Frustrated with social media link building and directory submissions? It’s time to get dirty by digging in and prospecting local directories to find broken link building gold.
There are a ton of great broken link building resources out there. I obviously didn’t invent it, but I have my own unique twist on this established technique (known as BLB from now on). With the help of Raven’s Link Manager tool, this process is incredibly simple.
Broken link building 101
The basis of BLB is to find websites that have broken links either internally or externally and then communicate with the webmaster and alert them of the broken link. This is a great way to open the lines of communication with the webmaster without using a run of the mill “Hi, I have this great website that I think you should link to!” form submission. Your good deed provides value to the webmaster and creates a window to eventually pitch them on adding a link on their site to yours. Easy enough, right?
Step 1: Prospect for sites using local directories
Finding prospects is always the most difficult part in this plan. My method of finding local BLB prospects is fairly straightforward. I like to start with local directories. My favorites are BBB.org and YellowPages.com.
Next I identify whom I want to get links from. If I’m working on a site for a general contractor, I would want links back from skilled specialists such as electricians, plumbers, roofers, carpenters, etc. Those are the sites I’m going to go after first.
Then I mine the site for the area of specialization I’m looking for. Since I’m in Nashville, TN I’m going to look up electricians in Nashville. A search on BBB.org reveals 101 electricians listed in the Nashville area! That’s great, since many of them will have probably have websites.
101 websites is a lot to visit and open individually. Luckily, there are a couple of great tools to help you with this. The first one is a Firefox/Chrome Extension called Multi Links. There is also a tool from Citation Labs called the Outbound Link Scraper.
I’m going to use the Multi Links to copy all the URLs from our electricians page and then paste them into a spreadsheet. You’ll notice you get a lot of BBB.org links included – if you sort your URLs A-Z you can select the BBB.org ones and remove them quickly.
Once I delete the BBB.org links I go from 51 URLs to 12 URLs. The reason I only have 12 links from this page is because not all of businesses listed have a website. (You can also reach out to clients that have a BBB listing but don’t have a website as potential clients for your business!)
Now go back to BBB.org and repeat the process until you’ve gone through all the electricians. I ended up with 54 URLs out of the potential 101 electricians listed (sounds like 47 new clients to go after). That was pretty quick and painless, right? I didn’t have to copy and paste 54 URLs one by one, and that always makes me happy! On to the next step.
Step 2: Crawl prospect sites for 404s
This is one of my favorite parts of broken link building. I love crawling other people’s sites with Screaming Frog. Some people prefer Xenu; use whatever you want. I use the free version of Screaming Frog. Even though it limits you to 500 results, most local small business sites don’t have more than 500 pages so it’s not a big deal.
This part of BLB can be repetitive and boring to some. I haven’t been able to find a way to scan multiple sites at once for 404s, so you’re going to have to do this one by one. Within the first six searches I’ve already found an internal 404 error.
So I copy the From URL and the To URL to my spreadsheet so that I know to contact this person and bring the broken link to their attention.
And we still have 48 URLs to search through. Eventually, I found 6 broken links out of 54 URLs. Not too shabby! Two of the sites had multiple broken links on them. The webmaster will probably be happy to hear from me and hopefully that will entice them to link back to my site. If not, I only spent 30 minutes crawling all 54 sites. Consider it an act of charity.
Step 3: Manage potential links with Link Manager
Finally it’s time to put all those links into a manageable database. For this, the Raven Link Manager (Links > Link Manager) tool is freaking sweet, no two ways around it. I love using this thing to manage my links because I can really customize it to how I build links.
Use the Link Import Form to import a CSV file or enter prospects individually just by clicking ‘Add Link’. I suggest creating a new ‘Status’ named something like ‘Broken Link Building – Requested’. The idea is to keep these links separate from other links that I’m building. Raven allows you to do this on the fly, which is pretty awesome.
I also create a new ‘Link Type’, which I’ve appropriately named ‘Broken Link Building’. I want to make sure and keep these links separate from the other things I’m working on in my Raven account.
Now I add the Anchor Text I want the link to have, ‘Scism Marketing’, and I want it to link to my root domain http://www.scismmarketing.com. For tags, I put in something like “BLB” and I make the Link Description “BLB campaign – Nashville BBB.org – Electricians” to let me know where this link came from.
Another awesome tool is ‘Assign Task to this Link’. I create a task to ‘email the main contact’ and alert them to their broken links on their site. Then just click ‘Add Task’ to store it.
Step 4: Find contacts and email your prospects
The last really cool feature of the Link Manager is one that you don’t really expect until you enter these links in by hand. I create a new ‘Website Type’ and call it ‘BLB’ (I’ve got a theme going!). Then I enter the URL of the broken site and the tab called ‘Website Contacts’ pops up.
As a final measure, under the ‘Comments’ tab I always include what I found during my Screaming Frog crawl. Then click ‘Add Comment’ and it saves your Link Record. You can then ‘Enable Monitoring for this Link Record’ and check to see if the link still exists. All within this one page! Simply incredible. This feature alone is worth the price of Raven Tools!
Now it’s up to you to contact your prospects and alert them of their broken links. Just be your charming self and I’m sure you won’t have any problems. Now go make your competition cry with your super sweet link building skills!
Eric Scism is one of the amazing SEO wizard guys at cj Interactive in Nashville. He also runs Scism Internet Marketing. When he’s not busy with those activities you can usually find him either playing hockey or looking up pictures of English bulldogs online.
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