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The #1 Broken Link Outreach Template That Will Actually Succeed in 2023

It’s not hard to find a broken link outreach template online — but it’s damn near impossible to find one that still works.

Broken link outreach has become one of the most popular link building approaches in recent years.

But, because of its popularity… now every publisher has seen all the common link building approaches over and over.

In fact, speaking from personal experience at several websites, we see all the common approaches daily.

And that means… you’ve got to be extremely strategic to get someone to take notice of your broken link email and take the time out of their day to swap in your link.

In this article, I’ll cover the broken link outreach techniques that no longer work.

And I’ll share the #1 broken link email template that actually will work in this era.

Broken Link Outreach Template: Table of Contents

What Is Broken Link Outreach?

In short: You find websites with a broken link to a piece of content similar to yours. You reach out to the website, let them know about the broken link, and ask if they’ll replace it with your working link.

Broken link outreach is popular because, in theory, this is a situation where link building cold email isn’t as self-serving as usual.

Most backlink outreach is decidedly one-sided — especially if you’re looking for free, not paid, backlinks. You’ll get a ton of value out of the link… more value than the site that added your link.

That makes link building an anomaly in the cold email world. In virtually all other uses, the goal of a cold email is to provide a ton of irresistible value to a recipient.

Broken link building helps balance the scales (at least a little bit). You’re providing a service — you helped a website find a broken link. So you’ve “earned” the right to request your link.

But it’s still a delicate art.

Broken Link Templates That No Longer Work

Here are common broken link templates and tactics that no longer work.

I randomly stumbled onto your link and, oh, look at that, I happen to have a perfect replacement

A broken link email template that no longer works

Subject: Broken link on your website

Hi Laura,

I just stumbled onto your article, 10 Winter Outdoor Activities Your Family Will Love (https://www.familyfun.net/2012/winter-outdoor-activities).

It’s great content but I noticed one thing: You have a broken link! You’re linking to U.S. Sledding (https://sledding.us)… and that no longer exists.

My website actually has a great article (https://www.activityhunters.co/family-friendly-ski-resorts) you could swap in for the broken link.

Thanks and again, great job on your website!

Joe Michaels

Link Building Associate, Juice Agency

Here’s what’s wrong with it…

The intro is a blatant lie

You didn’t “stumble” onto the article.

By this point, every publisher has received plenty of broken link emails.

They know it’s not a coincidence you found their site and just so happened to have a great broken link replacement to recommend.

So this intro is an instant turn-off and will likely make your broken link email dead on arrival.

(“Stumbling onto” a decade-old article is the equivalent of accidentally liking someone’s decade-old photo on Instagram. It doesn’t happen without stalking someone’s deep catalog.)

The article is too old for the publisher to (probably) care

The URL here shows the article with the broken link is from 2012.

Publishers are often less concerned with their deep back catalog that’s bringing in a trickle of long-tail traffic.

If you can point out a broken link in a recent article, that’s more impactful.

Or… give them evidence that broken links can affect SEO. (I’ll cover that in the template that works later in this article.)

The suggested link isn’t a direct replacement

If you’re going to recommend replacing a broken link with your content, you should offer a real replacement. Ideally: An article that covers the same topic from the broken link, but does a better/more thorough job.

Here, the link builder is suggesting a link about ski resorts to replace a link about sledding. The publisher couldn’t just swap in the new link; they’d have to change the content to match it.

And they’re not going to do that.

The signature shows you’re from a link building agency

If this email hadn’t already eroded all trust, the signature would land the death blow. It shows this email isn’t from a hustling, well-intentioned blogger… it’s from a link building agency.

If your job title is something like “link builder” or “outreach specialist”… don’t include it.

I’m not a link builder, I’m just a regular old fan of your blog taking the time to send you this email

Another broken link outreach template that no longer works

Subject: Laura, broken link on Family Fun

Hey Laura,

I was browsing your site and noticed that you have a dead link :(. You can find it on https://www.familyfun.net/2012/winter-outdoor-activities, and it’s the link on sledding hills in the U.S.

As a regular reader of your blog, I love reading what you write and what you link out to.

Sadly, I couldn’t find the article you meant to link to, but I happened to come across another good post on the same topic: https://www.activityhunters.co/family-friendly-ski-resorts

You should check it out and if you find it helpful, you probably want to switch links.

I know you’re probably very busy and get many emails every single day, but I hope this was one of the helpful ones. I just wanted to help you out as your site has transformed my life.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Cheers,
Joe

By the way, I didn’t make this template up and intentionally make it so over the top. It’s a suggested template on the top-ranking blog post on broken link outreach templates.

Here’s what’s wrong with it…

It’s embarrassingly transparent

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, any publisher with a decent website receives tons of link building emails. (Plus, odds are, anyone with a website has at least a little understanding of SEO and backlinking.)

