This is an advanced method used by top SEO experts to get free organic backlinks from niche relevant real sites that are all genuine and real.
I call it the Golden Links Method, because there’s a ton of gold here from top rankings – if you do it right 🙂
This method is NOT the same as the finding expired domains method using Ahrefs that has been floating around the community for a few years. This is different.
To execute this method you will need access to Ahrefs tool in order to be able to execute this method.
Here’s how it works, step by step…
We basically find the top authority sites with a lot of traffic and content in your niche or industry. The larger the site, the better, but it must have tons of traffic and pages.
Once we have our site domain – we fire up Ahrefs and enter the URL in the search. This gives us a good set of metrics to confirm that this is an authority site with tons of content, trust and backlinks.
We then use Ahrefs feature to get a list of and view all the pages on this authority site. This is an important step, and the link to get this list is found on the left panel of Ahrefs as shown below.
We then filter and sort the pages to examine if this site has an 404 error pages (that is, identify which pages are not valid anymore).
Once you find a URL that once hosted an article, pick one that has a decent number of backlinks to it. You can sort the pages of the authority site by backlinks coming in to them from external sources. The sorting will probably be done by default by Ahrefs – but just make sure you pick one with a decent backlink quantity.
Start scanning through the list of URLs and aim to find articles and post type links. You will be able to get a sense of this by looking at the URL slug.
There should be at least 15 to 20 minimum other niche sites linking to this broken 404 page. The more, the better.
You need to then examine the backlinks for this 404 page…
Or, enter URL of page in the search bar to reveal its backlinks…
Then examine the backlinks to the page to see if they are coming from good sites in the niche. If the backlink profile is weak, then go back and choose another 404 page, and repeat above step.
Pick a winner 404 page that has a backlink profile that you are happy with.
What we want to do next is find the original content of this page that was published. At one point, this now defunct page existed and had content. That is, what was this page about?
We visit WayBackMachine (web.archive.org) to browse the history of this page to find out what the page was about and how the content looked. You can use archive.is as an alternative to WayBackMachine – although I have not tested to see how effective (how large) its database is. Another good starting point with jump links for searching multiple sources is cachedview.com
Our goal here is to find the original content for this page using any archive storing tool. When we find the page with the snapshot, we are going to copy the content to hand over to our content writer.
In my example in the screenshots – it seems like the content was totally removed from all of WaybackMachine’s pages (probably by the US government as it seems to be a highly controversial topic). I checked as far back as the tool allowed me to but could not see any archived pages stored.
This means that we won’t be able to find the original version of this content. Which may happen in some cases.
What you could do then is just move on to the next URL that in Ahrefs and start your analysis again.
Then come back to WayBackMachine to find the original page content.
[Side Note] Thinking out of the box while doing SEO
Sometimes you could think out of the box and leverage things to work better for you. As in the above example, if you really wanted to write about this because it seemed to have a ton of juicy links and would attract more backlinks if published or in this case if the topic is “revived” with a fresh angle – then you could search Google for the title of the topic and see if this page was cached by Google or any other site or if you can find similar articles / topics written. This would give you your seed content data to hand over to the writer.
We then hand over the content to our writer to rewrite. The article should be about the same topic – and should be a rewrite about the same topic and have similar content but not copied sentences etc. As an added bonus, you could extend the content and make it better with more content / opinions etc. so you get more backlinks from some fresh sources if the article goes viral again 🙂
We then proceed to publish this article on our website.
Remember the Ahrefs step above? We do that again as we did not yet download the backlinks that were coming in to this 404 page. So, we fire up Ahrefs and download all the URLs / domains that were linking out to this page. Simply do an export of the backlinks (the export button is located on the top right).
Proceed to setup an email outreach program. This can be done manually or using software automation. I have an extensive post here about How To Do Email Outreach. Please do read this article as it will help you scale and automate this SEO method. All the steps mentioned can be applied for doing email outreach to get backlinks as well.
We are simply emailing the owners of the domains that are pointing to this broken 404 page and letting them know that a link is broken on their page and that you have an updated link / article if they would like to fix the link. Your email could read something like this…
“hey, I was browsing yoursite and I noticed that your page located at URL abc was pointing out to a broken link. I’ve rewritten this page and wanted to let you know you could simply update that backlink and point to the new resource. … etc etc.”
You could wait a few days and send a follow up mail or set your autoresponder to do so to people who do not respond or open your initial mail.
The site owner would most probably update the link (people don’t like broken links on their site).
This method is golden, as you are already somewhat sure of where and how many backlinks you will get before you invest time and money in writing the content!
Do be aware that, finding the right industry site(s) is important. There could be many choices for you. The bigger the site the better – but it must be niche related, as we are eventually looking for relevant links from other sites in our niche.