Does broken link building really work in 2019? That was the question that started this campaign. Our client wanted to acquire new links for their ecommerce statistics compilation page. They already created the page with most recent marketing, ecommerce, SEO and email statistics

Usually, the first step in these situations is to check Ahrefs index for broken pages in the target niche that have lots of referring domains. When checking Ahrefs Content Explorer, we found that there’s a pretty big opportunity in the ecommerce statistics space. More specifically, a deleted article with 1.1k pages linking to it.

It was a perfect opportunity for us to test our broken link building process and gather some stats to get a sense of how successful this campaign can be in 2019, as more and more we’re hearing negative reviews from SEO practitioners.

Usual broken link building process

Usually, the general step-by-step process goes something like this:

  1. Find relevant page that no longer exists and returns 404
  2. Use Ahrefs to see who links to that page
  3. Scrape the contact info from site and reach out (usually results in spamming contact@site.com type of emails)
  4. Send them email using the template made popular by Backlinko (“I stumbled upon” your article, %this link% doesn’t work anymore, I googled and found a replacement.)

This approach leaves a lot to be desired for and if results were underwhelming, wouldn’t really help us understand if broken link building is still worth it in 2019, which was the end goal.

GFXL broken link building process

Instead, we decided to improve a few things after step 2:

  1. Find relevant page that no longer exists and returns 404
  2. Use Ahrefs “Backlinks” report to see who links to that page
  3. Import results to URLProfiler and find author of the article that linked to broken page. Use the same tool to find anchor text, 10 words before and 10 words after the anchor. It will come in useful later.
  4. Find email of the author using all methods known to man (Twitter replies, Personal newsletter subs, Youtube about pages, Hunter.io, etc); If author email is unknown, find relevant person in the company or use blog admin email. Sometimes this results in pretty extensive detective work on Linkedin to find the best person to reach out to.
  5. After this, we just need to verify the emails found. This is an important step, skip this and you will send a lot of emails that will bounce.
  6. Customize the template based on the quote / part of the article used.

Categorizing opportunities

In our case, the broken page was about email marketing stats. We analysed the text around the anchor for 1,000+ pages linking to this broken article and noticed that most of them fall into 4 categories “mentioning stat #1”, “mentioning stat #2”, “mentioning stat #3” and basically “everyone else”.

Finally, we made sure that client’s page mentioned these stats from the last part. Also taking a peek at what the broken page looked like, and what content was included using Wayback Machine. Then finally when reaching out we adjusted the template based on which statistics was quoted on each particular page.

Broken link building Template

This is what our email looked like, for a segment that used the “35% of email recipients open email based on subject link alone” stat.

As you can see, we were very transparent about the whole purpose of the email. And I think this is reflected in the results and emails we received back.

Campaign results

The whole funnel with all the numbers can be seen below. As you can see, we went from 1.1k pages linking to the original broken page and got our client 10 new links. Depending on how you look at this, it’s either a lot, or a fraction of the original number.

Additionally, 2 websites requested link exchange, which depending on your situation might or might not work for you. In 1 case the person asked for a guest post instead of replacing the link. One other site admin requested a payment of $8.60 to place a link on his DR30+ site.

In total, we managed to secure 3 links from DR 79+ sites, 6 links from DR 40+ sites and 1 backlink from DR 30+ website. And it’s where things get interesting, because some of these sites have a very high DR (79+) and these aren’t the links you’d get with your traditional guest posting link building campaign.

Conclusions

Ultimately, we think the whole campaign was a success, for multiple reasons.

  1. These links will be hard to replicate for the competition
  2. Many of the links are from high DR sites
  3. Low cost for the caliber of links secured

*P.S.* We used a couple of other techniques to improve the response rates not covered here, but we’ll be happy to discuss them with interested parties over email — contact us at justas@getfoundxl.com 🙂