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Google has your love link

Valentine’s Day is approaching fast, and Google has already given site publishers the equivalent of a basket full of Godiva chocolates with a Webmaster Central update featuring a much larger sample of backlinks than has been available.

It’s a good day to be a webmaster. The oft-used link: operator, long a resource of webmasters everywhere, has never been an accurate count of backlinks coming to a website. Google doesn’t trust people with the full details because they might do Bad Things with that knowledge.

They have opened the floodgates, at least partially, to the backlink information everyone suspected Google has. On the Webmaster Central blog, the team behind the changes noted how they have extended support for link queries:

Unlike the link: operator, this data is much more comprehensive and can be classified, filtered, and downloaded. All you need to do is verify site ownership to see this information.

To make this data even more useful, we have divided the world of links into two types: external and internal.

External links come from outside the domain, while internal ones start on pages the domain owner controls. The difference in the numbers between a link: query at Google search and one made in Webmaster Central is pretty dramatic. Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan posted about the difference he has seen:

For example, consider this query:

That’s showing about 3,000 links to the Search Engine Land web site (note, for some people, you might see no results, due to an apparent glitch). In contrast, the new system within Google Webmaster Central reports to me that I have 57,000 links pointing my way.

Danny als noted that links to pages in Google’s supplemental index won’t show up in the new counts.

Once in Webmaster Central, one can see links to a page on a website. A table shows the pages and a count of links to it; they caution that the count of external links may not be 100 percent of the links Google knows about in its index.

The webmaster can find a specific page in the summary view and click on that to see how many links come to that. For internal links, the webmaster can filter the data for links from any subdomains or just the specific subdomain being viewed.

Matt Cutts made an important point about the updated link information. He cautioned webmasters on it in his blog:

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.

Matt also said that limited link: results from queries on Google have been that way partially for historical reasons.

This update has historical significance for webmasters now. By assessing the data, webmasters should have a more complete view of how their websites are viewed by places around the Internet. That should be invaluable in determining marketing strategies and their effectiveness.

About the Author:
David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.