Case Study: Does Broken Link Building Work Today?

Does Broken Link Building Work Today?

In this detailed case study, I will be sharing with you my case study on “does broken link building works today or not?

Since link building is one of the most important strategies of SEO, you need to master new ways of building links and understanding how your strategy is performing.

So in this post, I will answer whether you should build links using broken links to the method is now outdated?

Overview

Aira's 2020 state of the link-building report showed that broken link building is the second most popular link-building tactic to generate backlinks.

But many people have hated this tactic!

In fact, in that same report, Rand Fishkin said: “Broken link building still works? And it's the second most popular link-building tactic?! In 2020?! Remarkable!”

Then Authority Hacker made a video in June 2020 with the title “You're wasting your time on broken link building.”

And Mark goes onto say:

"And 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 that 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."

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.

Thus 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.

So just a couple of 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.

Here is my experience.

Campaign Statistics

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 to come to a more reasonable conclusion you need to learn something more.

I did my experiment on my friend's website who had almost 300+ posts on his website. And to clarify, with some shortage of backlinks to rank higher.

So, I along with my friend found out almost all the websites in his niche. We decide to collect their email and phone numbers to contact them from their contact pages.

We then had to do a lot of work to find broken links on each website one by one. Some tools that help us were Ahrefs, SEMRush, etc.

In the end, we had our list ready with a total of 189 names and email addresses to contact.

Because I was going to be sending emails under my friend'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 the audience doesn't found useful. And that was easy to do because Ahrefs' Backlinks export has a filter in it.

That actually 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.
  2. It had to make sense for them contextually to link to friend'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.

Finally, I had my list of fully vetted prospects.

Running The Campaign

Now, the final stage of this vetting process was to remove people that my friend might have a personal relationship.

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.

Simply emailing someone to say “Hey, you have a broken link. I have a page on the same topic. Link to me instead.” wasn't going to be enough.

So here's how the email went.

“Hi [name],

Was digging through Ahrefs and saw that you're linking to the broken link.

[Then the broken link URL.]

[Reason why it is broken and when].

[Then a link to my friend's URL.]

Not sure if you're still updating older posts, but it might be worth updating?

Here's the URL on your site and a screenshot of where I found it.”

And then a screenshot, which is that personalization part that extended the time when creating my list.

"Hi [name],

Was digging through Ahrefs and saw that you're linking to the broken link.

[Then the broken link URL.]

[Reason why it is broken and when].

[Then a link to my friend's URL.]

Not sure if you're still updating older posts, but it might be worth updating  Here's the URL on your site and a screenshot of where I found it."

And then a screenshot, which is that personalization part that extended the time   when creating my list.

"If you're open to potentially recommending another website, I'd love for you to try ours which has the absolute content [and a link to friend's tool.]"

Then I went on to tell them why it's better.
"A few key differences on why my friend's website is better completely biased of course!
 
No pressure at all 🙂 Just thought you might like to try it out.
 

Now, the reason why I added the screenshot is that 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.

Reply Emails That We Got

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: “Thanks, fixed.” 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:

Now that's how you write an outreach email.
 
All sorted.

By the way, I'm entirely familiar with your site. Fantastic content that I reference often. I believe I follow you on Twitter too. Happy to make this change.

And he linked to my friend's website.

Meaning, familiarity with my friend and his content were probably what earned the link. So if I exclude that link, I actually got zero backlinks from this campaign.

After The Campaign

Now, my friend 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.

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. No one likes to receive an email saying that they have a broken link. People have the mindset that “everyone has them and most people just don’t care enough to fix them”.
  2. We started the email off with “was digging through Ahrefs.” So anyone who's familiar with Ahrefs 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.
  3. 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 are:
    • Relevant to their post
    • Has good social media following

But if they had other content that they wanted to be 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.

Conclusion

Now you can have two conclusions one that I am not an intelligent link builder and the second is that broken link building doesn't work?

Among these, the first one is absolutely wrong. Let's understand the second one.

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 “you linked to this page, I have a better page.”

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. Actually documented tactics themselves are more ways to find prospects and potentially start a conversation.

So as this process 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 have two options:

  1. 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.
  2. Earn backlinks based on the quality of our content and tools.

The second way is going to require a great product, content, and some creativity to amplify your content.

So I'll leave you with this final thought: Link building is hard but worth it. If you have enough time to manage your blogging schedule you can try for broken link building.

I would also recommend you some of my post that can help you in link building and understand it's importance.

Does Broken Link Building Work Today?
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Hey, I’m Yash Wadajkar. I can help you rank higher in Google. My only question is, do you want to learn it?

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