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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Google Releases New Link Reporting Tools

For years, Google’s
link: command
(and see
here
) has deliberately failed to show all the links to a website. This came
out of Google’s fear that site owners simply wanted the data to try and
manipulate rankings — which was pretty true.

Instead, they only provided a

sampling of backlinks
. Today, that changes.
Google Webmaster Central is
rolling out new support allowing you to view and even download thousands of
links to your site (official news

here
and

here
).

You still won’t get absolutely all the links Google knows about. In
particular, links to any of your pages contained in Google’s

supplemental index
won’t be shown. But despite this, the amount of links
reported will likely be massive compared to the “regular” link lookup command.
For example, consider this query:


link:searchengineland.com

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. From 3,000 to 57,000 links — what a different the new system makes!

Why make the shift?

“Webmasters have been wanting more comprehensive link data from us for a long
time,” said Vanessa Fox, product manager for Google Webmaster Central. “We
created Webmaster Central to communicate better with webmasters and we take
their feedback very seriously. We have been looking at ways to provide this data
and are ecstatic to make it available.”

Fox added that Google is also more comfortable releasing the data because it
is going only to specific site owners, rather than to the world at large. In
other words, site owners establish a relationship with Google when they verify
through the Google Webmaster Central system. That lets Google show them more
information individually but keeps information about all sites hidden from those
who might try to misuse the data in some way.

What links can you get and how do you obtain them?
The post about the change on the
Official Google Webmaster
Central Blog
is pretty comprehensive (a brief mention on the official Google
Blog also

here
), but I’ll go through what it covers and
dive in deeper to the system as well.

The New Links Tab

To access the data, you have to be verified Google Webmaster Central user.
That’s explained more

here
, and it’s easy to do.

Once verified, select the site you want to view from the My Sites screen.
Then when that site loads, you’ll see a new “Links” tab when you log in.

(Note: if you don’t see the tab yet, keep checking. Everyone should be
getting it sometime today).

That tab allows you to see either External or Internal links through January
15 of this month. Google expects to update the data going forward on a monthly
basis.

External links
are what most people are concerned about — who is linking to your site?

Note that some people operate subdomains. Links from those domains aren’t
considered “external.” For example, a site at “mysite.com” might have all these
subdomains:

  • www.mysite.com
  • products.mysite.com
  • shoes.mysite.com
  • groceries.mysite.com

Because they all use the same root domain, as I’ve bolded, any links
from a subdomain to the main domain will not be considered external. Also,
any links to a subdomain (such as shoes.mysite.com) will be
counted as part of those reported for mysite.com.

What if you want to see links for just a particular subdomain? No problem —
you should be able to verify each subdomain and then run a specific report on
it.

By the way, Blogspot and WordPress users — if you don’t have your own
domain, then any links to your site from another site within those domains won’t
be counted as external links. This is true for anyone using the domain owned by someone else. Just
another reason to be master of your own domain in both of those places, which is
easily done, as our 25
Tips To Optimize Your Blog For Readers & Search Engines
from last month
covered.

The External Links To Pages Screen

By default, each page of your site is listed by directory, then
alphabetically, with a link count next to it.

Here’s an example of how page listing works:

  • mysite.com/
  • mysite.com/1page.html
  • mysite.com/2page.html
  • mysite.com/Apage.html
  • mysite.com/Bpage.thml
  • mysite.com/subarea/1page.html
  • mysite.com/subarea/2page.html

Unfortunately, I think it would be better if pages were sorted by those
getting the most links to them, so that you could easily see the most linked to
pages within your site. This might come in the future, the Google Webmaster
Central team says. In the
meantime, there are ways to do this yourself by downloading the data, as I’ll
cover in a bit.

To see links for any page, click on the link count number for that page. That will let you
drill-down to see just links pointing at that specific page.

Want to warp speed to a particular page without having to scroll to it
through the page list? Use the “Find a page” link at the top of the list. That
will open up to give you an entry box.

From there, just enter the remaining part of your page address. That will
shoot you right to data on that particular page.

Listing Links For A Page

However you get to a particular page, drilling down will show you all the
links pointing to it.

I’d actually like to
see the “first found” date be shown rather than the “last found” date, which I’ll revisit in a moment. But first, an
important difference between how the Yahoo Site Explorer tool gives you links
versus the new Google tool.

Want to see all the links for an entire site, rather than links to just a
specific page? At Yahoo, you set “Show Inlinks” to the “Entire Site”
setting to generate a report showing all the actual links to that site (more about this in Yahoo’s
help area

here
). You can then view up to a maximum of 1,000 links online.

Google gives you an overall site link count but does NOT let you see all the
links, as you can with Yahoo. You can only see links to particular pages.

Downloading Links

What if you do want to see all the links from an entire web site? Easy —
download them. Look at the bottom of the table. Note the two options:

  • Download this table
  • Download all external links

Downloading will let you get far more than the 1,000 links limit that Yahoo
lets you view online or download. However, be aware that for some sites, Google will export more than the 65,536 rows of
information that spreadsheets like Excel can handle. In those cases, you’ll
either have to have another way to massage the data or you’ll need to download
data for specific pages, which will reduce the amount.


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