Link building is one of the most important activities to improve your ranking in Google top 10 organic listings.
In fact, in our online marketing agency environment, link building is considered as one of the most importance SEO practices because it’s the culmination of several other skills (e.g., content marketing, relationship marketing, copywriting, content distribution).
Links to a page shows the level of authority of such a page. Every website owner is looking for ways to increase the number of links to their website, especially quality links that you gain through any or all of the tactics illustrated.
Google (and other search engines) see this as one of the determinants of the quality of your content. It means that when you have a high number of quality links from authority websites, Google reads that as people having trust in your content. And that is exactly what we are doing for our Atlanta SEO clients.
This increases Google rank for important keywords related to those pages. It is therefore no surprise, that this fact has set the fire in the bosom of most website administrators or even bloggers and everyone is hunting for new links every day.
But while doing this, you may have neglected a goldmine that is more accessible. What am I talking about? Link reclamation.
Why Link Reclamation?
In a simple explanation, link reclamation is the process of reclaiming links that you should have but for one reason or the other, you don’t yet have it.
You see, when your website has existed for a while, there is bound to be changes to your pages over time. Your web pages can’t possibly be static for the whole time.
So when you redesign your web page or the whole website, or when you change the link of a page, or change page elements, what could happen? This could lead to a change in the URL of your page.
When this happens, every link from other websites to that old URL will be broken. Dead.
It’s the typical 404 response page. Which means readers clicking on the link will not be able to access the content they’re looking for. You lose link equity this way.
And business in some cases, especially if those readers end up on a competitor’s website for the same information or service.
You should fix this as it’s easier than hunting for new links. People who linked to your pages already trust you and it will be easier to convince them to make the changes to the link address than someone who has never linked to you.
And in some cases, you don’t even need to contact anybody as you can fix the issues at your side. You’ll learn more about this later in this guide.
But that is not the only reason for link reclamation. In most content you find online, people mention different brands many times. And more often than not, fail to link to them.
Not because they hate your brand, but because they never thought of it. If you have a business that has been mentioned in a good light by an authoritative website, you would benefit by having a link to your website or a particular page that addresses the topic in which your brand was mentioned.
All you have to do is contact the webmaster of this authoritative website and nudge them towards that end.
Having said all these, how do you know if a URL of your page has changed? Or when your brand is mentioned? With the help of some tools and by following proven steps, you can fix this issue and stop wasting backlinks to your page.
When to reclaim links
These are the common situations that require you reclaiming links for your website:
404 error pages
This occurs when a URL of your page is changed. Any link to the old URL leads to a ‘404’ error page. Users who click the link are unable to find the page which is also bad for user experience.
When your brand is mentioned in a positive light or praised for your expertise, it’s a situation that needs link reclamation. Users are able to click through to your website and get to know more about your business.
Which can only improve your authority and consequently your Google rank for related terms.
There are some terms coined by people on the web in relation to some processes. If you have coined one of such popular terms, you can request for links to the relevant pages on your website.
An example is the ‘Skyscraper technique’ by Brian Dean that became popular.
Infographics get more engagement and shares than written content. Human beings process visual messages faster than written ones.
If you have designed a popular infographic relevant to your industry, you can request for people who use it on their website to link to you, the source.
An example of this is the periodic table of SEO success factors by Search Engine Land.
Many times, a case study may confirm a hypothesis about a particular issue in your field. At other times, it could prove what you believed wrong.
No matter the result, case studies use facts to make points. If you have carried out a good one, you should reclaim links to your website.
Websites like eConsultancy and Marketing Sherpa carry out case studies regularly. This has made the websites popular and rank high in Google results pages.
Tools for link Reclamation
Searching manually for websites that have mentioned your brand or content can be practically impossible. You’ll discover some but miss most of them.
In this case, having effective tools will help you find the keywords you want to be linked to. Here are some of the tools you can use to track mentions of your brand or keywords and broken links so that you can begin the process of reclaiming a link to your website.
Find broken links
Google: Can you using tools? Most people say it’s usually enough in finding broken links but Moz’s Open Site Explorer (now, Moz Link Explorer) can also be used.
To find broken links on your website using this tool, login to your account. Then select the website you want to analyze.
On your dashboard, navigate to ‘Crawl’ at the sidebar. Click on the arrow beside crawl to release the drop down. Click on ‘Crawl Errors’ among the options.