Every publisher recognizes the broken link method of link building outreach. And cold email best practices.

So this template where you pose as a fan isn’t going to fool anyone. Maybe it would’ve fooled someone in 2008.

The flattery is absurd

The last line about how “your site has transformed my life” has no place in any outreach template. It’s disingenuous and most site owners, frankly, wouldn’t believe it.

Maybe they’d believe it if they run a website on self-help or other personal growth techniques. But in those situations, fans reach out with stories about how the site changed their life, not generic flattery at the end of a link building email.

There are so many wasted words

The ideal cold email doesn’t waste any words — everything is valuable. This template is nothing but wasted words.

The worst offender is the line “I know you’re probably very busy and get many emails every single day, but I hope this was one of the helpful ones.” That line isn’t doing anything to help drive action.

There’s an extraneous second call-to-action

“I look forward to hearing from you soon” is a destructive closing sentence. The goal of this email isn’t to start a dialogue, it’s to get the site to replace their broken link with your link.

Cold emails need a singular focus.

So why make your final ask of the email a call to something other than the desired action?

Other strategies that won’t work for broken link building

Some other strategies that won’t work are…

Asking a direct competitor for a link

Most websites would rather have a broken link than a working link to a direct competitor.

Reaching out to giant publications

Even assuming you could find the contact info for the person who wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal or for an editor… they aren’t swapping in your link.
They aren’t concerned with broken links affecting their SEO (they’re big enough that it won’t). And there’s no incentive you can offer to pique their interest.
Allocate your prospect researching effort elsewhere.

Asking for feedback on your suggested article

Rather than outright asking to replace a broken link with your link, I’ve seen the approach where the sender asks for feedback on their article. The goal, then, is for the recipient to read it, become more invested in it, and ultimately link to it.

But no one has time for that. This isn’t creating value for your recipient — it’s asking them to work for free. Why turn a link building email into an even more burdensome ask?

Reaching out to the wrong person

The CEO of a company, even a small company, isn’t going to take the time to deal with a broken link replacement. Your best bet is an editor, someone in the content department, or the article’s author (if they’re on staff).

You can try sending your email to a company’s general address ([email protected], [email protected], [email protected], and so on)… but that adds another step of friction. You’re hoping the people who deal with those inboxes pass your message along to the right person.

Getting greedy and offering multiple links

You’re proud of your content — and you’re focused on getting backlinks. So if the person you’re sending to doesn’t want to replace their broken link with your suggestion… maybe they’d like some of your other content?

The answer is no. No they won’t.

They don’t want to take the time to look through your content and figure out places to link to it on their site. There’s so much content online and most of it is aggressively generic.

If they weren’t into your replacement link, odds are they aren’t going to bend over backwards to find a different spot to link to you.

At best, it makes you look greedy and/or needy. At worst, it obfuscates your call-to-action and hurts your chances of getting any positive result from your outreach effort.

The #1 Broken Link Template That Will Work

Here’s an approach to broken link building that will work in today’s environment. One where publishers are savvier — and have seen all the standard broken link tactics over and over.

Our template is…

  • Honest and direct
  • It doesn’t insult anyone’s intelligence
  • It’s personalized and relevant
  • It offers significant value to the recipient and their website

In other words… it builds links.

The broken link outreach template to use

Today's best broken link outreach template

Subject line: Broken link on your winter activities article

Hi Laura,

Wanted to let you know there’s a broken link in your article 10 Winter Outdoor Activities Your Family Will Love (https://www.familyfun.net/2012/winter-outdoor-activities).

You’re linking to U.S. Sledding (https://sledding.us) in point #3… and that no longer exists.

Never fear! I run a website that has an even more comprehensive guide to sledding all around the U.S. (https://www.americasledding.com/). You could swap in for the broken link.

And we’d love to include it in our weekly newsletter to our 30,000+ subscribers!

I know that article is older but it still ranks pretty well for some strong search terms (e.g., “winter outdoor activities”), so Google’s probably still paying attention to it… and that broken link could have a negative SEO effect.

Joe Michaels

Founder, American Sledding

P.S. Let me know if you’re ever interested in collaborating for an article or other content!

Here’s why this is the ideal template…

The subject line has “subtly casual” personalization

Notice how the subject line refers to the “winter activities article” and not “10 Winter Outdoor Activities Your Family Will Love”.

The phrasing sends a subtle but powerful signal that the email is highly personal and individualized.

This doesn’t look like someone just dumping an article title or URL from a spreadsheet into a mail merge field… they summarized the article the way someone would if this were a one-on-one email.

That subject line has now set the tone that this is a one-on-one, personal message from someone who’s actually invested in this specific link.

