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February 6, 2007

Check out those links

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If you’re a customer trying to contact a site owner about a problem or concern you’re having using their Web site, today is not the day. Try again tomorrow. Today, site owners are too busy playing with their links.

Google won the hearts of many yesterday announcing a new feature in Google Webmaster Central that gives verified site owners a more complete look at the links coming into their site. We won’t mince words: It blows Google’s link: operator out of the water.

Historically, Google has been careful not to reveal too much linkage information to users in fear spammers and ill-intentioned SEOs would use it for Evil Purposes. However, because we’re all far more grown up and mature than we were last week, Google has more faith in us. Well, that and in order to use the tool you must be a registered user of Google Webmaster Central. (I’m thinking Google’s decision was more heavily influenced by the latter.) Hopefully making users verify their sites will cut down on some of the nefarious uses for the tool. Once logged in, webmasters can choose their site, click on the Links Tabs, and select what data they’re interested in. Link data is divided by internal and external links, both to your home page and to specific pages on your site. Site owners can search the list or export it as an Excel file.

Once they have the information, webmasters can see filter the results to see links for specific pages, subdomains, the entire site, etc.

The new data is far more comprehensive than Google’s old link: operator, but you’re still not seeing everything. Google does limit the amount of data available for each type of link, but even so, the increase in data is substantial. As an example, Danny Sullivan notes that with the old tool, Google reports ~3,000 links into searchengineland.com, whereas the new tool reports 57,000. That’s quite a leap!

Matt Cutts, taking his killjoy cue from Susan, was quick to jump in with this disclaimer:

"Do not assume just because you see a backlink that it’s carrying weight. I’m going to say that again: Do not assume just because you see a backlink that it’s carrying weight. Sometime in the next year, someone will say "But I saw an insert-link-fad-here backlink show up in Google’s backlink tool, so it must count. Right?" And then I’ll point them back here, where I say do not assume just because you see a backlink that it’s carrying weight."

Got it, Matt. We still can’t see everything and not every link we can see carries weight. This would be a great topic for your next SEO video, don’t you think? Give us something; we’re in Matt-withdrawal.

Minor limitations aside, Google news link reporting tool stands head and shoulders above the frustrating link: command we were previously stuck with. That operator has never been a reliable source for detecting links and we finally have something to replace it with. And by giving us what we want, Google once again indebts itself to the people who rely on them the most – webmasters.

Danny Sullivan has an extensive overview of the new link reporting tool at Search Engine Land, complete with screenshots.

And also of note, Phil Lenssen discovered a bug that allows users scope out the backlinks of unverified sites. Remember that Evil Purposes we were talking about before? Yeah.

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3 responses to “Check out those links”

  1. Matt Cutts writes:

    I figured better to write that one paragraph now than to answer the same question dozens of times in the future. :)

    Oh, and if you want some extra Matt video:
    http://dl.tv/2007/02/episode_137_google_search_tips.php
    I haven’t mentioned this on my blog yet. It’s just search tips though..

  2. Susan Esparza writes:

    Yay, more Matt Tips.
    I, for one, appreciated the paragraph. Lisa just likes irrational exuberance better.

  3. Lisa writes:

    Susan – Why are you so insistent on turning me into an angry, jaded cynic? I don’t want to be like you. Stop trying to kiss up to Matt. He likes me better. He told me during our daily phone call yesterday.

    More Matt videos. Huzzah!



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