In the ‘Crawl Error’ section, you’ll see the URL errors. Here, the errors are classified into 3 categories: server error, soft 404, and Not found. Soft 404 could likely be a slight redirect issue. To be on the safer side though, you should check both the Soft 404 and Not Found. You’re going to download these URLs.
Click on ‘download’ at the top of the URLs affected. After this, you’re given two options: to either download as CSV for Excel or download to Google Docs.
You can choose any option convenient for you. Let’s say you’re using Microsoft Excel, select CSV and click on OK.
You can combine both Soft 404s and Not Founds into a single Excel document to make your work easier.
Now you have your files on Excel. Expand the column A to show some URLs that are hidden and freeze the top row.
Now you have your list of URLs to work with. If you prefer using Google Docs, you can also download your URLs to it. In the option on Google Webmaster Tools, select Google Docs and click on OK.
This will open a new tab where your document is populated with the URLs and other details. Combine the soft 404 and 404 so that you can have both in one place.
Expand the first column so that you can view the URLs properly. Also freeze and highlight the top row.
Now you have the URLs to work with. The next step is to check the number of backlinks to each of these URLs.
2. Open Site Explorer (now Moz Link Explorer)
To use this tool, head to their page and enter your website URL. Click on search. This brings out the result of details about your website. Click on ‘Top pages’ among the various tabs shown.
This shows a list of top pages on your website. Just below the ‘Top pages’ tab, click on ‘Export to CSV.’
After downloading your list, open it on Excel. Now you have the list of your top pages. But you’re not looking for top pages alone, only top pages that are inaccessible to visitors and that might have a considerable number of backlinks.
The next thing to do is to filter your pages based on these criteria to get you the needed URLs. What you have to do is filter the HTTP status.
Click on ‘data’ at the top bar of your document and then click on ‘filter.’ This gives you the option you can use to filter like select all, 200, 301, 302, 404, and no data.
You can select 404 and 302 as the filters. 404 will show you the pages that are broken. 302 is a temporal redirect. You need to check these URLs as they’re not passing link equity.
These pages also fail to tell Google to pass the authority to the new destination page. You should look to fix this too. After the filter, it shows you the URLs in those categories.
On column F, you can see the number of domains linking to each of these URLs. You should look to fix any 404 page that has many links to it.
To use the new Link Explorer also by Moz, click on ‘Top pages’ at the sidebar and follow the steps above.
You can also use Ahrefs to find web pages with broken links on your website. To do this, navigate to Ahrefs website. Enter your domain and click on the search button.
To find the pages with broken links, navigate to ‘Pages’ at the sidebar. Click on the drop down and click on ‘Best by links.’ This arranges your links according to the URL rating, starting from the highest. Add a ‘404 not found’ HTTP response filter to get a list of those URLs.
The list also shows you the number of referring domains to each URL. Also, if you want to see the referring domains that feature broken links to your website, you can use the Ahrefs broken backlinks checker.
To do this, enter your domain name and click on search. Navigate to the sidebar and click on the ‘Backlink profile’ drop down. In the options, you see broken under Backlinks. Click on it to give you a list of all referring domains. The anchor text of the links is also displayed on the table.
This is not advisable if you have a big site as this may give a result with too many pages.
Track important broken links
Now that you have gathered a list of the broken links on your website through one of the methods explained above, the next thing is to identify the important links to work on.
Mere looking at these URLs, you can identify some that are more important to the overall message of your website. You need to track the backlinks to these URLs and identify the most important backlinks.
1. Link Explorer
This is a new tool by Moz which boasts of more pages, root domains, and links than Open Site Explorer. To use link explorer to track backlinks, follow these steps:
Navigate to link explorer on Moz.
Copy one of the URLs in your list and paste it in the form on the page.
Since you’re only considering a single page, click on the drop-down where you have ‘root domain’ and select ‘exact page.’
After this, click on search. This will bring out details about the page you entered. But since you’re looking for the backlinks, navigate to the sidebar and click on ‘Inbound Links.’
To know the links that are transferring link equity to your page, set your parameters for Link type as ‘Follow’ and parameter for Link Status as ‘Active.’
You can export these data so that you can make reference to it later.
Then go through the same step for the other URLs. To see the links transferring the highest link equity, sort your backlinks by page authority. Through this you can identify the most important links. This is important if you have to contact webmasters later.
