Link Building for Big Old Sites
I love big sites. They are like sprawling mansions in a state of renewal
and dilapidation at the same time. New kitchen, old bath. Sub-zero inside,
rotten wood outside.
The longer a site has been around, and the bigger that site is, the more
likely it is that site will have already attracted hundreds if not thousands
of links. Many of these existing links will have come about without anyone
actively pursuing them. For example, I’ll bet Coca Cola’s web site has a
employment, and I’ll bet that employment section and the pages within it are
deep linked to by
other sites. I’ll further bet that Coca Cola likely does not know how
many other sites are linking to their employment section pages, nor have
Many large scale corporate sites have multiple content sections (AKA
silos) with different personnel responsible for them. Over the years, these
sites often go through several staff changes, teams, agencies, etc., and end
up with an enormous amount of inbound link equity.
One of the unfortunate facts of life for large sites with many bosses is
sometimes content decisions are made that have a negative impact but nobody
knows it. Content gets neglected, even forgotten. The classic example is the
page or section that gets killed off without replacement, when no 301
redirect is used.
Without a redirect, the server ends up reporting a 404 page not found
error to the user, which is duly logged. But the frustrated visitor is the
only human likely to notice the problem, unless the company has assigned
someone internally to monitor for such requests. Worse, monitoring can be
difficult when a site is serving millions of pages a week and has server
logs so large they are purged on a weekly basis. Sound familiar?
I understand part of this problem is inevitable and the cost of doing
business. But I try to educate that sometimes the answer is not to just go
after more links but rather to develop a sensible link reclamation strategy,
something I first
spoke about back in 2005 at an SES conference. Not everyone needs
educating, however. More and more, as the lost link equity problem has grown
for large sites, I get specific request for this type of help.
One of the more useful things you can do to chart a course towards link
reclamation is start first with those links that produce 404 errors on your
Google Webmaster Central and Microsoft Webmaster Center offer tools that can
help). Even a 404 page request can have a referring URL. Sort the errors so
that those happening the most are listed first. Then track down referring
URLs to these pages. You might be pleasantly surprised to find, like I
recently did, that those links might be located at extremely trustworthy and
That’s some extremely useful data to have from a link reclamation
standpoint. It will also make it easier for you to justify and argue for the
page to be recreated or at the least redirected to other pages.
By killing a page with trusted link equity, you killed a bit of potential
and real rank along the way. Over time, and staff changes, and content
changes, that can really add up. Like holes in your driveway. Or 404s.
Eric Ward has been in the link building and content publicity game
since 1994, providing services ranking from
linking strategy to
a monthly private newsletters on linking for subscribers. The
column appears on Tuesdays at Search
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