by Eric Ward
Updated October  2011 – original was at SEL in 2003

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 four months into a link building project for a engineering firm’s web site that is totally linkworthy.  A top ten site content wise with great new content added regularly.  I’ve done the competitive research, I’ve found the logical target sites, 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 engineering resource guides, engineering industry directories, vertical industry associations.  Yet so far, I’ve had 120 positive responses to my 200 link requests.   You might think a 60% positive response rate is good for a link building campaign, but I expect closer to 90%, because the process I use shows that if you are working on behalf of new content in a certain type of vertical where there are perfect match curated web guides and directories and link lists, why wouldn’t you get close to 100%?

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.  I’m so obsessed with it I had my own scripts written to do it.  Yes, I know, it’s sad.  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 live
 --------------------------------------------------------------------              20,900                    11,553                      2,776           960           529                           5

I don’t even remember Yahoo being at , but apparently it was, long enough to attract a couple hundred more links on it’s way to , where nearly a thousand syill 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 (  now has more links than those (foolishly) abandoned Yahoo URLs do. How can have twice the backlinks as ?  Because Newhoo begat ODP, aka DMOZ, and even though today many of us feel DMOZ is temporarily dormant,  the decision to maintain and then 301 over to was 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 31,000 links pointing at nothing, I’m less depressed about that engineering project I’m working on.

Link wisely,


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