Nick Bernard // Mar 12 2013
I’m a huge fan of Garrent French’s link building tool, the Link Prospector, so I was jazzed when he released the Broken Link Finder. I wanted to give an overview of why broken link building is important and how this tool can save you a ton of time and effort.
As the web grows, it changes: pages gets moved around, deleted, or simply neglected. The content is gone, but the links to these URLs remain. The result is a 404 “File Not Found” status, which is a pain for users but a link builder’s dream. Broken link building is the practice of asking a webmaster to change those links to point at relevant, replacement pages (that just so happen to be on your client’s site).
Think of it this way: say you’re a pizza connoisseur, so you pick up a map of the best pizza joints in town at your local pizza community resource center. You follow the map to one of the pizzerias, only to find that the place is closed, the building is permanently destroyed, or, worse, there’s a new establishment in its place that’s selling generic Viagra pills—either way, you’ll probably be disappointed.
Broken link building is like contacting the map maker and suggesting a different Italian restaurant to replace the delinquent one. The pizza cartographer updates the map, and the new establishment enjoys the benefits of leveraging resources and connections that were already in place.
Like any other SEO strategy, broken link building takes time. Using the Check My Links extension to discover dead links on resources pages can be tedious work. The enterprising minds at Citation Labs thought, “There must be a way to make this process scalable….”
Enter the Broken Link Finder. This tool does most of the heavy lifting for you by returning dead pages based on keywords you provide. Here’s an outline of how it works.
Users familiar with Link Prospector will be comfortable with the interface of the new tool. I organize my campaigns by the types of linkable content I’m hoping to find, rather than by client or website.
Link Prospector allowed for a lot of trial and error for picking keywords to use for search queries; however, because the credit structure is different, your pocketbook will be in a world of hurt if you dump keywords in willy-nilly. Thankfully, they’ve provided a tool to help choose keywords that will yield the most results.
As you can see, it’s better to think broadly and more abstractly than you would for classic link building queries. It’s important to remember that you’re searching for opportunities for replacing dead content; these aren’t necessarily immediate wins.
After you add the keywords for the campaign, some sort of link wizardry happens and the tool produces a report.
What would have been hours of sleuthing and a significant amount of luck is just sitting there for the taking. You can filter the list to see URLs by the number of referring links or by the link opportunity’s “grade,” which is based on its relevance to your target keywords. They even provide a link to the cached version of the page from the Wayback Machine so you can see what content your page should offer!
Once you find the pages you want to contact, you can reserve them. This removes the URL from the tool’s index and prevents link builders from moving in on your territory.
You can also “dive” URLs, which creates a separate campaign that generates new opportunities based on that specific page.
Of course, premium prospects carry a premium price tag. At $7.50 per credit, this tool gets expensive very quickly. It forces you to be calculated with your research and content strategy.
To link builders, however, the value should be clear. In the example above, the report produced a page with 303 dead links. It could’ve taken me hours to find the same number of quality opportunities that the tool found in 15 minutes. This is scalability—without sacrificing relevance or value.
What I like most about this tool is it gets us to think about what’s really important for SEO: content and user experience. Fixing links helps users avoid the dreaded 404 page, and if you can create great content to fill that gap, everybody wins.
Thinking in terms of what content could be helpful to our users is the only way link building can be successful in the future. The Broken Link Finder is a great tool to help us do just that.
Have you used the Broken Link Finder? What strategies do you use for broken link building? Let us know in the comments!
By day, Nick helps make websites better for users and search engines. By night, he's learning all he can about front-end web development so he has something to talk about with the cool kids at work. Read More