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I did a check on the regular section, www.altavista.com, and only had 288 sites/pages point to one of my sites.
Then I did a check in listings.altavista.com and 78,000 sites/pages were listed in the results. This is the number I expected and after drilling through some of the results I found it to be true.
search parameter: link:domainname
I imagine that Altavista keeps a small database for their www.altavista.com results to save time and space while offering a larger one for more in depth searches.
If you do use the same keyword search phrase you should get different results.
It looks like listings.altavista.com's(and all the others) index is more SEO friendly than the main site. You'll get some really good hits if you list well in this database.