Nick LeRoy, the Minneapolis SEO, adds to the broken link building interview series that began with Melanie Nathan and moved next to Napoleon Suarez. I’m conducting these interviews to add to my knowledge base for my August 25th webinar: The Content Marketer’s Guide to Broken Link Building.

Campaign Viability

Q: What kinds of sites or businesses is broken link building right for?
A: Any website that answers a question or fills a need is a great candidate. While this tactic can be used for e-commerce stores it really is a tough sell to ask someone to link to a site that blatantly sells products. Resource articles, white papers, and anything non ‘salesy’ works the best in my opinion.

Tools, Tracking and Campaign Management

Q: What tools do you use?
A: Nothing fancy just a couple tools to help aid my in determining value and keeping track records.

Xenu’s Link Sleuth
SEObook and SEOmoz toolbars to help determine page value.
Excel Spreadsheet

The biggest “Tool” you can use is the content you’re trying to persuade the webmaster to link to. If it’s top notch then it pretty much won’t matter how you pitch it.

Q: Is there an easy way to track links earned?
A: I personally keep a spreadsheet of all the websites I contact. I like to give a quick look at the pages im aiming for once a week. The ‘easy’ way to track links earned is to constantly check your analytics referral sources. Once you see traffic coming from a domain you were in touch with its pretty likely you acquired the link. Then you get to have fun searching for it and seeing what anchor text they gave you!

Q: Managing the campaign – can you share the spreadsheet, or columns you use?
A: I’m old school, no fancy tools here. Open up a Excel spreadsheet and in one column list the targeted URL. The second column has whatever you use to determine value (PR, Mozrank, search results etc.) The third column add a ‘contact’ field, the fourth column has a ‘date contacted’ label and finally the last column has a link acquired? field. I also like to add an additional column to keep track if I sent a follow up e-mail as well.

the Email Itself

Q: If a page has more than 2-3 broken links (let’s say they have 25) do you tell them ALL the broken links?
This one is hard. I have run into this situation several times with mixed reviews. If you simply find one broken link on a page that may not be enough to motivate the webmaster to fix it and or add your clients link. However, if you send them a list of 25 broken links you run the chance that they delete the page or simply delete all the broken links without adding yours.

To answer the question, I would probably send a list of 5-10 and make sure they include any links that point directly to competitors domains that are currently displaying a 404 error message. Remember, that the ‘ultimate’ win is not only getting your link added to the page but to get as many of the other links removed as well!

Q: Do you have a sure-fire subject line?
I find that something simple, short and to the point has been the most effective. I like “Found Broken Links On Your Site” or even “Issue With Your Website.” Most subject lines seem to be so lengthy these days that by shortening one up dramatically it grabs the attention of anyone with a long list of e-mails they’re sorting through.

Conversion Rates

Q: What are reasonable conversion rates?
A: It depends on the niche. When I used the broken link building technique in the kids toys niche the ROI had to be close to 20%. However, when using the exact same technique on a website in the wine niche I would be lucky to hit 1-2%. I think it really depends on the personalities of the webmasters. I found out real quick that webmasters in the wine niche seem very stuck up. A lot of them seemed to be know it alls and were very offended when you pointed out mistakes or broken links within their website. I also got a lot of ‘thanks – i’ll clean that up’ responses in this niche. The toy niche on the other hand included a lot of mommy bloggers who seemed to believe the genuine “I just wanted to help out by pointing out issues on page ___”. They would typically reward my efforts and time.

Two very different niches with two very different results.

Responses and Their Meanings

Q: do you ever get links from people who don’t respond?
A: Very rarely – it does happen but typically people are so happy that you’re helping them improve their website that if they have any intentions of fixing broken links or adding yours they let you know.

Q: Is it primarily the responders who link?
A: Yes. I would even go as far to say its 100% of the time in my experience.

Q: If responses are low what is the first thing you check/change? (pitch email, subject line, actual content promoted, sites targeted, etc…)
A: The first thing I look at is the content im trying to promote. Everyone thinks their own content is amazing so its a good thing to get some third party insight. Otherwise, im always working on the subject line of an e-mail. Your pitch does you no good unless the recipient actually opens your e-mail!

Q: Is there anything you ALWAYS make sure of in your campaign that seems to help responses?
A: Try to send an e-mail from the actual domain which you’re trying to promote the content from. I think it makes the pitch seem less spammy. I have however had success with gmail accounts but I believe there is more authority attached in an ‘official’ e-mail address.

Q: Do you email non-responders again?
A: Absolutely. You get 3-4 days and I’ll follow up once. I like to follow up simply stating that “I received a message from a buddy of mine stating my e-mails are going to his spam folder. I just wanted to make sure you received the previous e-mail I had sent.” I always make sure an original copy of the e-mail is found below this message.

Mechanics of Emailing

Q: Do you email by hand or use a blast service?
A: I do everything by hand. While this does take substantial time it really can be simplified with a templated e-mail. Once you write the first email you can typically replace the name and some of the specific details of the site and send it off. It’s not time friendly but I have gotten some really nice links this way.

Q: What about email vs. contact-us forms? Any thoughts/preferences?
A: If I want a link from a certain page/site then I’ll try any method that gets a message to the webmaster. I believe personal e-mails work better but I have gotten links from using contact forms too. The biggest issue is that you sometimes lose the subject line in a contact form HOWEVER, most webmasters will never delete a message without reading it if its sent through the contact form.

Prospecting Advice

Q: What have I not asked?
The only other nugget of gold I would like to add is that when you’re using search queries to find your targeted websites, consider going 5+ pages deep into the search results. These website get far fewer ‘link request’ type e-mails which may increase your chances of acquiring the link. I have acquired many links from going 10+ pages deep in Google. As long as the sites are relevant and add value I don’t care where they rank.

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