To use Ahrefs to analyze a specific URL, copy the URL and paste in the search bar. However, in the drop down beside the search button, click on it and select a single URL instead of a domain. This helps you to analyze the referring domains to a single broken link.
3. Cognitive SEO
To analyze referring domains to a broken link, go to Site Explorer on Cognitive SEO. Paste your URL in the form and select URL from the drop down instead of domain or subdomain. Click on the ‘Explore’ button. This will give you results of the pages that links to the broken page.
It also show you the link influence of a particular backlink and the domain influence of the referring domain.
4. Majestic SEO
To use Majestic SEO, paste your URL in the form. Before you click on the search button, you can pick between fresh index and historic index. Historic index is probably better for checking the backlinks to this broken link as you don’t want to miss any referring domain.
When you click on search, it shows you the referring domains, anchor text, citation flow, trust flow as a summary. You can click on other tabs to see more details about each stat. You can click on ‘Ref Domains’ tab to check the domains offering backlinks.
There is a column that shows the number of backlinks from each domain. When you click on this number, it shows the URLs that gave backlinks to your page. It also shows the link type so that you can see whether they’re dofollow or nofollow and note the most valuable links. This is useful when a domain has many pages that link to a broken link on your website.
Find brand mentions
One of the ways you can reclaim links is through brand mentions. When your brand or a term you coined or your case study is mentioned in a post, you can request for a link to the relevant page on your website.
But to be aware that your brand or a term is mentioned, you need tools that will search on your behalf and tell you. You can use some of the tools mentioned below.
To create an alert, go to Google Alerts page. Enter the term you want to create an alert for. Note that you can set the terms in similar ways you use Google search.
- You can use site:yourwebsite.com my brand name to restrict the alert to a single domain. When your brand name is mentioned on this website, you’ll be alerted.
- Use “content marketing” if you want alerts that contains this exact phrase.
- You can use “content marketing” + social media to alert you when the specific term ‘content marketing’ is mentioned and also social media in any variation.
After setting you alert, you have to provide the email it will be sent to. You can also customize your alerts with ‘show options’ drop down before you create it. Here, you can set frequency of alert, sources, language, region, etc.
After choosing options, you can see your alert preview before clicking on the ‘Create Alert’ button to create your alert.
After creating your alert, you can edit or delete it later.
Google Alerts is a basic tool for tracking brand mentions. It provides little details about your mentions compared to some tools having the same function. If you want something more comprehensive, then check the other tools mentioned below.
Buzzsumo gives you the opportunity to choose between 6 metrics to track. These include:
- Brand Mentions
- Competitor Mentions
- Content From a Website
- Keyword Mentions
- An Author
Let’s take brand mentions as an example. To create an alert for brand mentions, click on the ‘Brand Mentions’ button.
This leads you to the page where you can enter the name of your brand. You can also indicate if the name should be case sensitive. You can indicate if an additional keyword should be added to your brand name or if a keyword should be excluded.
There are more filters you can use and you can click on that if you want more. When you’re through, click on the ‘Next’ button.
The next step asks how you want to be alerted and gives you three options. You can pick any that is comfortable.
After that, you’re taken to the next page where you finish your alert settings.
No matter which option of alert you choose, you can check alerts on your Buzzsumo dashboard.
This is a tool that helps in measuring your brand and competitor mentions. To use Mention, you have to register an account.
After doing that, you can start tracking your mentions immediately. To do this, enter the name of the brand you want to track.
Mention tells you to enter the name of your competitors. From your brand name, it brings out suggestions for you.
When you’re through with this, you can now start receiving alerts as your brand name is mentioned. Mention has comprehensive data for your mentions and you can use it on your mobile devices.
For instance, when you discard mention from a source continuously, you stop getting alerts from that source.
When you make an infographic that becomes popular, you want to get as many backlinks to your website as possible. To do this, you have to be able to track the websites that use your images without linking to you. You can use these tools for that.
1. Google Image search
If you’re browsing on your computer with supported browsers (Chrome 5+, Internet Explorer 9+, Safari 5+, and Firefox 4+), go to images.google.com or an image results page.
Click on upload an image and select the image on your computer.
Another option if you’re using Chrome or Firefox 4+, is to drag your images into the search box. To do this, visit images.google.com.
Click and hold the image. While doing this, drag into the search box.
You can also use an image URL to search for the image. If an image is on your website, you can right-click on the image and copy the image location. Paste this URL in your Google Image search box.
