Search engine optimization, Backlink, Google Search, Link building, Search engine, Strategy Case Study: Does Broken Link Building Work Today?
, But numerous people have hated on this tactic.. In fact, in that same report, Rand Fishkin said quotBroken link, building, still works And it’s the second most popular link, building tactic In 2020 Remarkablequot, Then Authority Hacker made a video in June 2020 with the title quotYou’re wasting your time on broken link, building.quot And Mark goes Onto say, quotAnd I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s just it’s almost a pointless tactic and you shouldn’t waste your time with it.. I think the reason why it doesn’t work is because, in the vast majority of cases, when a site which is big enough to have a lot of links pointing to it, takes down a page, they probably know a thing or two about SEO and they’re going to Know to redirect the page or they’re going to figure that out.. So basically, this, like almost never happens.quot, Now, both Rand and the guys at Authority. Hacker are smart SEOs that I respect and they’ve been in the industry for a long time.. But as I was reading through the YouTube comments, this comment triggered me just a little bit. quotI blame Ahrefs.. Their blog makes it sound so easy.quot. Now I wasn’t angry or even frustrated.. I was curious to see if broken link, building still works, today. And if it doesn’t, then I felt responsible to share transparently.. After all, Brian K had a point., Although not the blog. I posted a video in 2018 sharing a broken link building campaign.
I ran that same year. And it resulted in a surprising conversion rate of 28.8, albeit a rather small campaign., But that was over 3 years ago.. So, just a couple months ago I ran a new broken link building campaign to see if broken, link, building still works. Today. And the page I tried to build links off of was from Google., So if you want to see the results, mistakes and the processes I used to launch this link building campaign in under 2 hours, then stay tuned. music. Now I know that some of you are here just for the campaign stats., So here they are.. In total, we sent 74 emails, 4 bounced 5 people replied and just 1 person linked.. That gives us a conversion rate of 1.4 on deliverable emails.. Now you might have already concluded that broken link building doesn’t work., But in order to come to a more reasonable conclusion, we need to go back in time to set some context.. So I was looking through our blog’s broken outbound links in Ahrefs and saw that our link to Google’s Mobile Friendly tool was broken.. I clicked the link and sure enough. It was broken.. I went to the Overview report and realized the page had over 2700 referring domains. And looking at the Organic Traffic Graph. It looks like they 404’d, this page, on the search console subfolder in 2017., But they didn’t discontinue the tool. For whatever reason they didn’t redirect it to the live version that lives on the test.
Subfolder.. Now we don’t have a mobile friendly test tool., But Google has an API, so you can basically create your own.. So naturally, I thought why not create our own mobile friendly tool reach out to as many qualified people linking to the dead page and build some links of our own.. After all, a free, mobile friendly tool would be completely relevant to our site and a good way to encourage people to sign up for Ahrefs Webmaster Tools where people can run website audits for free.. But there was one more problem. About a year ago we published a 3 part series on building links to our SEO stats, page. And while I think the methodology we used and taught were quite sound, people had an issue that we were reaching out from an Ahrefs Email, address. And since Ahrefs is a globally recognized brand people had a common belief that people would be more willing to help.. I don’t disagree with their sentiments, but I do think it was a bit overstated. Which led me to this tweet in pure passive, aggressive style. Emotions aside. It actually just made more sense for us to build links to someone else’s page instead of putting the time and resources into building our own tool.. So I was introduced to Max Prin who’s a technical SEO at Merkle and asked him if I could try a broken link building campaign for his company’s mobile friendly test. And their tool, in my opinion, is much better than Google’s, because there’s no captchas, you can bulk Test URLs and it’s exportable.
, So I thought it made a whole lot of sense.. He agreed, and so it began. Now, because the purpose of this experiment was to gauge how well broken link building works. Today, I didn’t want to spend too much time on vetting pages. Finding emails and sending emails to potentially thousands of people., So I created something that I call a blitz list.. The purpose of a blitz list is to quickly come up with a list of vetted prospects in as short a time as possible., And if the campaign converts links at a decent rate, then it’s justifiable to go through the more monotonous work of finding emails, personalizing, pitches, Etc. And to give you an idea of effectiveness, it took me less than 2 hours to send 74 personalized emails to highly qualified prospects from start to finish.. In my opinion, that’s pretty fast and it could have been shortened if I had left out one key part of the personalization which I’ll get to in a bit.. So let’s talk about creating a blitz list. To get started. I exported all backlinks in Site Explorer that were pointing at Google’s broken mobile, friendly URL., And then I imported them into Google Sheets.. Now, with over 2800 pages, I did a few things to quickly disqualify some pages. 1.. I removed pages that include specific footprints in the URL, like the word forum, viewthread, blogspot profile, category etc. 2.. I set a minimum threshold for Domain Rating, which is an Ahrefs metric that measures the overall strength of a website’s, backlink profile.
