How To Find Broken Backlinks And Replace Competitor Links

Are you trying to build backlinks to your website but finding it difficult? I have discovered an effective way to get backlinks and it doesn’t matter if you are a new or experienced blogger.

Find out How To Find Broken Backlinks And Replace Competitor Links for an easier way to build links to your website while building relationships.

Not sure what backlinks are? Then check out ‘What Is Backlinking In SEO?’.

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First of all, let’s look at:

What’s wrong with regular link building?

There is nothing wrong with regular link-building but it is not the easiest strategy, especially if you are new and don’t have much authority.

The suggestion is that you find posts that are ranking for the keyword you want to rank for, analyze them then create better alternatives to these posts.

You then approach whoever runs the website linking to it (more how to do that later) and offer your link as a superior replacement.

Now, if you are an SEO legend like Neil Patel or Brian Dean, you can probably do this all day and all night – If they contacted me and asked me to replace a link with their’s, I would feel like I had arrived!

However, if you are Joe Blogs who is not a renowned expert and has a blog that is 6 months old, this strategy is unlikely to work.

If I was on the receiving end of such a request, I would think that the person contacting me was questioning my judgment in using the original link. Also, is there REALLY anything in it for me?

Just how much better is the suggested replacement post? Is it so much better than it’s worth my taking the time and trouble to a) read it and b) replace what I had considered a perfectly good link? Probably not.


Zig Ziglar Quote

Why replace broken competitor backlinks?

You know when you are reading a blog post and there is an interesting link in there which you click only to find that it takes you to a page that says ‘404 error – page not found’?

Not only is it frustrating for you as the reader, but whoever has linked to that page in good faith risks losing a visitor and also can see their rankings take a dip as Google does not like broken links.

Consequently, when you approach a website owner/editor from this standpoint, you are coming from a place of service – offering to help – and if you have a good piece of content that will fill that slot for the post, it is quite likely that you will gain yourself a backlink.


What competitors should you target?

The best competitors to target are those who have been around for a good few years – young websites won’t have many links, much less broken backlinks.

You will probably know your main competitors off the top of your head, but if in doubt, see what sites appear in the top 10 for, say, your top 10 keywords. To quickly check how many backlinks they have, head over to Domain Authority Checker.

This is a completely brilliant tool that shares a ton of information including domain authority (DA), number of total backlinks, a site link trust score, a spam score, the age of the site, and the percentage of links that are ‘do follow’.

This is a great starting point to get a list together of the websites you want to focus on, but there is lots more work to be done.

(You can also do this process with Semrush analytics that will automatically find your competition, however, if you have a new site it probably won’t have enough data to be meaningful.)

When on the site, hover above each section to see what each means

How do you find the broken links?

Next, head over to Semrush. Don’t worry if you if haven’t joined – you can sign up for the free 14-day trial. Just make sure to have a plan of all the websites you want to target and indeed the keywords you want to research and make the most of your trial. (N.B. If you have a mature website you can do your competitor research on Semrush too.)

Go to the Backlinks Analytics tab and enter the domain name that you are interested in and in the drop-down box, click on ‘backlinks’. This will bring up the backlink analytics. If you tick the box that says ‘Target URL Error’ filter where you are looking for any with a 404 error.

You will then have a list of all the broken links from that website. If you then click on the number under the ‘backlinks’ tab, a list of all the referring domains will come up along with details of the anchor text and importantly, the domain authority.

You need to export the list to an excel spreadsheet and sort the data you have. Start with sorting by ‘dofollow’ and ‘nofollow’ then delete all the ‘nofollow’ lines as you are not interested in them.

Next, sort from the highest DA sites and work your way down but always go for higher than your own or there is no point.

For a detailed description of using Semrush for this purpose, click here

What links should you replace?

Now you have got your list, look at the ‘anchor text’ of the broken link (the text the visitor would have to click on to go to the link).

You will find some that you can’t replace, for example, the website maybe had a competition running at some time, or it could be that the link was shared by a Chinese website. Sometimes the links come from another page on the same site, so these are no good.

When you find something that sounds like it could relate to your own content, first double-check that the link is definitely broken. (Just occasionally, I have found that it redirects somewhere else.)

If it indeed goes to a 404 page, your next step should be to head over to The Way Back Machine and enter the URL of the broken link.

This will (normally) bring up a calendar. Click on the last date where there is data and you should be able to see what the content was on that page. Then you can decide if you already have a suitable piece of content or if you will have to create the content to suit.

