Link Reclamation: How to Find and Recover Broken Links for Long-Term SEO Success

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Even if you’re not completely familiar with the ins and outs of SEO, you probably already know that building links isn’t child’s play. Everything is a manual process. You don’t have a program to do the rough work for you so the results will ultimately depend on your efforts.

That’s why losing your hard-earned links in a snap is frustrating. 

Finding a broken backlink on your site may put a strain on your site’s credibility. Sadly, this can sometimes be out of your control. This is why your SEO process should include learning the art of link reclamation.

The term itself may sound challenging, but it’s a strategy that’s been used to enhance backlink profiles with little to no cost. However, before we discuss the facts of link reclamation, what does it exactly mean?

What is Link Reclamation?

Link reclamation is the act of finding removed or broken links—due to 404 errors or Pagerank decay—in your site to replace them with updated URLs. They can be links found on your site or external links from other people’s platforms. 

In SEO, you’ll find that the focal point is link building. But this focus on building new ones may take away the importance of an integral SEO effort: keeping existing links. This helps you avoid losing the link juice your website has obtained, maintaining the quality of your backlinks. 

The strategy has gained so much traction, especially from SEO specialists and webmasters. Link reclamation introduced new ways to ride the tide of Google’s ever-changing algorithms, especially the ones that target sites with subpar link-building rites.

Why is My Backlink Lost?

Just because a link has authority and is integral to your landing page doesn’t mean it won’t get broken. Once they disappear and remain undetected, they can affect your rankings and decline your growth within weeks. 

So, how can you identify your lost backlinks? Why do you lose your backlinks in the first place? Here are some reasons why:

Link Removed by Site Owner

A link being removed boils down to common reasons. First, someone has possibly replaced your link with something better—popularly known as the Skyscraper Technique. If another user comes up with a superior linked-to page, stealing your link becomes possible.

Another reason is that new external link policies have been implemented. Keeping up to date with the rules to avoid SEO misinformation is key to avoiding a blanket ban on links to low-DR sites. 

To get to the bottom of this, open the linking page in The Wayback Machine. Click the link to archive.org and compare the archived version of the page to the current one. 

If you observe that the content is completely new, then there’s a chance your link was removed in the process of improving their content. You may try reaching out to the site owner and recommend that they include the link back. 

The Linking Page is Redirected (301 or 302)

If the linking page is redirected, the redirect may no longer exist. For example, you have a link from Website 1 to Website 2 but the link was redirected to other sites (Website 1 → Website 4 → Website 2). 

It will be reported as a lost link if the linking site links it directly instead of going through a redirect chain. 

In cases like this, it’s not entirely considered to be a lost link. They are oftentimes reported due to technical issues.

You can do the following steps to solve this problem:

  1. Download the Link Redirect Trace Chrome Extension on your browser.
  2. View every linking page.
  3. To find the link, search for the pre-link or anchor text.

The link is still working if these steps direct you to your website. 

The Linking Page No Longer Exist (Error 404)

‘404 not found’ typically means that the link disappeared because the linking page no longer exists. It is highly recommended that you use Archive.org to know what the page is originally about. 

If you think that the page got accidentally deleted, reach out to the site owner and suggest adding your link back.

Here are some signs of accidental page deletion:

  • The page is being linked-to internally – Check the internal links report using Site Explorer. If the URL rating (UR) and the Domain Rating (DR) of the page are high and the page has little to no referring domains, then it’s because of internal links. 
  • The page contains a lot of inbound links pointing to it – Deleting a highly-linked-to page without redirecting it is highly unlikely, especially if you know how SEO works. View the Lost Links report to see the number of referring domains. 

If there are several referring domains, the page may have been unintentionally deleted. 

The Link is Not Canonicalised

In SEO, canonical links play a huge role in assuring that a website won’t be penalised by search engines like Google. The canonical URL element tips search engines to crawl a website since URLs have variations with the same content.

So, you’ll find out that some links are reported because they are not canonical anymore. 