And 3. Using Ahrefs’ API. I pulled in additional metrics like domain level, traffic, its traffic value and the number of keyword rankings., And these 3 things took about 10 minutes and trimmed about 1000 potential prospects from our list.. The next thing I did was use Hunter’s API to find author names and email. Addresses. Hunter recently released an quotAuthor Finderquot tool where you can enter a URL and it’ll search for the author of the page and show their email address when available.. So I spent a bit of time writing some code in Script, Editor and then ran through all 1800 or so URLs in Sheets.. Then I used NeverBounce’s API to verify whether these emails were actually valid.. Finally, I manually verified the emails on catchall domains. And this entire process took about 45 minutes.. In the end, I had my blitz list ready with a total of 189 names and email addresses.. If you want more details on how I created this blitz list, then go and watch our video on link building with Google Sheets. I’ll link that up for you in the description. For now let’s move on to the vetting stage., Because I was going to be sending Emails under Max’s name, I wanted to make sure the list of prospects was properly vetted.. So the first thing I did was to disqualify pages that weren’t in English., And that was easy to do because Ahrefs’ Backlinks export has a language code in it.
That shrunk. Our list from 189 URLs to 129. Now it was time to actually visit the pages., And this was the most time consuming part.. So using openallurls.com I opened all 129 URLs in new tabs and manually looked for two things. 1.. I wanted to make sure they were still linking to the dead page. And 2.. It had to make sense for them contextually to link to Max’s page.. To do that, I just searched the source code for the broken URL to make sure it was still there and read the text surrounding the link. Rinse and repeat, while listening to some good tunes – and I had my list of fully vetted prospects. Now the final stage Of this vetting process was to remove people that Max might have a personal relationship with., And this was to ensure we were sending true cold emails., So we removed a few more people and by the end we had a list of 74 people to contact.. Now let’s talk about the actual pitch and thought process behind it., Simply emailing, someone to say quotHey, you have a broken link.. I have a page on the same topic. Link to me: instead.quot wasn’t going to be enough., So I wanted to try something that was a bit different from other broken link, building emails that I had received. And that was to point them to Google’s live link rather Than pretending they killed the tool. And because of my honesty, maybe they would check out Max’s tool and see why they should recommend it in their posts, effectively earning the link.
So here’s how the email, went. quotHi name, Was digging through Ahrefs and saw that you’re linking To Google’s old mobile friendly tool., Then a link to Google’s broken URL., Somehow they’ve forgotten to redirect that URL to their live one., Then a link to the correct URL., Not sure if you’re still updating older posts, but if you are, it might be worth updating Here’s. The URL on your site and a screenshot of where I found it.quot And then a screenshot, which is that personalization part that extended the time when creating my blitz list.. Now. The reason why I added the screenshot is because, in 2018, when I had run 2 different, broken link, building campaigns screenshots in outreach emails gave me a solid boost in conversions., But, as you already know, it didn’t quite work out which goes to show you that someone Else’S experiences, or even your own won’t, always work out the same way. The next time., Alright, so let’s continue on with the email. quotIf you’re open to potentially recommending another mobile friendly tool. I’D love for you to try ours, which also uses Google’s official API for reliable data and a link to Max’s tool.quot. Then I went on to tell them why it’s better. quotA few key differences on why I think our tool is better completely biased. Of course, Bulk testing, No captchas with sidewalks fire, hydrants or buses And an exportable summary of mobile issues., No pressure at all Just thought you might like to try it out.
