Reciprocity link building – step by step

I’m not the first person to blog about this topic, not by a long shot actually. But for those of you small business and DIYers, you may not have heard about this method of building links, or not seen a real example of it in practice. The concept is simple, you do something helpful to someone else and (hopefully) in return they will give you a link. There’s a lot of different methods you can take to go about this, but I’ve found the easiest, and often most successful method, is by finding broken links on-sites you would like to get links from.

First off, you need to find a starting point, i.e. a relevant dead link or problem. There are a few ways to find yourself some targets. Here’s a couple to start with:

  1. Do an advanced search in Google or Yahoo for a links or resources page relevant to the subject. So, searches would be “inurl:links keyword phrase” or “”keyword phrase +”related sites”” or “”keyword phrase +”favorite sites”” “inurl:resources keyword phrase” or “list of keyword phrase sites” – and don’t use the quotation marks. Have your search preferences set to 30+ results, it will make things easier.
  2. Find popular directories like DMoz,, Yahoo, Best of the Web, JoeAnt, etc. and go to the category pages that match your target audience (this can be a great way to find dead domains to buy and/or healthy backlinks to farm from down sites).

By MaGIc2laNTern (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Okay, now you know how to generate some possible targets, now here’s how to find the broken links:

  1. Copy the URL from the SERP into and run it. This will find 404s and other error codes, signaling that the site is linking to out of date pages or sites that no longer exist. Look for listings that come up as Errors, those are most frequently accurate. Open another tab and see test to make sure you find a broken one.
  2. Begin making a list of dead pages and domains and make sure not to lose them, or you’ll be starting over.
  3. If the site is dead, and it’s in the same niche as yours, you may just want to buy the domain and redirect it to your site. If you don’t know whether or not the site is in the same niche, check the Internet Archive.
  4. If purchasing and redirecting aren’t an option, then you’re going to want to start contacting the webmasters of the sites that are linking to the dead page/site. Using Open Site Explorer is great for this purpose since it neatly prioritizes the best domains and pages based on SEOmoz’s metrics.
  5. From here it’s a matter of tracking down contact information and sending emails. I usually just do something fairly straight forward such as


I was perusing the (insert name of site here) site today and I caught a broken link I thought I’d report to you (I’m hoping this gets me some sort of good webmaster karma down the road!) I know it’s a pain to try to keep up with such things, so hopefully this info is useful. Anyhow, I was on your resources page and found that the link to led to a dead page.

Anyhow, nice little site you have here. If you’re ever looking to add more resources to your listings, please give our site a look at, it might be another site your visitors would enjoy.

Linky McLinkerson

Now I know some other link builders prefer the approach of not asking for a link in the first email, but I find that as long as you just sort of mention it in passing that most people are pretty open to linking to your site (assuming it’s a genuinely quality website). So if you’re looking for new ways to acquire some links, give this a shot. There’s a lot of different variations you can take with this, and plenty of people smarter than I have covered them already. Here’s some valuable links if you want to investigate this topic further:

Adam Henige

Adam Henige is Managing Partner of Netvantage SEO. Adam heads the SEO and link building efforts for Netvantage and has been a contributing blogger for industry publications like Search Engine Journal and Moz.

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