An Embarrassment Of Dead Link Riches

Sometimes link building is more difficult and painful than a root canal, and sometimes it’s so easy it happens in spite of us. It can be especially frustrating when you are trying to build links for a site that is perfectly deserving of the links you are requesting, yet your link requests are not answered or even acknowledged.

I’m two months into a link building project for a biotech firm’s web site that is totally link worthy. It’s a top ten site content-wise. I’ve done the competitive research, I’ve found the logical target sites, and the company itself is so well known that if I dropped a link here here you’d know it instantly by URL alone. The site has decent natural links already, from the usual high-trust suspects: university library based biotech guides, biotech industry link vorts, vertical industry associations. Yet so far, even with sending fully personalized emails, I’ve had less than five positive responses. At this point I’d even be happy with a bounced email. At least that’s feedback :)

This week I’ll start dialing the phone to reach out to target sites where I’ve sent two emails already with no reply.

Separately from this project, I’ve been doing backlink analytics for some historic search URLs, just because historic backlink analytics is my idea of fun. It’s also very sobering to be in the middle of a project where each link is so hard to come by while at the same time scripts are identifying thousands and thousands of links pointing at sites that are long dead and gone. Oh to be…

Below is a list of URLs that many of you will recognize. These URLs have two things in common. First, they are long gone. Second, they each were famously popular at one time or another, most of them back in the late 1990′s.

The Dead URLs and links still pointing at them are listed below.

Dead URL ——————————————– Inbound links still pointing to it —————- 1732 —————- 231 —————————- 2577 ————————————– 95 ——————————– 3321

I don’t even remember Yahoo being at, but apparently it was, long enough to attract a couple hundred more links on its way to, where it garnered a couple thousand that remain, and then finally, where no script can accurately tally all the link love.

While much of this is nothing but boring history, one thing worth highlighting is that only one of the above URLs ( is 301′d. The rest are dead as dirt. Were talking Server not found dead. Really, really, dead. Must be nice to be a dead URL and still have a couple thousand backlinks. I’m surprised the folks at Stanford haven’t resurrected the early Yahoo URL paths just for the historic value. Those links pointing at it are the web equivalent of a Woolly Mammoth skeleton, slowly disintegrating in silence, all over the world. And don’t get me started on the mess Digital made of

The most interesting aspect of all this for me was that the one URL that was 301′d ( is also the one URL that has the largest number of backlinks today. How can have almost twice the backlinks as ? Newhoo begat ODP, aka DMOZ, and even though today many of us feel DMOZ is nearly irrelevant, that decision to maintain and then 301 over to was accidentally brilliant. Among other things it shows that 301′d URLs aren’t as likely to be removed by webmasters, so long as the destination delivers something besides a 404.

Also, now that I’ve seen nearly 10,000 links pointing at nothing, I’m less depressed about that biotech project I’m working on.

Eric Ward has been in the link building and content publicity game since 1994, providing services ranking from linking strategy and private customized link building training. The Link Week column appears on Tuesdays at Search Engine Land.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Link Building | Link Week Column | SEO: Redirects & Moving Sites


About The Author: has been creating linking strategies for clients since 1994. Eric publishes the strategic linking advice newsletter LinkMoses Private, and provides linking services, training and consulting via

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