ryan Stewart

      that’s a great tip ryan and i’m glad you’re already using this technique. it’s definitely not something new, i learned it from jacob king, but it’s really powerful and easy to scale.

  3. Nice tutorial Ryan, I am following similar strategy and outsource through VAs.
    It’s still time consuming because of outreach phase. Most people won’t even reply, but still there is % of dead links you will get anyway.
    Cheers,
    Yaro

  4. Another great article Ryan, thanks.

  5. Great work, really appreciate the effort it took to share.

  6. Good stuff Ryan. BLB is extremely tedious. After the Fiverr gigs how are you handling the rest of the process, outsourcers or doing it yourself? What kind of conversion rate are you getting and have you compared it to your conversion rate without social media interaction?

    Mike

    • Ryan Stewart

      i handle it myself from there – i’ve tried to outsource it but it really takes an expert touch and honestly, it doesn’t take that long. when i really do the work to clean up the results, i’ll see around a 15-20% conversion rate.

      • Ryan

        15-20% response rate or link acquisition rate?

        • Ryan Stewart

          acquisition rate, but they’re almost the same. most outreach emails just get deleted, not responded to declining. response rate is around 25-30%, acquisition 15 – 20%

  7. Looks that it will take a lot of time but I will give it a try for sure! I read about broken link building first on backlinko from Bryan Dean. Great post again. Thank you.

  8. I want to believe!

    what’s your average conversion rate using this method? i have tried in the past and had like 0.01% conversion from thousands.

  9. Or you could just use BrokenLinkBuilding.com + OutreachApp integration to do this all within an app in far less time.

    • Ryan Stewart

      Those are GREAT tools too Russ, I’ve used them too – they work. This is just the way I’ve had the most success. 20,000 scraped URLs for $5 is an unbeatable deal.

  10. Great article, but I can’t seem to get anyone on fiverr to do it. The guy who you have in your article isn’t responding and I have tried a couple of other guys as well. Do you have a new guy that you use?

    • Ryan Stewart

      We do it all manually now, I hired someone to do online research and I use them to do link prospecting as well. You can try posting a job on elance for that skillset, I know other people who have had better success with that.

  11. Very nice post content.

  12. Hey Ryan – quick question. Do you always reach out as yourself or you do you create a persona? Do you notice a difference in conversion rates?

    • Ryan Stewart

      For WEBRIS, I reach out as myself. For clients, we like to do outreach on behalf of them or build personas in their likeness. Particularly in spaces like legal, you HAVE to do outreach from an attorney’s email / persona, otherwise you will never get results.

      • Matt

        Thanks Ryan.

        When you build persona’s, do you just use gmail?

        • Ryan Stewart

          Gmail + Pitchbox

          • Matt Hagens

            I used to use Buzzstream….when I did outreach at scale, but that was a few years ago….getting back into the game, so trying to figure out what works now :) I don’t think I need Pitchbox at this point. Gmail + Boomerang should do the trick until I get more clients. I’ve got a very talented set of VA’s to help with outreach and inbox management.

  13. Yo I finally dove in and tried this tactic on one of my sites. Niche was just too perfect for it, that scrapebox file is a total pain in the ass. I figured out a work around tho, you need to manipulate it some then you can streamline it all into buzzstream. I should write a post soon… hit me up if you want me to show you/we can chat more.

    • Ryan Stewart

      yes! i’m definitely interested – we’ve been using buzzstream a lot more (for propsecting and as a link database) i’d love to see your process

    • Ranj

      Will you post the method in your blog, Jacob? Is there a way to wee out the good results without Buzzstream? Anyway thank you both!

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