Free links to your site


Free links to your site: I admit that the title of this post is a little sensational but that is how Matt Cutts puts it. In the post linked above, he talks about the newly introduced feature of Google Webmaster Portal that allows users to find the pages that link to 404 pages on your site. In his words (emphasis his) “Some of the easiest links you’ll ever get are when people tried to link to you and just messed up.”

What was most useful for me in that post was a link to another post on the Google Webmaster Portal that helps you create better 404 pages using an experimental widget. Now I am sure there are ways to incorporate a Custom Search within the 404 without using the widget but I stuck with it because the output looked useful. Quick Online Tips had a post on the Google Custom 404 widget a couple of months ago that also talks about this widget.

This link to a fictitious “hotmail” page is an example of the output that our 404.php (in the theme folder) at generates. We still need to fix the footer and the sidebars but it works for now.




  1. bubazoo (213 comments.) says:

    yeah I see those before, nice.

  2. celsius (1 comments.) says:

    ah. i feel stupid not looking our for this before! cheers!

  3. Steveify (1 comments.) says:

    I wonder how well a link previously pointing to a non-existent page will rank after it points to a 404 page? Probably not very well, I’d imagine.

    To really benefit from broken inbound links you will need to get the linker to link to the intended page. A link to a 404 page can’t be worth much, can it?

  4. Malcolm Bastien (7 comments.) says:

    I actually just came across this today while doing SEO work for a client. 100+ “free incoming links” is certainly a good description for what the tool provides. It’s a useful thing that lets you export the list of 404’s right to an excel sheet as well. Of course it measures 404’s coming from external, and internal links.

  5. Øyvind (1 comments.) says:

    Nice tip, is it going to take long after I added my site before I can check out the links?

  6. Cigar Inspector (6 comments.) says:

    Nice feature. Found out that one of my articles had a broken permalink…

  7. Chris Peters (1 comments.) says:

    Don’t forget that doing a 301 redirect from the offending URL to a more suitable one is another strategy to get that link juice back. The best solution would be to contact the webmaster of the other site and get them to correct it though.

  8. demetris (9 comments.) says:

    Mark Ghosh wrote:

    “Free links to your site: I admit that the title of this post is a little sensational but that is how Matt Cutts puts it.”

    That’s true, the title is sensational, but what found interesting was the permalink:

    free *direct* *text* links


  9. John Doe (1 comments.) says:

    You’re misleading title sucks. Try to be creative for a change.

  10. Kevin (2 comments.) says:

    I did not know about this add-on, thank you. Its a great way to use those 404 error pages. A couple of months ago I switched from Mambo to MKportal. Well, I was not happy with MKPortal so I switched to WordPress. I already have 3 sites running wordpress, so that one just got added to the mix. The bad thing, now I have a lot of 404 error pages registered with google.

  11. Site Designer (1 comments.) says:

    Chris is right. These links need to be 301 redirected. I have used Webmaster Tools on a number of sites and it’s amazing to see how many broken links exist on sites that have been renovated by sloppy designers without regard to this external profile.

    I build a component using ASP.Net that I use on all my sites that alerts me via e-mail when a 404 page is thrown up on one of my sites. When Google or any other crawler discovers and follows a link from another site and a 404 is thrown on my site, I get the URL in question and can add that to a 301 redirect reference table. It will not, however, give me the referring URL unless a human visitor trips it.


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