The intro jumps right to the topic and doesn’t mess around with a fake “I stumbled onto your link” scenario

This email doesn’t insult the recipient’s intelligence by suggesting the sender found the broken link by pure coincidence.

It makes updating the broken link as easy as possible on the publisher

It’s annoying and often time consuming to find a broken link in piece of old content, especially a longer piece. In this email, the sender makes it as easy as possible by pointing out where in the article they found the broken link. (“point #3”)

That lets the publisher know this will be an easy fix for them.

It shares a targeted link replacement

The suggested replacement link here is a direct replacement for the broken link. And the sender sells their content as “even more comprehensive.”

Publishers ideally want to replace a broken link with a working version of the same link. In lieu of that, they want a 1:1 replacement — not something semi-related to the original.

It offers value in exchange for the link

Content people want others to share their content. This is a desirable value proposition — and comes without the stigma of offering a link swap.

That makes an offer to share the article in a targeted newsletter compelling. And the social proof of “30,000+ subscribers” shows the promotion could lead to some legit traffic.

It closes the deal by justifying the swap

This sender makes a brief but compelling case by pointing out the value in updating the broken link — even on a piece of content more than 10 years old.

It stays focused

Even though there’s a P.S. with a different call-to-action, the body of the email all drives toward one action: Swapping in your link.

There’s no need to ask the person to reply. You’ve offered your value (newsletter plug) so they’ll want to reply when they’ve swapped the link.

It comes from a founder, not a link builder

The signature shows this email is from a founder, not someone paid to build links.

The P.S. shows a desire to build a relationship

Rather than making this backlink outreach attempt a one-time thing, the sender uses the P.S. to potentially establish a relationship with the recipient. It stands to reason they’d want to connect: They have similar, but not competing, websites. The P.S. section makes the email feel less cold and transactional and more like the first step in a networking relationship.

Even with all this, the email is still well under 150 words

Cold emails need to be brief. This email does a lot of different things — but wraps up in 139 words.

Alterations you can make to this template

While this template hits all the right notes, you should modify it based on your specific value proposition.

Avoid the pitfalls I’ve discussed earlier (false flattery and so on) and consider these enhancements.

Make this a two-step process

There’s a long-standing debate in the cold email world about whether to make a big “ask” in your first message.

And you may prefer to use the cold email to get a dialogue going, then use the next email to ask for the broken link replacement.

In that case, rather than sharing your link in this email, let them know you have a great replacement link if they’re interested.

Here’s an example…

A two-step cold email for broken link building

Subject: Broken link on your winter activities article

Hi Laura,

Wanted to let you know there’s a broken link in your article 10 Winter Outdoor Activities Your Family Will Love (https://www.familyfun.net/2012/winter-outdoor-activities).

You’re linking to U.S. Sledding (https://sledding.us) in point #3… and that no longer exists.

Never fear! I run a website that has an even more comprehensive guide to sledding all around the U.S. (https://www.americasledding.com/). You could swap it in for the broken link.

Let me know if you’re interested and I can send it over,

Joe Michaels

Founder, American Sledding

P.S. I’d also love to talk about sharing your site in our weekly newsletter. It’s perfect for our 30,000+ subscribers!

In this version of the template, we start the dialogue about the possibility of a replacement link. And we use the P.S. section for the newsletter plug.

It’s implied — but not in an oft-putting or aggressive way — that they’ll need to get in touch about the link if they also want to talk about the newsletter promo.

Offer to pay

The dream of broken link building is to get backlinks for free. But as publishers are getting flooded with backlink requests… more and more are seeing the opportunity to create a brand new revenue stream with paid links.

Of course, Google is fully against the practice of paid backlinks. And Google’s December 2022 search algorithm update is focused on making paid links worthless.

So I’d never tell you to pay for links.

But three-quarters of link builders do it, according to an Authority Hacker survey from late 2022.

And broken link replacement links do feel more organic than a link in, say, a low-quality, AI-written, paid guest post on a no-name blog.

So if you are going to offer money… here’s how to do it.

A broken link template for paid links

Subject: Broken link replacement suggestion (paid!) for 10 Winter Outdoor Activities Your Family Will Love

Hi Laura,

Wanted to let you know there’s a broken link in your article 10 Winter Outdoor Activities Your Family Will Love (https://www.familyfun.net/2012/winter-outdoor-activities).

You’re linking to U.S. Sledding (https://sledding.us) in point #3… and that no longer exists.

Never fear! I run a website that has an even more comprehensive guide to sledding all around the U.S. (https://www.americasledding.com/). You could swap it in for the broken link. I’d be happy to compensate you for doing so.

Please let me know if you’re interested and the cost for the link.

