As search engines become more intricate and capable, link building has been forced to evolve and become more sophisticated at the same time. All good inbound marketers must continuously expand their knowledge set in order to stay relevant. One of the more recent additions to the link building tool set of many is the concept of broken link building (BLB). The basics behind BLB are to try and find broken links within relevant websites that may be willing to link out to your content. By linking out to your site webmasters are updating their user experience by fixing broken links and you are gaining a valuable on-niche link. This has potential to be a win-win for all parties.
Anthony Nelson wrote a great introductory blog post on this topic, "Broken Link Building Guide: From Noob to Novice", at SEOmoz and he can be found at Northside SEO. I would highly encourage you to read through his post first if you are new to this topic. Once you have a handle on the basic strategy, then this post will be perfect for you.
I wanted to dive into a particular strategy for finding BLB partner websites for a professional services client. I am going to use a dentist as an example for this post, but these strategies would be equally relevant to other professional service providers such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc.
The challenge with utilizing BLB strategies for professional service providers is that the large majority of resource/link pages that currently exist are on competitor websites or are simply looking to list industry specific organizations. In both cases it can be extremely difficult to find sites that are willing to replace a broken link with one from a regional provider.
For example, if your client is a Dentist in Los Angeles you may begin your BLB hunt for 404s by searching for something like:
This will return results such as below with a high volume of competitor websites. None of which are likely to link to our dental client. It is time to get creative. Below we will explore several alternative link discovery options that are likely to provide sites with high success rates for professional service providers.
Look for Resource Pages
When looking for BLB opportunities it is incredibly important to be seeking out the proper sites otherwise you will be spinning your wheels and wasting time. A great alternative to seeking out “Links” pages is searching for “Resources” pages. The difference may seem minimal, but the “Resources” pages are much more likely to include links between fellow dentists, which are exactly what you are looking for.
Example of a search query: "inurl:Keyword" + “intitle:resources”
Most professional service providers are willing to link out to a colleague if he/she is in a region that will not compete and if it is on a fairly niche topic that they do not specialize in. Oftentimes you can find resource pages that are filled with links to other dentists and if you dig deep enough many of these sites will have links to dentists that are no longer in practice. This is where your opportunity arrises.
Here is where you can reach out to the webmaster and note that the page has a broken link and that you think your client is a great resource that the webmaster’s patients could gain valuable information from.
I often use a template such as the one below. You do not want to introduce yourself as an SEO, unfortunately this is likely to raise suspicions and will potentially reduce your likelihood in turning this opportunity into a link.
I recently moved to [town where dentist is located] and was looking for a dentist online when I came across your site. I noticed that you have [# of] broken links on the resources page.
While you are updating the resources page I know your readers would benefit from some of the information on my previous dentist’s site [insert URL]. Dr. Y’s site is full of detailed explanations on a variety of procedures and he was a great dentist for my family and me.
I am due for a cleaning and after discussing availability with my wife I will give you a call in the next few weeks.
Look for Guides
Guides are helpful to us all and are very common online. Guides are often presented as a compilation of links, which are often a breeding ground for broken links.
The beauty of guides is that they can be very specific, which will increase the potential for you to be able to find websites that are already linking to a regional provider. If a website is only linking to national sites or organizations then I would not even spend the time searching for broken links.
Start your search for Guides with a query such as the one below. I would experiment with a variety of URLs that range from top-level (i.e. “Cosmetic Dentist”) to service specific (i.e. Zoom! Teeth Whitening). The more granular searches are likely to yield the most potential for broken links that are pointing to a regional provider.
Keyword + “inurl:guide”
Once you have successfully found a variety of linking opps, then it is time to reach out to the individual webmasters. Good hunting!
Industry Specific Blogs
The last suggestion I wanted to cover is to seek out industry specific blogs. Ideally these blogs would be independent from other service providers, but if this is not possible then service provider sites could work as well, they are just likely to have a lower success rate because the webmaster with the broken link may have an existing relationship with the service provider they are linking out to.
Here are a few search queries to get you started.
Keyword + site:wordpress.com
Keyword + site:blogspot.com
Keyword + site:typepad.com
Keyword + site:edublogs.org
Keyword + site:livejournal.com
Keyword + intext:”powered by wordpress”
Keyword + intext:”powered by typepad”
This strategy is slightly different than the rest because it includes searching for 404 pages on the blogs you find instead of searching for broken links within those blogs. The idea here is that we want to find broken pages on these popular industry specific blogs and then we can target the websites that are linking to these pages to replace the broken link with a new link to your client’s relevant content.
You can use Screaming Frog, a free service, to crawl the blogs you find and Screaming Frog will kick out a status report on all URLs that highlights any existing 404s. Once, the 404s are located check them out to make sure the content is relevant and that it is something your client has or would be able to create on their website. Then, run the 404 page through SEOmoz’ OSE tool and find any linking sites to this page. The sites linking to this page are your target. You can now reach out to the webmaster and notify them of the broken link and then suggest the replacement link that points to your client’s content.
This strategy can be incredibly effective if you find a previously valuable page that is now a 404. Site owners will be quick to replace the broken link, which could result in quick links for your client.
Overall BLB is one of many strategies to be incorporated into any diverse link building campaign. This strategy has been gaining favor recently because it is Panda and Penguin friendly and has potential to be massively scalable in the proper niches.
Good luck with your link hunting! I would love to hear if you have any additional BLB strategies for Professional Service clients. You can always connect with me on Twitter at @adamwagner4.