Welcome back to mddigitalgraphicdesigns’ weekly content series, where we give you actionable SEO strategies and tips that you can implement today and start seeing results.
While the original plan was to share one actionable SEO tip with you every week…
I’m a little too excited to share these with you so you’re going to get four from me today.
We’re going to talk about one highly effective link building strategy and three simple ways to get more out of your existing links.
Time to learn: 20 minutes
Impact (1-10): 8
Tools required: Ahrefs
Tools suggested: Archive.org
Now, let’s get to it…
Tip #1 – Link Reclamation
Just like we talked about in our broken link building guide, the internet is fickle and things can break fairly easily.
Not only do things break all the time, people change their opinions, update old content, and do all kinds of weird things that don’t necessarily make sense.
Point being? The internet changes rapidly.
Unfortunately this also means that a good chunk of your hard earned backlinks are also vanishing every single month.
The good news is that this means your competitors are also losing links but probably don’t know that these are often quite easy to recover!
P.S. While this is completely unscientific and just a gut feeling based on my observations…
I believe that when you lose links, you’re not only missing out on the lost “link juice”. You’re also getting additional negative effects because your website appears to be declining in quality.
Enter Link Reclamation – The Theory
As you’ve probably already guessed, link reclamation is the process of tracking the backlinks your site has lost and trying to recover them.
Before I show you how to find lost links…
The primary thing we’re going to have to figure out to reclaim your links is why they were removed in the first place. This’ll help us decide which angle and strategy to use.
Here are some of the most common reasons I’ve seen for links get removed AND potential angles we could take to recover them:
Page deleted on purpose – Perhaps they’ve changed their opinions on a topic or followed our content audit process to improve their rankings. Either way, they’ve decided that the page that was linking to you shouldn’t exist anymore for whatever reason and you’ll likely have a hard time convincing them otherwise.
Page deleted by accident – I don’t know about you but in the last decade, I’ve probably accidentally deleted at least 100 high performing pages by accident before my morning coffee. It happens and I’ll be super grateful if you let me know by email when you find one of these pages (and your link will be live again, too!).
How do you tell the difference between this and a page deleted on purpose? I generally check for these three things:
- Use Archive.org’s Wayback Machine to see what content used to exist on the URL. Was it a high-quality or important-looking page? If it was your site, would you have a reason to delete it?
- Use Ahrefs’ Site Explorer to see how many backlinks the page has – if there’s a decent amount, no sane webmaster (with basic SEO experience) would let the page go dead. If it has a lot of links, you could even use it as an angle to convince them to restore the page.
- Use Ahrefs’ Internal Backlinks feature to see if they are linking to this page from other pages on their site. If there’s a lot of internal links, it was probably an important page to them.
Either way – with deleted pages I always like to email the site owner from a personal (non-work) email and take a stab at getting it live again.
“Hey, I was trying to access XXX page while looking for YYY but it seems like the page doesn’t load? Do you have another link for this?”
Updated content – There’s a ton of reasons for web masters to update existing pages on their site. Not only does Google prefer up-to-date articles and fresher content, your competitors might have one-upped you and started outranking.
When we update content, we generally don’t just add a few sentences and call it a day. We look at how competitors have approached things and most likely re-do the entire page from scratch.
This means there’s a solid chance I don’t even know your link existed and doesn’t mean they don’t like you or your content. It simply didn’t come to mind for the new article.
While reclaiming the exact link won’t be possible in this case, you can treat it as a traditional outreach email.
Write a few paragraphs or sections that’d make their article better and use your own page as a source or place to refer to for additional information.
Ideally this would be the same page you had a link from in the past, but if the new page is on a different topic, you could use a different article to try and nab the link.
Competitors doing outreach – “I noticed you link to X’s article about Y. We have a similar article over at Z with fresh data from 2020 and a ton of helpful graphics. Do you think your readers might find it a more useful resource?”
If you haven’t received one of these emails yourself, you’ve probably heard us or other SEOs talk about this link building strategy.
Well, outreach link building definitely works because fairly often you’ll find your link replaced by a competitors article, likely due to an outreach email similar to the above.
Outreach links aren’t that easy to score so this is a moment to reflect on your own content – are your competitors really doing that much better that someone is willing to take time out of their day to replace an old link?
P.S. They might have also paid to place that link 🙂
In this case, you’ll likely have to either take the loss or severely update your content and try to earn it back the hard way.
I recommend the latter for a variety of reasons.
New SEO team – Sometimes the website will hire a new marketing or SEO person.
And let me tell ya… there’s nothing more frustrating than dealing with inexperienced in-house SEOs.
This may lead to odd policies such as not linking to websites under a certain domain rating, limiting the number of external links per page, and so on.
