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I have bought a domain with a lot of backlinks from fairly high authority sites. Almost all of those 404 now, since the content no longer exists. In most cases I have to infer from the link what the content was, for instance a picture of the grand canyon.

Could I create pages for those backlinks, for instance showing a picture of grand canyon with a notice that this might not be the image the visitor is looking for since the site now serves a different purpose. Would a 301 redirect to the home page be better?

Or is this approach harmful to my site's SEO somehow?

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Could I create pages for those backlinks, for instance showing a picture of grand canyon with a notice that this might not be the image the visitor is looking for since the site now serves a different purpose.

Yes, this is a good approach to recapture the backlink power.

I would probably just add something like "last updated xxx" and not go into too much detail about the purpose of the site changing.

Also, make sure the check out the Wayback Machine (https://archive.org/). There is a good chance you can see the original content.

Would a 301 redirect to the home page be better?

No, a redirect to the homepage is not better. It would be less work for you, and it can work as well. But it is less likely to work than recreating the original content. Maybe you tackle the top 10 URLs manually and redirect the rest?

Or is this approach harmful to my site's SEO somehow?

No, this is not harmful. Worst case, it has zero effect because Google might have decided not to rely on those links anymore. For example, if the domain was offline for ten years and changed owners five times.

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