Thursday, 14 August 2008

Google's link: operator not an accurate backlink checker

Don't use Google's link: operator to get your backlink count. Use Yahoo Site Explorer or Google Webmaster Tools.

This may be due to my own SEO naivety but up until recently I trusted the link: operator from the standard Google search to be providing me with a list of mine (or my competitors') backlinks. However I read the following on SEOmoz today:
"...Google made their link query useless in 2003 and MSN disabled theirs earlier this year."
I recoiled in shock that nobody ever told me this and set out to find out the truth.

The official word on this from Google's Matt Cutts reinforces the pointlessness of the Google link: operator:
"The link: command has always returned a small fraction of the backlinks that Google knows about, mainly for historical reasons (e.g. limited disk space on the machines that served up “link:” data)."
So how do I accurately measure backlinks?

  • Yahoo Site Explorer - Any SEO expert worth their salt points straight to Yahoo Site Explorer as the king of backlinks because unlike Google Webmaster Tools you can check competitor backlinks.
    Other services include export result to TSV, exclude on include internal links, search specific URLs.
    It doesn't prioritise link weighting and it also includes links designated 'nofollow'.
  • Google Webmaster Tools - A really tidy backlink checker that lists backlinks per page that you can look at and download. Your site has to be validated on Google Webmaster Tools to access this so you can't check competitor sites.
    Like Yahoo it doesn't prioritise link weighting and it also includes links designated 'nofollow'.
For my blog URL the results of each tool can be seen below:

Backlink checkerNumber of links
Yahoo Site Explorer20
Google Webmaster Tools25
Google Link: operator1

As you can see there was still variation between Google and Yahoo. A quick look showed that Google had picked up a few more links from Technorati than Yahoo did. Despite this, either tool will provide an accurate measure of trends – whether you are getting more or less backlinks each month and how quickly they are accumulating.

There are other backlink checkers out there but I’m just mentioning these two as these seem to be the most accurate from all the sites I’ve visited. If you know of others, please let me know.

Also an honourable mention to this extensive analysis of external links I found on my travels.

1 comment:

Everybody Geek said...

Exactly what I noticed on my blog too. Almost no backlinks using the link operator.
So I use the webmaster tools now.
Great post.