Outreach and link building are among the hottest digital marketing topics, alongside technical SEO.
Especially when it comes to online businesses, whether B2B or B2C, building backlinks is turning out to have a big ROI, even higher than classic email marketing.
But the buzz among marketers is usually focused on strategies for building new backlinks through link swaps or guest posting. Not much is said about fixing broken links or claiming back the already built backlinks that are, for some reason, lost.
In this article, we will discuss what link reclamation is, why it is important, and how we can use it practically to help SEO.
💡What is link reclamation?
Link reclamation is a method of discovering broken links to your website and restoring them. This is not as fancy a process as other SEO strategies, but it can be very valuable to raise the quality of your site.
💡Why are my links removed?
There are many reasons why links can be broken or removed. Firstly, we can divide broken links into two categories: internal links and backlinks.
Internal links on your site can be broken if you have deleted a page or blog post you were linking to, for example, or if you have edited the page’s URL.
Backlinks to your site can also be lost because you have removed the page, but they are sometimes lost when the webmaster updates their content with fresh references.
You can use different techniques to find and reclaim your links, and here we will cover the most common ones.
Why does link reclamation matter for SEO?
If you wish to build a website that the visitors give trust, you must build trust with the Google search engine as well.
Just as Google likes it when you build new links from relevant and respectable sources, the algorithm can take it as a red flag if your links are getting removed.
Broken links can signal that your content has lost its value, for example, and thus the search engine will avoid recommending it to the users.
Although this is not as bad as being penalized, you must beware of how often it happens that your links (especially backlinks) are being removed. If this is a common situation for your website, it can warn Google that you may have been using some black hat techniques, and then your site can be penalized for good.
Link reclamation outreach strategy can also significantly improve your site credibility and boost conversions. In this case study of Hotjar, we can notice impressive results: when claiming back their links, they have reached a 30% conversion rate on link acquisition for unclaimed brand mentions.
How to do link reclamation?
In order to reclaim your links, you must find them first.
When it comes to broken links internally, things are rather simple, and you don’t need fancy tools to fix the problem. A simple free plugin such as Yoast SEO would do the trick.
However, in order to find missing backlinks, you will need to invest some time, research, and funds into SEO tools such as Ahrefs or Majestic.
As part of my link-building strategy, I was using Ahrefs myself, so in the following chapter, I will review different possibilities and reasons I encountered for the backlink to be removed.
If you use different software, the errors reported will essentially be the same, but the names could vary from platform to platform.
How to find broken backlinks
When using Ahrefs, you can find the list of lost backlinks by typing your domain in their Site Explorer. In your Backlink Profile, you will find Broken Backlinks under the menu.
Here is an example of what it looks like if I do the research for а well-known visual design site:
These are the possible error reports you will find with your broken links:
- Removed links
- Broken redirect
- 404 not found
- No index
- Not canonical
- 301/302 redirected
Now let’s dive a little bit into more detail for each error type, to help you understand how the link got lost, and furthermore help you when trying to claim it back.
1. Removed links
One of the most common error types you will find with Ahrefs is “link removed”. There are several reasons why this was the case.
First of all, they might have rewritten the whole article to update it with fresh content.
Secondly, they could have replaced your link with a new, better reference that is more up-to-date than the content in your blog post.
Another possible, and quite common reason, is their internal policy about outgoing links: they could have removed your link because they had too many outgoing links and your partnership is not ongoing, or your domain rank (DR) is too low for them to be linking towards you.
Last, but not least, they could have decided to unlink you on purpose. This can happen with potential partners with whom you might have had a conflict.
2. Broken redirect
A broken redirect is an error type that occurs when you have a redirect path from pages A > B > C, and the middle page or the final page’s URL is changed or removed.
You can simply analyze whether the path is broken or the final page, and fix the bug in just a few clicks.
3. 404 not found
The 404 error is very common, and it happens when the webpage that provided the link no longer exists.
Webmasters are sometimes deleting their information pages or blog posts for some reason, and by investigating why the page has disappeared you can understand whether it can be restored together with your link, or not.
4. No index
Pages that are linking to your website can be indexed by Google, but sometimes webmasters decide not to index certain pages.
In the SEO world, it is still an open question whether Google will crawl and count the backlinks that are coming from non-indexed pages.
However, there is not much you can do when encountering this challenge, except to notify the site owner that the page is not indexed and hope they chose not to index it by mistake.
5. Not canonical
In most cases, when you find a non-canonical error, it is because the canonicals have changed the URLs. For example, from HTTP to HTTPS.
These are not an obstacle to your backlinks, and they are still alive and visible in the eyes of spiders and search engines.
6. 301/302 redirect
Similar to the canonicals, these errors are usually not alarming. When the page has been 301 redirected, it means the redirect is coming naturally (such as the redirect from HTTP to HTTPS, for example).
Here, your link is alive and well, and you don’t have to deal with any reclaiming business.
How to use link reclamation strategy to build new links
Sometimes investigating broken links can be helpful in building new ones. How come?
If you are experienced with using SEO software, then you have probably been researching the backlink profiles of your competitors already.
But, have you ever investigated your competition’s broken links?
When the page linking to your competitor has decided to remove its link, this can be a smooth opportunity for you to try and insert your own.
This is a nifty way of finding new partners on the map and improving your outreach.
In a specially-targeted campaign, you might build strong landing pages on your site specifically for links that once led to specific competitors. By creating a comparison showing why your product or service is better than the one that used to have a link, you provide new partners with improved value – making their link more worthwhile to their readers and strengthening your argument for using your link as a replacement for the old one.
How to reclaim lost links
When it comes to internal links, the process is simple. With a simple plugin, you can fix the linking paths, broken URLs, and 301 redirects.
In order to reclaim backlinks, you will need to be sure why the link has been removed in the first place.
When you discover the error type, and you find out that the link has been removed by the webmaster, you can investigate how the blog post has changed by checking the internet archive of how sites have looked in the past.
If you are confident your link is still relevant and belongs on this page, simple cold email outreach can be enough to notify their editor to insert it back.
Claiming unlinked brand mentions
Brand mentions without linking is another aspect of claiming backlinks, and it is worth covering here. What is it all about?
When a page is writing about your brand, or quotes your content, using it without giving the attribution to your website by linking to it – we are talking about unlinked mentions.
Brand mentions are easy to claim by reaching out to the website and asking them to credit their sources. Finally, this can be the window to building new partnerships and strengthening your brand reputation in the long run.
Getting more links to your brand is an important element of building your brand reputation, which is a powerful asset when you are trying to launch a new product or service or capture new markets. These are times when you’ll be grateful for every hour your team spent looking for brand mentions and harvesting links that build your brand reputation.
By reaching out to the website that already knows about you, you might be able to use this opportunity for your next marketing campaign.
To wrap up
Link building and SEO are becoming the strategy of choice for businesses worldwide. When we compare them to PPC, they might be slow in bringing results, but they are a steady way to build strong landing pages and websites.
Link reclamation is an often overlooked aspect of backlink building. It might not be as exciting, but it certainly can bring results and help increase your site’s rank.