What I like about this approach (in addition to the service aspect) is that if I write new content, it is new content for my site. I know that some people would argue that a guest post is more valuable, however, with a newer site, I prefer this strategy. New sites need all the content they can get in the early days.


Way Back Machine example
The wonderful Way Back Machine

Making contact with website owners

First of all, you need to find out who to make contact with. In many cases, there will be an email address and it is clear who the site belongs to.

Sometimes you will need to be a bit of a sleuth to find out. LinkedIn can be handy for finding who’s who in bigger organizations. You can follow these people and comment on their content so they recognize your name when you email them.

You can also try using All you have to do is put the website URL into the search box and it will bring up a list of email addresses.

You get 50 searches free per month. From time to time you may draw a blank and need to use the contact form, otherwise, be sure to use the person’s name as you are much more likely to succeed. email address finder
Easily find most contacts using


Start your email with something along the lines of

‘Hi Brian,

I was enjoying your post ‘How to stop your dog barking at home’ recently and noticed that the link ‘puppy training’ is broken. As it happens, I have a post that would fill that slot at which I would be more than happy for you to use. Do let me know what you think.

Looking forward to checking out more of your posts.




Pro’s of broken link building

  • You come across as being helpful rather than just out to get something
  • It could open doors to guest posting in the future
  • It gets a foot in the door in a non-pushy way

Con’s of broken link building

  • You have to do a lot of research – what starts out looking like a great list of broken links often only has one or two
  • The top websites often have a team monitoring broken links and consequently don’t have any that are useful
  • If this is a long-term strategy, you need access to Semrush or a similar SEO tool. At $99 per month that could be too rich for a new/first-time website owner. (If you are stuck, there are people on who find broken links for you.)


When I first found the broken link building concept, I thought it was the answer to all of my backlink needs but since I have started putting it into action, I realize that (as with anything else worthwhile) it takes time, effort, and patience.

However, I still believe it is a good addition to a backlink strategy, particularly for new bloggers.

Have you ever tried the broken backlinking strategy or is it something you would like to try? I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.

How To Find Broken Backlinks
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How To Find Broken Backlinks
Are you trying to build backlinks to your website but finding it difficult? I have discovered an effective way to get backlinks and it doesn't matter if you are a new or experienced blogger. Find out How To Find Broken BackLinks And Replace Competitor Links and you will find it easier to get results.
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8 thoughts on “How To Find Broken Backlinks And Replace Competitor Links”

  1. Great post!

    I often advise people to also go for broken links. It’s a lot easier than trying to convince people with things like the skyscraper technique. Semrush is a great tool to use for this I also like to use it for making gap analysis when my articles are on the first page but aren’t in the top 3 Google results.

    • Hi Rogier

      Good to hear from you. Also good to hear you are getting on the first page of Google and that Semrush is helping you to improve your rankings!

      Keep it up!



  2. I used to use a plugin called Broken Links on my blogs to alert me to broken links on my sites but it hasn’t been updated in ages and is now unreliable.
    I found a free tool that does a great job of deep diving on links and reporting back on what’s broken:
    I find that most broken links appear in people’s comments on my posts. Their sites don’t seem to stay up for long. In these cases, I simply delete the dead links, especially domain-specific links. Some bad links are down to mis-spellings.
    One feature I do miss from the Broken Links plugin is that it used to search the WayBackMachine for archived copies of what used to be on the dead links and allow you to link to those archives instead.
    I always set up a specific 404 page for my sites to advertise products and let visitors sign up to my email list. So, even if they mistype a URL for my site, they don’t just see a bare-bones 404 error.

    • Hey Gary

      Many thanks for this. That plugin with the WayBackMachine sounded like a winner. Shame it doesn’t work anymore. What a brilliant idea to have your email sign up option on 404 pages and share some product info! There is nothing more annoying than just getting the 404 error.

      Kind regards,


  3. Thank you for this insightful article, Jean!

    I appreciate that you compared backlinks to regular link building. For those who are new to SEO, this will be very useful. This is a great step-by-step article to follow for those who are looking to build their SEO by repairing their broken links. I also liked your pros and cons list of link building. This is a great article to save for future reference.

    Thanks for sharing!


    • Thank you, Femi! Since writing the post and doing more broken link building myself, I have found that you have to go through a lot of websites to find good broken links but it’s still a good plan.



  4. Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Thanks, However I am encountering problems with your RSS. I don’t know why I am unable to subscribe to it. Is there anybody having similar RSS issues? Anyone who knows the solution will you kindly respond? Thanx!!

    • Glad you enjoyed it.

      I don’t have an option to sign up to an RSS feed but feel free to sign up to my email list.




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