Almost 7 years ago, I wrote my first post about the reciprocity method to link building. In it, I described a specific link building technique where success was (and always will be) highly dependent on a creative outreach process.
Since then, the technique has been formally adopted by the SEO industry as broken link building and, contrary to the opinions of some
people who are doing it wrong, it is *still* a viable technique for anyone wanting to acquire high-quality links for practically any website in any niche.
So what IS broken link building?
Its a 4 step process that involves:
- identifying a website you want to get a link from
- actively searching that website for broken outbound links
- notifying the website of said broken links
- getting your own relevant site added to the website as a reward for your helpfulness
Although the method is not the easiest to scale says SEO veteran, Nick Leroy, its extremely valuable.
Broken link building is a time consuming and unscalable process because its an outreach technique that requires an extremely personal touch. You can't expect a high response rate while using a generic email template. And, because the communication requires such personalization and attention to detail, you definitely can't achieve desired results via mass emailing.
This is because most webmasters treat the "I found a broken link on your site" email as spam. says Google penalty expert Marie Haynes.
Although much of the broken link building process has remained the same, a few things have definitely changed that can be applied to link building and outreach in general.
Here are 3 important lessons I've learned in over 7 years of tinkering with my own link building outreach techniques:
1. It isn't just about email (anymore)
Besides having to make it through increasingly advanced spam filters, it's becoming more and more difficult to ensure your email stands out from all the others. This is partly why in 2016, email communication isn't necessarily my go-to method for link building outreach.
Since it's nearly impossible to find a popular website that isn't participating in some sort of social media interaction these days, I've started using social media as a channel of outreach communication.
By publicly reaching out to link targets through my Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, I was pleasantly surprised at the difference it made to my outreach response rate.
I believe this is because a) in some cases you can tweet directly to the company CEO (or any number of company employees) and not just email some generic email@example.com address, and b) it puts social pressure on them to respond, as brands who want to appear approachable and friendly generally respond to public comments and questions.
2. Transparency matters more than ever
Seven years ago the internet was a much different place. As a marketer, you could easily identify your link target and then email the site owner whilst pretending to be virtually anyone. Ethical or not, it was easy to be whoever you needed to be in order to establish some sort of common ground and secure that link.
Today, when you contact a stranger out of the blue, they're likely to be instantly suspicious of some sort of scam. And we can't really blame them.
Be yourself and provide plenty of social evidence to back up who you are, whether you're a business owner or a marketer on behalf of a client. Give your outreach targets an opportunity to physically see, and quickly read about you, before deciding what to do with your request.
This is an especially effective way of opening up the lines of communication if your social media accounts are active and receiving a decent amount of engagement.
3. We're all social tools now
That is, technology has made link building and outreach a whole lot easier than it used to be. Practically anything (or anyone) is a tool that can be utilized in some form or another.
Need to find the most authoritative bloggers in a certain niche? No problem. Want to quickly find all the broken links on any page? Here you go. Looking for just the right person to contact at XYZ company? Easy peasy.
Outreach specialists already know the value of utilizing as many tools as possible to make their jobs easier. David Forster of Adster Creative says that tools play a big part in our link building outreach from organizational tasks like keeping track of outreach efforts, to managing every detail of a link building project, and even training.
A good outreach tool can help you begin to build media, content & prospect lists using real data, which is key to success. says Jenny Stradling at Eminent SEO.
Link building is serious business, and with today's technology, there are simply no more excuses for conducting sloppy outreach. None. In fact, we can probably thank the sloppy approach for practically killing email outreach as we know it.
If you're conducting any kind of outreach, your approach can always be improved upon. In 2016, broaden your horizons, and possibly increase your success rate, by changing with the times.
Btw, I asked the SEO community on Twitter for their thoughts about link building outreach and tools. Thanks to all who contributed.
Hand-Picked Related Articles:
- How To Track Your Outreach Campaign - Details what to track, why, and how. Good ideas for tests to apply to your outreach campaigns. Nice list of free, freemium, and premium tools. By David Schneider from Ninja Outreach
- The Lazy Man’s Guide to Broken Link Building - Using Scrapebox to automate a lot of the tedious work. Nice idea on outsourcing to Fiverr as well. By Ryan Stewart from Webris.
- The Difference between Link Building & Outreach (and How They Work Together) - There's a fine difference there but one you need to grasp as a marketer. Deals with social outreach, influencer outreach, and email/PR outreach. By Michael Georgiou, Co-founder of Imaginovation