Link Building Tip #1 – Finding Broken Links

I finally got around to making a commitment; from now on I will publish link building tips. Basically it will be a post explaining one single aspect of link building in detail. To tell you the truth this was inspired by Rand Fiskin’s Headsmacking Tips on SEOmoz blog. For some posts I will obviously have to go in great detail, some will be smaller, some will be quite extensive. Let’s start with the basics, and yes, if you want a certain part of link building covered send me an email and I’ll get to it very soon.

Broken Links on Your Website

propeller broken link


So back to the topic at hand, no one likes to follow a link and see a page like the one above, no matter how good it looks! So we need to find broken links on our website and on our competitor websites to scale our link building campaign. There are many ways to find broken links, many tools that can help you with that. For your own website you shouldn’t move any further then your webmaster tools. If you go to the Diagnostics – Crawl Errors – Not Found you will see a list of 404 pages and the pages that link to them.

404 pages

From this step you can see what is wrong with your pages, you can make them active again if there is a great number of links pointing to those pages or you can just correct those links to point to the right pages. Of course that is if we are talking about your internal links, if these are external links you will probably be better of activating that URL, or you can always contact the webmaster and ask them to change the links to point to the new page where your content can be found. And if you simply want to get rid of the broken pages with no links you can do so by going to Remove URL page in Webmaster Tools.

What if your broken links point to external domains? Well, you can use various available WordpPress plugins if you use WordPress, one of which is SEO Ultimate. If you want to check a regular website you can use Xenu Link Sleuth or other broken link tools.

Broken Links on Competitor Website


Next stop checking for broken links pointing to your competitors. This is easy, all you need to do is scan the competitor backlink profile and look for 404 pages, I use Open Site Explorer for that, if you want full functions and all the data available you will have to buy SEOmoz Pro package, but if you are serious about your SEO and link building this shouldn’t be an issue.


After you finish scanning the links you can export the list to a CSV file and extract only links with 404 errors. You can than run a backlink check with open Site Explorer or Yahoo Site Explorer to see if there are any websites linking to those broken pages, simple as that. After you compile a list of websites and pages that have broken links all you need to do is contact those webmasters and point out that they have a broken link on their site and somewhere in between mention you have similar content they might want to link to instead.


If you find broken links of your competitors that link to dead websites, expired domains you can do some dirty work and buy the domain name and get your competitor links. After that all you need to do is 301 redirect the domain you bought to your pages and you have yourself some nice link juice flowing directly from your competition. Nice trick!


Bottom line, once a month check for broken links and pages on your website, and always look for competitor mistakes when link building. These are some of the easiest link building opportunities you can find when talking about quality links.

About The Author

is the founder and CEO of Practical SEO and also a passionate blogger. All of his free time he dedicates to his Practical SEO blog and giving free advice as well as participating in the blogging community.

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19 Response to Link Building Tip #1 – Finding Broken Links

  1. Jesica Wills on June 17, 2011

    Thanks Zarko for writing this topic. Actually, I am new in on-page. Many things I don’t know in it. Broken link is very important for the website and in seo. Very informative post. I wll forward this link to my other friends. Thanks.

  2. Zarko on June 17, 2011

    Thanks Jesica, like I said at the beginning no one wants to see broken pages, not you, not your visitors, and definitely not search engines!

  3. Antonia@Conversational hypnosis on June 17, 2011

    One every week? Are there really so many link building tips? :)
    Anyway, from my limited knowledge about the subject, every broken link needs to give a 404 error for Google to like it.
    But does it still show up in Diagnostics if it doesn’t point to 404?

  4. Anna on June 18, 2011

    Hi, Zarko
    When I just read your words about checking broken links at our competitors’ sites, i couldn’t understand why. But then you provided the answer – to buy them if they are expired and to get links through redirecting them to the required places. I guess it can be a good idea.
    PS. I wonder if this fair or not?