If it’s a site-wide policy they’ve decided on, your chances of changing their minds are quite slim so I generally don’t bother with these.
Page redirected – If the linking page has been redirected to another URL, it’ll be marked as a lost link by Ahrefs but this might not always be the case.
You’ll want to check for your link on the new page – perhaps they’ve simply updated the URL and the content is the same. In this case, you’ve got nothing to worry about as the link wasn’t actually lost.
If the page has been redirected to another piece of content, you’ll want to take the same approach as you would with content that has been updated.
Check to see if you have anything relevant to add to the page that would act as a reason to link to you, do the work for the site owner, and then reach out to them.
How to Actually Find Lost Links
Now that we’ve covered the primary types of lost links and how you might go about regaining them, you’re probably wondering how you’d even know which links have vanished.
Unless you’re new to these guides, you won’t be a stranger to Ahrefs and that’s exactly the tool we’re going to use today.
Head over to their Site Explorer, type in your domain, and click on “Lost” under the “Backlinks” tab.
This defaults to links lost in the last 7 days but using the calendar you can set and custom date range.
You’ll see that they also make your life just a bit easier by flagging the cause for the link being dropped – whether the link has been removed, the page deleted, redirected, etc.
Not only that, you’re able to set filters in the top menu for specific link types, minimum domain rating requirements, traffic, and so on and so forth.
As a final note – you can also use the Ahrefs Alerts feature to keep track of lost backlinks automatically in the future.
You’ll get either a daily or weekly email with all of the lost links and be able to act on them fast.
If you have any questions about this approach, don’t hesitate to drop us an email, but now on to the other two tips.
Tip #2 – Ask Existing Links to be Changed
Let’s face it.
Most website owners know very little about SEO and don’t exactly have a plan when it comes to linking to you.
You know how media sites and big publications have processes for these things?… Quotes generally link back to the exact source, company names to the website, people’s names to their social handles, etc?
Well, a lot of website owners will just toss in a link to your homepage and be done with it, even if there was a more appropriate place for it.
While high quality links pointing to anywhere on your site are a good thing, the more links you can get to a page you’re actually trying to rank, the better.
Every month we have our team go through new links and see if anyone has linked to the wrong place or if there’d be a more appropriate place.
Just recently, there was a post that mentioned our link building service but then linked to our homepage with a branded anchor instead.
We sent them an email and asked them to switch it over and they complied without any questions asked.
The same approach could be taken with your services, products, or even blog posts.
Tip #3 – Check for Dead Pages
One of the first things I like to check for when we start doing link building for clients is if they have backlinks to any 404 pages.
People with no SEO experience will not think twice about deleting a page with dozens of links and not redirecting it… We know this is a massive waste of links.
So head over to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, look for the “Best by Links” report, and set a filter to only display 404 pages.
There’s no one single way to address this, but I’d advise you to start with the same process we described in tip #1 and figure out why you’ve deleted these pages in the first place.
Then, from there on out you can decide whether you should be restoring the page or redirecting it somewhere else.
This doesn’t make a huge difference but I’m not a huge fan of redirected links as it’s something SEOs have been abusing for close to a decade. It’s only a matter of time until Google (further) cracks down on these.
So even if you set up a redirect, if the link was legitimate, reach out to the site owner and let them know that the page is now up in a different place and ask them if they’d be able to update it on their site.
This is the same thing I recommend people do when they rebrand their site.
Sure, if you redirect to your new brand you’ll probably maintain your rankings decently but I believe Google is going to take it as a massive positive signal if these sites reinforce that by updating their links from “Old Brand and Redirect” to “New Brand”.
Tip #4 – Get Internal Links to Your Backlinks
Before we get into this one…
This is a strategy that generally works best if you’re willing to pay sites for their effort and time.
Keep in mind that this may be frowned upon by Google and it’s also not something that we condone.
The more internal links a page has, the more important it is in the eyes of Google, and the more value you’ll get from having a backlink from those pages.
It’s obviously difficult to convince someone to link to your website. But how difficult is it to convince someone to keep their visitors on their site longer, help their own content rank better, and get more traffic?
Well, it’s actually proven to be a bit more difficult than we originally thought, but it’s an effective strategy nonetheless. A lot of people will comply, but a decent chunk will also ask for money as they know you’re trying to gain something from it.
But if you’ve got the resources to add it to your toolkit, the process is quite simple.
Choose a backlink you’ve attained from a relatively large site (in terms of number of pages) and then use the “site:” search function in Google to find other pages that have covered the same topic. Then see if there’s a contextual way to link to the other article and note it down for your email.
For example, if I did a guest post on Smash Digital about keyword research, I’d do a Google search for: “site:smashdigital.com keyword research” and find every other post that could link to the guide.
If you find yourself having to convince site owners that internal links are beneficial to their site, you could send them this article