To view the canonical version of the URL, search the source code for <link rel=“canonical” href=”.

In most cases, this isn’t a huge concern. Reasons for canonicals usually include self-referential canonical, canonicalisation to HTTPS from HTTP or canonicalisation to a standard version of the URL.

The Difference Between Link Reclamation and Claiming Unlinked Brand Mention

At a surface level, broken links and unliked mentions sound too similar. However, they are not the same. 

When it comes to claiming unlinked mentions, you make new backlinks from images, citations and online mentions that are not linked back to your platform. They serve as an opportunity to claim new links.

On the other hand, link reclamation means that you find and replace online content where your company has been incorrectly linked. 

Keep in mind that broken or dead links happen when URLs change during a website redesign, or a website deletes pages.

Why is it Important to Do Link Reclamation?

It’s difficult to thrive in an industry where competitors pop up left and right on a daily basis. You notice that they are getting more traffic and better results than you, so how are you supposed to get back to the top?

This is where link reclamation comes into play. It gives you the upper hand without spending a fortune, helping you obtain easy achievements for your platform. 

Maintain SEO Value

Link reclamation is one of the most effective strategies for maintaining your SEO value and authority. This helps you find content issues, site navigation problems and defective pages that may affect your ranking.

Reclaiming links is a way to ensure that your website isn’t losing its link juice because of broken URL canonicalisation and moved pages. Besides, link reclamation is a good opportunity to avoid constantly building new links, which can be a demanding process.

Prevent Users from Landing on 404 Page

Imagine you’re a customer finding new clothes to buy. You click on a certain URL that would take you to the jeans section of a website. For the site owner, this can mean a possible sale.

However, all the jeans are out of stock or the page was moved. If the website owner has a blanket 301 error for all 404 errors, you’ll be redirected to the website’s homepage. Oftentimes, you’d just end up on a blank page that says ‘404 not found’.

This can be pretty frustrating, especially if you’re on a tight schedule.

That’s why reclaiming links can help you regain your customers’ confidence in your platform. It significantly reduces the chances of users being directed to a 404 error page. This can improve the overall user experience and link equity.

How to Find Broken Backlinks

Finding broken backlinks is not an easy process. However, it comes down to three basic steps, such as:

  • Locating links that no longer exist
  • Knowing the backlink quality of the lost backlinks and deciding where or not it’s worth reclaiming
  • Being in touch with the website host and requesting that they restore the link.

Since websites have a big number of links pointing back to them, finding specific types of backlinks may sound taxing. However, this task can be a lot easier using the online tools discussed below.

Using Ahrefs

If you want to generate an exportable Excel file of all your platform’s links, then using Ahrefs will certainly do the trick. You can then use crawler tools like DeepCrawl and Screaming Frog to show links returning a 302 or 404 page. 

Follow these steps in Ahrefs:

  1. Click the site explorer tool.
  2. Input your domain.
  3. Select backlinks, then click lost backlinks.
  4. Adjust the time frame to view the complete list of lost backlinks based on your desired time span.

To better refine the results, set filters on the Ahrefs site explorer. That way, you can avoid spam indicators from Google and only show dofollow links on English sites. 

Once you’re done, export the search results and use your preferred crawler tool. The results will display various reasons why the link was broken to help you communicate with the webmaster. 

Using Semrush

Another SEO tool you can use for link reclamation is Semrush. To get you started, click the Backlink Audit card found on your project’s dashboard.

Before you can begin your audit, you will be asked to configure the settings for better results. For instance, you can add properties like target countries or settle the scope.

Proceed to the targeted page tab once the audit is complete and click on the ‘Target URL error’. Select the active keywords to view the backlinks that point to any URLs on your site returning an error. 

How to Do Link Reclamation

Once you find all of your broken and missing backlinks, the next step to focus on is doing link reclamation. Take a closer look at the steps below to help you begin:

Reach Out to Site Owner

If you’re done gathering your website’s broken backlinks, you can now reach out to webmasters and request a link repair. In the process of link building, you may have gotten in touch with them before so you can use this connection to your advantage. 

