Posted in SEO | 9-min read
Why are backlinks important?
While you can ramble all day long about how much authority you have in any particular field, at the end of the day, it’s your word against the entire world wide web (that’s what people are still calling it, right?). What can set you apart from your competition is how much others trust your input. In the world of search engine optimization (SEO), this means being linked to by someone who has already won the trust of search engines. These links from authoritative websites are known as “backlinks.”
“Looks like you got some link juice on you there...”
Having a link from a trusted resource can help your site on two counts:
- Increased traffic. Trusted websites typically have a fair amount of traffic. When these sites link to you, this raises the visibility of your site considerably.
- Increased “link juice.” No, this isn’t a new energy drink...for the most part. When a trusted website links to your site, by default, they’re extending their trust to you. This sharing of trust is commonly referred to as passing on “link juice” — a form of transferrable clout in the search world. Think of it as a pat on the back from the internet. Search engines crawl these pages, following the links wherever they go. When they discover that a certain trustworthy website has extended some link juice your way and says, "I can vouch for them," they use that as an indication of quality. These quality indicators help them determine how to rank your website on the search engine results page (SERP).
How to Win Friends & Influence Search Results
Broken Links Stink
Think back to the last time you clicked on a link that went nowhere. You were likely let down. Whether this link worked once upon a time or was entered incorrectly from the start, search engines use broken links as a sign of poor user experience. Because search engines are in the business of providing the best user experience possible, if a site has enough broken links, it is penalized with reduced search rankings. While broken links suck, there’s a way they can become your ticket to higher search rankings. Why? Because nobody likes fixing links.
Fixing Links is a Headache
Because webmasters can only control their own site health, broken links can happen to anyone. Keeping up with link health for big websites can be a full-time job. Once a broken link is discovered, it has to be fixed — either by correcting the URL or finding a replacement link. A replacement must adequately expound on the material in the hyperlink text to help the site make their point or provide additional information on that topic.
Earning Links by Providing Your Resource
Nobody wants to hear that their website contains broken links. It’s slightly embarrassing and means extra work. So, why would you be delighted to hear of such news from an outside source? If that person did so along with a recommended quality replacement resource. This is the equivalent of a stranger patching a hole in your ship for the honor of being able to patch such a grand ship. In this instance, the ship is a reputable site, and the patch is your resource.
Here’s how it looks like from the webmaster’s end:
- You receive an email from someone informing you that your website contains a broken link.
- Unlike most criticism on the internet, this person’s email includes a constructive solution — a replacement link!
- After examining the content of this link, you deem it adequate to fill the role of the past link that went and died on you.
- You use the recommended link, thus patching the leak before your site took on too much water.
How to Earn Links from Finding Dead/Broken Links
- Have a great piece ready to go.
First and foremost, you’re going to need to have created a piece of quality content. Not just any piece will do. Above all else, it must solve problems.
- Install “Check My Links.”
Using a Chrome browser, install an extension called “Check My Links.” This tool will allow you to scan any page for broken links quickly.
- "Bring out your dead" links.
To find or broken links on quality pages, you first have to find the pages that contain those links. You can go about it in a few different ways.
- Shotgun Technique: Simply search for a page that ranks well for your recommended keywords. While finding these pages will likely be easy, the likelihood of ones with dead links will be slim. They’re not only high-ranking sites, but they also may not contain many links — thus reducing the probability of finding a broken one. You may need a more precise technique...
- Sniper Technique: The more links a page has, the higher the likelihood of finding a broken one to “fix.” Some websites contain “Resources” pages that list a myriad of links to helpful (wait for it...) resources. You can find these by searching for your suggested keyword and the word “resources” or using specific search strings in Google, such as:
- “Your Keyword” + “resources”
- “Your Keyword” + inurl:resources
- “Your Keyword” + intitle: resources
- Scan the relevant pages.
Once you find an authoritative site that lists several links, use the Check My Links tool to scan the page. Make a special note of any dead links that your piece could replace. Make sure these are very, very close replacements to the dead link and not a shot in the dark.
- Find the author’s contact details.
Armed with your resource and the authoritative site containing a dead link, look for the contact details for the author or webmaster. Many pieces will link to author pages — either profiles on the website with contact details or the author’s social media profiles. While a helpful social media message may be ok, you’re most likely to get the author’s attention via email.
- Craft a helpful message.
When reaching out to this author, you want to come from a place of helpfulness. Lead with an appreciation for their resource in general. Consider referencing your favorite parts to indicate that you actually read the piece. Once you’ve thoroughly expressed your interest in the piece, helpfully slide the news that one of the links is broken and offer your link as a possible replacement. The message can look something like this:
Hello, (Author First Name)!
I just finished reading your piece on (subject here). I really like how you (mention favorite parts here).
I did notice that one of your resources didn’t link all the way through.
(List broken link here)
I actually recently posted a piece very similar to the resource you referenced. You may consider looking it over to determine if it would be a suitable replacement.
(List your link URL here)
Thanks for the great work! I’ll be sure to follow you on Twitter to be sure I catch your next piece.
- Respond appropriately to the author's reply.
If you receive a reply to your email or message, make sure to thank them regardless — either to them using your link or merely replying to your message. If they decide to use your link, a gracious reply is in order as well as sharing that resource across your own networks.
- Make broken link “earning” a habit.
It doesn’t take long to go hunting for broken links to fix. After you publish any helpful new resources, go searching for broken links to replace. Feel free to turn it into a fun game.
Using Broken Links as Content Creation Ideas
Coming up with ideas for new pieces for content marketing can be hard. It can feel like everything has already been created, leaving you with few original topics to tackle. While there are some genuinely groundbreaking pieces out there, some incredible pieces of content are actually reiterations of existing content that came first. Competing pieces of content will either be (a) better or (b) different. One way to be better than the competition is to fix their errors. In this instance, the error is not existing in the first place.
As you search through authoritative pages in your industry, you may come across broken resource links on your own. While these may diminish your user experience, they’re also your opportunity to create a resource that has an increased likelihood of earning a link.
- Once you find the broken link, carefully study the piece that references it. Study the context of the piece. Feel out how the author intended to help readers by linking to this now-dead link.
- Craft a piece that flows from that page and hopefully answers the reader’s question regarding the subject.
- Start from Step 5 above to pitch this article to the author. Even if they pass on linking to the article, you’ll still have a great resource you can go try to earn a link to through other authoritative websites.
In this piece, we learned about:
- Backlinks and their delicious “link juice”
- Being a helpful steward of websites in your niche to earn quality backlinks
- Receiving content inspiration from the broken links of others