Reclaiming Links to Broken Pages (Why and How)
Reclaiming links which point to broken pages on your site is a quick and easy way of gaining (or technically regaining) high authority links. The process is quite straightforward but it can get great results so is worth trying for any site which has been live for some time. Below I’ll explain what the technique is, how to do it and what potential results you could see.
There are lots of processes you can use to find and fix broken links but this one is for finding working links to *broken pages*. In the very crude diagram below you can see the various pages on your site which have links to them from other websites – the arrows represent the links. The links which go to working pages pass SEO authority to the site which results in better rankings. A few of the links point to a page which used to be live but now 404s because somebody has removed it. Unfortunately the links to this page don’t pass any benefit to the site – they essentially hit a dead end.
The process below allows you to find situations where this has occurred and fix the problem to that you get the benefit of the links. This results in better rankings and positive looking graphs which slope in the right direction (see below).
1. Find all the links to your site using your preferred backlink tool (I use Majestic SEO). You need to download your full list of inbound links including where they’re linking to exactly on your site. You can go ahead and ignore all the links pointing towards your homepage unless your homepage is 404ing in which case you probably shouldn’t be reading this right now.
2. The next step is to check that all the pages on your site which have inbound links pointing to them are live. The easiest way is probably to upload a list of all these page to Screaming Frog and crawl them. You should then have a list of any dead pages which have links pointing to them. If you don’t have any of these then congratulations – you’re done!
3. The final step is to capture the inbound link benefit by getting rid of the 404. There are two ways to do this:
a) Redirect all the pages to an alternative. Either the new version of the page or at the very least the homepage.
b) Add this page live again with some content. This version will take slightly longer but you’ll end up with another landing page of great content. What’s more this page will already have links to it.
Technically you haven’t gained any new links you’ve just reclaimed old links you used to have. However the result is the same as gaining links and this is probably the easiest method of gaining links which actually works. I use this method for pretty much all sites I begin work on which have been live for some time. Sometimes there are no links to reclaim but sometimes you hit the jackpot.
I recently used the process above for a client who had changed their site structure years before. I found 18 pages which had inbound links and were 404ing including an old version of their homepage. This had links from lots of high authority sites including the Guardian. Gaining a link from the Guardian for a few hours work is pretty great in my book! You can see the result on the client’s organic site exposure below:
I don’t really like the phrase “quick wins” because most things which are quick don’t result in very big wins. In my experience time, effort and small incremental changes get the best results but this is an example of a genuinely quick win. Even if you don’t get great results it takes less than an hour so is definitely worth trying.