Here’s an email template you can use when reaching out:

Hi [Webmaster name],

I hope this email finds you well.

I’m reaching out to you again because I noticed that one of the links included in this blog post [blog post link] pointing to my site suddenly disappeared. This caught my attention because I think that the post you’ve linked can help your site visitors in understanding [topic of the blog post].

Thank you. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,

[Your name]

Make sure that your email is straightforward and effectively communicates your concern. However, this does not ensure that they’ll respond back, but it’s definitely worth a try. 

Fix the Redirection Chain

A redirect is when you send a user from one URL to another. Redirect chains are often used to enhance the overall website performance, but they can also damage the website speed. 

They can also affect your SEO efforts since each redirect passes a small amount of PageRank which is the original link’s authority. 

To fix redirect chains on your platform, it’s best to get rid of unnecessary redirects. Having multiple redirects on your site isn’t helpful, so consolidate them to only one redirect between the original URL and the destination page.

Disavow Link

When you’re studying SEO, the focus is always on acquiring backlinks. However, it’s seldom discussed that you also need to disavow links and why it matters.

Google only recommends link disavowal when you want to address the penalties against your website. This is an integral part of your job, especially if you’re a webmaster. This will help you fix broken backlinks and maintain a clean backlink profile in the long run. 

Remember, maintaining a strong SEO strategy means sticking to white hat SEO!

Final thoughts

Link building, no matter how complicated it seems, will always be a part of the SEO process. That’s why learning the art of link reclamation will take the pressure off of starting a new link-building campaign. 

In fact, it is even recommended that you should focus more on reclaiming lost links since it’s cheaper and less time-consuming. 

Link reclamation doesn’t only happen once. It’s even out of your control sometimes, so it’s guaranteed that you’re going to lose links for a variety of reasons. However, this is not to say that every lost link deserves to be reclaimed—low-quality backlinks may worsen your SEO performance!

Our SEO service here to help you begin the link reclamation process. Our experts in the field can guide you in building high-quality links, helping you gain traffic and new customers.

FAQ

How do I reclaim backlinks?

One way to reclaim broken backlinks is to reach out to the site owner. There’s a chance that you’ve already built a connection with them during the link-building campaign, so start with that. Send a straightforward and clear email to communicate your problem. 

Another tip is to fix the redirect chain by having only one redirect between the URL and the final destination. Disavowing links may also work on your end to help you sustain a clean backlink record.

What does backlinking mean?

In SEO, backlinking is a strategy used to improve domain authority and drive traffic. Having backlinks on your website allows users to find other resources related to a post. For example, if a customer reads a blog about the best laptop brands, they’d find links to laptop providers or customer reviews.

Backlinks also play a big role in helping search engines determine a page’s importance. Your backlinks will be assessed based on the quality of the websites from which the links are coming.

How do I find a lost link?

To find a lost link, use SEO tools like Ahrefs through the Site Explorer feature. Enter your domain name and click on the Lost Backlinks along with the desired time frame. 

If you want to only pursue the dofollow links on English-speaking sites, you can set filters to refine search results. View the URL rating as well so the high-authority linking pages are at the top of the list. 

Perform a full export of the report. In this way, you can see the reasons behind every lost link and how you can reclaim them.

Looking for a trusted SEO agency in Singapore? Schedule a consultation with us today.

About Roots Digital

Roots Digital is an award-winning digital marketing agency and SEO agency headquartered in Singapore, specialising in eCommerce Marketing and lead generation. We are a Google and Meta Business certified partner working to deliver the best-in-class digital marketing campaigns from large enterprises and SMEs to growing start-ups.

Some of our core digital marketing services include SEO servicesSEM services, Google Ads management servicesGoogle Analytics services and more.

Feel free to reach out if you’re interested in working with us. Connect with us via our service enquiry form. You may schedule a call for more information and to know more about our digital marketing services.

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