Max.quot. Now, personally speaking, I would have loved to receive an email like this over a typical, broken link, building email., Of course, completely biased.. Now you already know that we only got one link., But we also had four other people. Respond. One person said they’d check it out. And yes, they did change the link to the correct one, but didn’t add a link to the one we pitched.. Another person said quotThanks, fixed.quot And sure enough. He did fix it., But he didn’t link. And the other two people asked for a link exchange, which we politely declined.. Now for the one person who did link to his tool, he gave a very positive response.. He said quotNow that’s, how you write an outreach email.quot. All sorted.quot And he linked., But he added at the end of his email, quotBy the way I’m entirely familiar with your site., Fantastic tools that I reference often.. I believe I follow you on Twitter too. Happy to make this change.quot Meaning familiarity with Max, and his tools were probably what earned the link.. So if we exclude that link, I actually got zero backlinks from this campaign. Now Max still got a DR 50 link from a very healthy site, so I’m happy and he’s happy., But upon reflection, something I would have done differently if I were to run this campaign Again is to not pitch Max’s tool at all.. Instead, I would have just told them about Google’s SEO 101 mistake and then added a link to Max’s free SEO tools page in the signature.
. It may not have resulted in any links in the short term, but for those that had clicked the link and tried the tools they may have very well linked to them in future posts. Or at the very least, the email would have probably been welcomed.. Now, as I was reflecting on this experiment, there were a few things that I think contributed to a pretty much failed link building campaign. 1.. These emails were being sent to people in the SEO and digital marketing space. And, if we’re being honest, no one likes to receive an email saying that they have a broken link.. Everyone has them, and most people just don’t care enough to fix them.. None of the successful broken link building campaigns I’ve run in the past, were remotely related to SEO or digital marketing.. So if you’re in a different niche, where SEOs aren’t the ones receiving the email, then it might be worth trying. 2., Unlike a typical, broken link where there is no alternative page from the same site, Google’s Mobile, Friendly tool, wasn’t discontinued., They literally made a simple error By not redirecting the old URL to the new one. Now had they killed that tool, then the pitch would have been different and I think we might have had a few more links from this campaign. 3.. We started the email off with quotwas digging through Ahrefs.quot. Now Ahrefs is generally regarded as the 1 backlink checking tool., So anyone who’s familiar with our brand would have immediately known that we were, after a link from the first four words of our email.
, Probably not a good way to start. And 4.. No follow up. Emails were sent. In my last successful broken link building campaign. I used the psychological principle of the rule of reciprocity in my follow up.. Basically, I told them I wanted to share their post on one of my Pinterest boards. That’S a relevant to their post and b. Has over 30000 followers no strings attached., But if they had other content that they wanted, amplified just respond and tell me. And not so surprisingly, a lot of people responded with suggestions and also confirmation of newly added links. Again, the purpose of this campaign wasn’t to try And convert as many links as possible.. I just wanted to gauge how people generally respond to emails like this.. Now is the conclusion here that Sam, Oh, is not a very good link, builder and he’s. Just making excuses Maybe Or is it that broken link, building doesn’t work? Maybe The thing is there is no real conclusion to this. Link building tactics are just streamlined ways of finding link prospects and having some kind of skeleton for your outreach email.. But if you think about it, almost no well known tactic contains a good reason for contact and a good reason for them to link to you out of the box., And these are the two key parts of getting backlinks., For example, with broken link building your reason For contact is because they have a broken link on their page.
And the most common justification for them to link to you is because you have a live page on a similar topic.. Both parts of your outreach are weak. Now for something like the Skyscraper Technique. Your pitch, in a nutshell, would be quotyou linked to this page. I have a better page.quot. This pitch is equally or perhaps even weaker than broken link, building., So to say that broken link, building, doesn’t work but skyscraper link, building or insert your tactic link building does is too general of a statement.. In my opinion, successful link building is going to come down to a strong pitch, which requires strong content and a strong value. Proposition. And the actual documented tactics themselves are more ways to find prospects and potentially start a conversation.. So as this world of link building becomes more and more about reciprocal value, we as SEOs need to rethink the way we approach. How we build links., You can go route, A which means you have deep pockets to pay for links, or maybe you have a strong website where people will want to do a link exchange with you. Or maybe you’re like us, and want to go down route B. Where we want to actually earn backlinks, based on the quality of our content and tools. That’s, going to require a great product content and some creativity to amplify your content. In my completely biased opinion route B is the way to go.. You won’t need to be paranoid of getting caught by the Google police.
Plus it’s, actually a lot of fun. So I’ll leave you with this final thought. Link building is hard and that’s a good thing., While people are making excuses. Like quotEveryone wants moneyquot quotthey’re a well known brandquot, you can actually be doing something like … building, links. Bottomline stop making excuses. Don’t lowball agencies. Link building is hard but worth it.. Now, if you enjoyed this video, make sure to like share and subscribe for more SEO and marketing tutorials. – And let me know in the comments about your experiences with broken link – building.