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According to Google, "The query [link:] will list webpages that have links to the specified webpage. For instance, [link:www.google.com] will list webpages that have links pointing to the Google homepage."
Can anyone explain to me why the link: operator so often returns links from the domain being searched?
With backlinks being considered so vital to good Google SERP's, are such "backlinks" of any value or should they be ignored?
[edited by: tedster at 3:59 pm (utc) on Feb. 28, 2008]
1. I only see a small percentage of the links I know exist -- is that right?
Let's clear up the one big overriding factor from the start. In contrast to Yahoo, Google does NOT report on "all" links that they have in their index. Note the wording that mt_biker quoted above: "webpages that have links". That's it, and nothing more.
They're not going to report on everything, because with that data their algo is too exposed to reverse engineering. (That's some of the speculation I mentioned earlier.) A few years ago the [link:] operator did report only links of PR 4 or above, but that has changed. Now some of the most important high PR links will probably not be shown in the results.
So what you have in the Google [link:] operator is almost "for entertainment puposes only". The results are of little value for an in depth analysis -- but they do show you something.
2. Why does the link: operator so often return links from the domain being searched?
Because they fulfill the description. Pages on a domain often do link to other pages on a domain. But every page on a domain does not link to every other page on that domain -- so this isn't completely frivolous information.
3. With backlinks being considered so vital to good Google SERP's, are such "backlinks" of any value or should they be ignored?
Page Rank is defined by pages (read that as urls) and domains do not enter into it. So links within a domain do vote PR to other pages. Still, given the limitations mentioned above, you won't see them all, so if you do see one that is interesting or valuable in your analysis -- good for you. It won't happen every time.
4. Sometimes the [link:] operator returns absolutely no links, when I know for sure there are thousands. What's up with that?
Just an observation here, but this seems to happen around the time when new link and PR data is being exported from the secret back end of Google into the publicly available information. To date, some results have always come back to visibility, so I can only assume it's an artifact (occcasional bug) of the data push process.
[edited by: tedster at 4:35 pm (utc) on April 29, 2007]
A month or two ago the google Help page on this changed. It now says:
To find a sampling of pages that link to a URL (for example, www.stanford.edu), go to the Google Advanced Search page at [google.com...] and enter the URL in question into the "Links" search box. Alternatively, you can perform a link search directly from the Google search box by typing [ link:Stanford.edu ] or [ link:www.Stanford.edu ]. There should be no space between "link:" and the URL.
To obtain a comprehensive list of sites that point to a page, perform a Google search on the URL. From the search results page, select the "Find web pages that contain the term" link, and Google will provide you with webpages that mention that address. Note that in this case, Google will return all pages that mention this URL, not just those that link to it.
If you haven't yet installed the Google Toolbar, you may want to do so. With the Toolbar, you can find sites that link to a page, search pages from a particular site, get a site's PageRank, and more. To download the Google Toolbar, please visit [toolbar.google.com<...]
So Google is saying the link operator provides a "sampling" of links. It also states to search for the URL to find other links.
Moderator note: in March 2007, Google began to show a more
extensive list of backlinks to site owners who were logged
into their Webmaster Tools account.
[edited by: tedster at 3:59 pm (utc) on May 11, 2007]