Joe Michaels

Founder, American Sledding

We mention payment in the subject line to improve the chances the person opens the email. (Also, notice I didn’t bother to take the time to write a summary of the article “winter activities” in this subject. Since we’re offering money for the link, I feel less compelled to make this email feel intimate.)

Then I mention the payment later in the article in the classiest way possible: “I’d be happy to compensate you for doing so.”

And the call-to-action is asking them to reply with the cost if they’re interested.

How to Set Up This Mail Merge Cold Email Campaign in Gmail

Now that I’ve covered the best broken link email template, I’ll walk you through how to set it up in Gmail using GMass.

This template is quite mail merge-heavy but is pretty easy to set up.

Prepare your Google Sheet with data

You need a well-built Google Sheet to feed your mail merge campaign. Here’s how I set up my sheet to handle the template.

Google Sheet set up for this mail merge

(Note: I don’t necessarily need the last two columns with the broken website title and URL, since those are the same in every email. But I set up this spreadsheet to be versatile, in case I want to use it for multiple broken link replacements in one shot.)

Connect your Google Sheet to a new campaign

Open a new compose window in Gmail. Click into the To field, then click on the GMass icon on the right side.

Click the GMass icon to connect to a sheet

Choose “From a Google Sheet” and then connect to your sheet. I chose to “Update Sheet with reporting data” so GMass will write open, click, and reply results back to the Google Sheet.

Connection settings for a Google Sheet in GMass

Add mail merge tags to the template

Paste in the template from this website and make any of your alterations.

Today's best broken link outreach template

Now in every mail merge spot, delete what’s currently there.

Then type a left curly brace, which will bring up the list of possible mail merge tags from the Google Sheet. Choose the correct one for the correct spot.

Mail merge tag options in the email

Continue to make replacements throughout the article.

Merge tags integrated throughout the email

So here’s how this would look to one of the recipients when you send…

A test of the email

Setting up auto follow-ups

I haven’t discussed auto follow-ups in this article. But it likely is worthwhile to send a few automated follow-ups here.

Much like our original email, we’re going to keep them honest, direct, and close simulations of one-on-one messages.

Open the GMass settings for the campaigns and go to the Auto Follow-up section.

Setting up an auto follow-up

Check the box for Stage 1. Since you’ll be gauging this campaign on replies, we want to send these follow-ups if we haven’t received one.

I’m going to send this first follow-up after three days if they haven’t replied.

And I’m choosing to “Send text above original.” That sends this follow-up as a reply to the first email in the same thread — which closely mimics one-on-one email behavior.

Follow-up in place

You can send up to eight stages of follow-ups. For broken link campaigns, it’s probably best to keep it around three or four follow-ups max. You’re looking to build a relationship, not become a burden.

Send your campaign

You can set any other GMass features you might want…

  • A/B testing, if you want to try different phrasing (or even one version where you offer to pay and one where you don’t)
  • Scheduling for a future time
  • Setting this up as a recurring campaign, to make it easy if you add more websites to target for this broken link replacement in the future
  • Setting the preview text
  • Turning open/click tracking on or off

You can test the campaign, including all follow-ups, as well.

And when you’re ready to send, hit the red GMass button to send the campaign.

Broken Link Outreach Template: Takeaways and Next Steps

Broken link outreach is a popular way to build backlinks… but it’s crowded and saturated.

As a result, old techniques no longer work. You’ll need to shelve many of the legacy broken link cold email methods to get traction with today’s savvier publishers.

That means you need to avoid:

  • Blatant lies about stumbling onto a link or being a longtime fan of the blog
  • Expecting updates to long tail articles without giving justification for doing so
  • Getting someone to replace a broken link with your semi-related link
  • Getting traction when your job title is “link builder” or “outreach specialist”
  • Pretending to be a fan suggesting a replacement link
  • Over-the-top flattery
  • Asking direct competitors or giant publications for links
  • Trying to start a dialogue by asking for feedback
  • Reaching out to the wrong people
  • Trying to get multiple links from one broken link email

Instead, you need to:

  • Be direct and honest
  • Make your email personalized and relevant
  • Make your email feel like it’s a one-on-one message
  • Offer a perfect replacement link
  • Give something of value to the publisher
  • Stay focused on one call-to-action
  • Aim to build a future relationship

GMass is a great way to set up your broken link email templates.

GMass works inside Gmail and adds the cold email and mail merge features you need to run high-level broken link replacement campaigns.

You can get started with GMass for free by downloading the extension from the Chrome Web Store. (While you’re there, check out our almost 7,000 glowing reviews.)

From there, you can follow our Quickstart Guide — you’ll be sending your first broken link building campaign in a matter of minutes.

See why GMass has 300k+ users and 6,600+ 5-star reviews


Email marketing. Cold email. Mail merge. Avoid the spam folder. Easy to learn and use. All inside Gmail.


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