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The link: feature does not seem able to return any meaningful information. We still get PR 4 pages with backlinks (and this tally is occasionally adjusted) but we now also get pages without PageRank 4 and backlinks on. We also get pages with no link to the site in question and often it seems highly unlikely that there was ever a link to our study site.
That Google has dropped (some of) the PageRank qualifier is an assumption - but a fairly strong one. The PageRank 4 value was imposed by Google back when PageRank 4 probably held a different value in their algorithms. As Yahoo does not filter backlinks in this way many people have noticed that Yahoo’s the better search engine to go to for backlink investigations and so we might assume Google move to counter this.
Previously redirecting links (such as affiliate links) have not counted as a backlink. These days it is possible to find sites with only affiliate link-throughs to the study site via the link: command.
The site: feature does not always return pages from the specified domain. When this occurs and other domains are included in the restricted search the other domain pages all redirect to the main site. The redirect will be either a zero second meta refresh (a technique/occurrence now known as PageJacking) or a 301 redirect.
Some users report quirk two as a cache issue. If they repeat the site search often enough then, eventually, Google’s results update and report on only one domain. This is not the case in all the searches where this quirk occurs. Some of the redirecting domains which can be included in this quirk are old and have not seen the light of day in a normal Google search in months.
It seems quite possible that Quirk One and Quirk Two are related. Quirk Two shows that Google’s understanding/definition of what a page’s URL might be (ie, what domain it is on) is not as expected and therefore it’s not surprising we get mysterious backlink results.
‘“the” is a very common word and was not included in your search’
A google for [r the b] returns 46,200,000 results, the word “the” is included in the blue Web bar and the Google desktop search highlights the “the”.
A google for [r b] returns 15,900, 000 results (ie, fewer) and different SERPS compared to [r the b]
Similar SERP differences can be had by including or omitting the search term “and” for [r and b] or [r & b].
It seems likely that the [r the b] search is being translated as [r %wildcard% b] as this could explain why there are three times as many results. The same could be true of [r and b].
The Google desktop does not omit ‘stop words’. You can search happily for the word ‘the’. [Note; there’s no lie here, Google doesn’t say the Desktop Search omits common words.]
The Google toolbar’s assessment of a page’s PageRank can vary by as much as two units on the Google directory’s assessment of a page’s PageRank.
This is not a new quirk (none of these are especially new) but does illustrate yet another example of disharmony within the collection of Google technologies.