This shows you where these images have appeared. You can check these pages to see if they provided a backlink to your website and if they linked to the right page. If not, you can contact the website admin.
With an index of over 28.3 billion images, TinEye makes it easy to search for your images online.
There are 3 options to perform an image search on TinEye:
– Upload: when you click the upload button, you can select the image you want to search for from your computer or mobile device.
– Search by URL: you can also copy an image URL and paste it in the search box to search for it.
– Drag and drop: you can drag an image from your computer to the search tab on TinEye.
TinEye also offers you an option of comparing your image to a similar image. It plays both images so that you can see the difference between the two. This is useful when an image has been edited or skewed to have a different look from the original.
How to go about link reclamation
After discovering the broken links on your website and their referring domains or brand mentions without links, your work is yet to be done. What are the various ways to reclaim links?
When you find out a page that results in ‘404’ error has many links directed to it, you can redirect the traffic to that page to a relevant page through 301 redirect.
In some cases, you could have deleted a post due to reasons known to you. All you have to do is find another page on your website that addresses a similar issue. Then link to this page. You can know the topic of a broken link through its URL.
You’ll lose a bit of link equity when you implement a redirect but it’s a needed step for the long term. A 301 redirect is what you should do because this is what tells Google to transfer the authority of your former page to the new one.
How do you implement a redirect?
To implement a 301 redirect on WordPress, you can use plugins to make it easier. One plugin you can use is the Redirection plugin.
It performs the redirection when you fill in the URL of your broken link and the destination. To access the plugin after installation, go to tools on your WordPress dashboard and click on Redirection.
Another plugin you can use is Simple 301 Redirects. You simply enter your old URL and the destinations URL and save your changes. After installation, go to setting on your WordPress dashboard and click on 301 Redirects.
Fix the link
In some cases when there is no page addressing a similar issue, you may have to recreate content for this broken link so that viewers will be able to access it when they visit again.
An email outreach could be needed whether to correct a broken link or to suggest a link for brand mention. You have to send a persuasive message to the webmaster to change their links to the correct version.
When you have two websites and you want to rank for one, make sure your links are directed to the one you want to rank for. If you get a link to the website you’re not trying to rank for, you can request the link be redirected to the website you want to rank for.
Best practices for link reclamation
To give your email outreach the best chance, you can follow some of these unwritten rules.
1. Provide the link
When you’re trying to reclaim a link to your website, you should provide the URL of the particular page you want to link.
This makes it easier for the webmaster you’re contacting. It also makes it more effective because you have reduced (or eliminated) the risk of webmasters linking to the wrong page.
2. Provide an incentive
Sometimes, people can be reluctant when adding a link to one of their previous posts. They’re probably working on another post now or doing something they feel is more important.
They see giving links as mostly a benefit for you. If you can convince them there is a benefit for them, then they’ll be more encouraged to add the link.
For instance, after your message, you can add something like: “Please let me know when you add it so that I can share it to our follower base of over 100,000.”
Of course, this style works better when you have a large followership. The person you’re contacting see that as a potential benefit for them and may be more receptive to your request.
3. Don’t be aggressive
Reclaiming links doesn’t always work out. In some cases, no matter how much you try, you’ll still not get the links you want. You need to let it go.
In some other cases, there may be a website that has linked to you many times in the past. You don’t need to bother the webmaster for a single post they failed to link to.
Badgering someone like this could put them off and they may remove your link. You don’t want things to get worse since they already like you.
4. Don’t ask for unnecessary links
What do I mean by unnecessary link? When you’re building links, it should be aimed at improving your brand image, website authority, and your rank on Google (and other search engines) for some keywords.
Any mention of your brand that is not improving it wouldn’t do much benefit if linked to. For instance, if you’re mentioned when someone is giving an example of brands doing your business, this may not give much benefit to you.
If a post gives examples of car brands as ,Toyota, Mercedes, Honda, Ford, Chevrolet, etc. You don’t need to solicit for links in this kind of situation.
When Atlassian wanted to increase the domain authority of its French and German domains without deploying content, it went with link reclamation. This brought in 118 extra links to their French domain and 164 links to the German.
Link building is important if you want to rank high on Google. But building links is not a one-way street.
While actively searching for new links, you also have to exploit the opportunity of broken links. These are links that are currently useless. You have to make them useful through link reclamation.
You could easily get up to 30 links or more through link reclamation in just a few days. I’ll say the reward is worth the effort.