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I know that Google is not a good site for checking backlinks, but I am curious to know is that when we do a link:www.domain.com in Google, the links that Google show, are they ordered by like what Google considers to be more authorative or is just in a random order? Also, before (when google backlinks used to be a good tool), they only listed sites greater than or equal to PR4 links and now they even list PR0 links.
Can someone please shed some light on this. I would greatly appreciate your inputs.
I'm told that when Google first introduced the link: operator, it actually displayed every link in its database. That was before I started working on SEO. Then sometime around 2001-2002 in the era of the classic Google Dance when they updated everything on a monthly basis from rankings and the links database to the Toolbar PageRank database, they altered the link: operator to only display higher-quality links. Originally, those links had to be on a page with a PageRank score of 4 or higher (although that later seemed to change to a strong 3, and may have been readjusted again more recently to a middle 3). Then about 3-4 years ago, someone in this forum pointed out to GoogleGuy that the information from the link: operator was ripe for competitors to use to poach links. Soon thereafter, the link: operator changed so that while it still reported the *number* of high quality links, the pages shown in the results were not likely to be the sources of those high quality links. I would expect that for sheer simplicity, the pages are taken off the top of their links database for each page. In the interim, Google changed from updating the Toolbar PageRank database and the links database to roughly once every three months. The effect of these changes has been that for a couple of years now, many people have been claiming the link: operator is broken since the number is usually well below what people expect for one reason or another.
The best advice is probably to rely on the Google Webmaster Tools for your own site, because it displays a much more comprehensive list of the links that Google knows about. Just keep in mind that neither of these tools will be up to date and many links shown may not actually be helping your site for various reaons.
Also, even in Webmaster Tools where the link reporting is more substantial, it still is not complete. In other words, it's still a sampling.
You can pretty much assume that if MSN or Yahoo know about a backlink, then so does Google. The reporting choices may differ across the major search engines, and there can be a few edge cases that fall through the cracks at one or another engine.
[edited by: tedster at 5:39 pm (utc) on April 5, 2008]