  5. Melanie on June 18, 2011

    Hi Zarko, I think all people hate broken links :). I’m very new in link building and I didn’t know these tools to check broken links. Very thanks for sharing.

  6. Lynda on June 18, 2011

    This is a great post. I look forward to your weekly posts on link building as I have a lot to learn. Thank you for sharing :)

  7. Zarko on June 18, 2011

    @Antonia, one every week :) and it will take a long time to finish, if we ever finish… About the broken link question, well, if it doesn’t point to a dead page, a 404 page, that means it is not actually broken, it just points to a wrong page. For that you will need to check your backlinks and inner links to figure out which one is the faulty one. Broken link is a link that points to nothing… you can learn more here

    @Anna, you can buy them, you can try to acquire them simply by offering great content to be linked instead of the dead one, there are ways to go about it, and honestly it is fair. if I forget about some of my pages it’s my fault they got stolen, fortunately I check my backlinks often for my sites and for my clients, so I always make sure something like that doesn’t happen. So, at the same time I have no issue about using other people’s mistakes to my and my clients advantage.

    @Lynda, thanks :)

  8. Milan Cole@Portland Real Estate on June 19, 2011

    It’s amazing how often links get broken. Every single time I go into Google webmaster tools I find more links to fix. As for forwarding expired domains, I’ve always been concerned that Google might not like it; maybe this is a good standalone topic for a future post.

  9. seo sydney on June 19, 2011

    Thanks Zarko for this post!
    I understand that nobody do like to see broken line on any links and therefore most link builders are eager to check them and fix them easily.
    Though am not well versed with converting the broken link or forwarding the expired domain to the required sites, I will check the best way to work on this soon.

  10. Tomek@8 Pack Abs on June 20, 2011

    Hey, Zarko! The competitor broken link tip (buying the age domain and using a redirect) is massively cool. Thanks!! Tomek

  11. Zarko on June 20, 2011

    Hi Tomek, yeah it is, it’s one of the tricks of the trade, a very useful and powerful one for that matter.

  12. Maria Pavel@Nurse Assistant on June 21, 2011

    It was so nice of you to decide to go for one tip per week. It will keep us all stuck to your blog gasping!
    Now as far as the broken link problem is concerned, we all need to do everything in a proper planned way and hence try our most to solve these issues so as to gain the maximum profit from our online resources.

  13. Mike Nolls on June 22, 2011

    Clearing all 404 pages, layout errors, and mis-directs with 301 redirects is really important for clean spidering and trust with Google and such. Also, I always make sure to validate my website with W3C as soon as possible, fixing any issues that are found. These steps also greatly help the loading times of your site for viewers.

  14. cayley v@netpaths seo on June 23, 2011

    @melanie contacting webmasters to replace broken links of your competitors with those of your client is a tactic Matt Cutts would never tell you :)

  15. Veronica Cervera@Miami Real estate on June 23, 2011

    Hey Zarko,
    It was interesting to read about broken links. Actually I’m not too well versed in link building terms so though I’ve heard about the broken links before I didn’t digest the whole thing. I found your post very informative and I’ll certainly try to dig further into the details about broken links.

  16. nabil@constipation remedies on June 23, 2011

    It was only a week or so ago that I was introduced to the idea of fixing broken links and the benefits of it and now this tip appears to be everywhere! I wonder how I missed it in my three years of blogging. I use a great free tool that periodically checks for broken links on my blog and notifies me.

  17. SEO Whiz Kid on June 24, 2011

    I agree that this is a great technique to use. i have gained plenty of links using this.

  18. Martin@CDL Practice Test on June 29, 2011

    Hi Zarko,
    I’ve been using webmaster tools since…. well, forever, but i stil have no idea how to fix those errors. I keept looking at them, they keep looking back. And then we split ways.
    I’ll try to contact the webmasters and see if i can reduce their numbers a bit.

  19. Advanced Preparation for SEO Campaign + Link Building Plan Blueprint on May 5, 2012

    [...] Competition 404 pages [...]

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