What You Need To Know About Google’s Link: Operator

Filed in Google, SEO by Matt McGee on March 24, 2009 8 Comments

The Google Webmaster Central team is doing a bang-up job of posting videos to their YouTube channel on a daily basis. Some are really, really helpful to webmasters and small business owners … others not as much.

One of the really, really helpful ones was just posted, and involves Matt Cutts answering a couple questions about the [link:] search operator. That’s the operator you use to check the backlinks of any domain.

Here are the primary takeaways from the video:

  • Historically, Google has only shown a small percentage of the backlinks it knows about because they didn’t have the servers to show the full set.
  • They have increased the amount of backlinks shown over time, but it’s still just a sample — a “relatively small percentage.”
  • The [link:] operator only shows a random sample of links; it used to show only the highest-quality backlinks, but now it’s completely random.
  • Google will show both high-quality and low-quality links via the public [link:] operator. It may include both followed and no-followed links. It may include links that do and don’t pass PageRank.
  • They don’t show all the links because it might encourage someone to try to reverse engineer Google’s rankings, and/or allow them to spy on a competitor’s full set of backlinks.
  • You can see “practically all” and a “vast majority” of the backlinks Google knows about your own site by registering with Google Webmaster Central.

I’ll put the full video below.

Comments (8)

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  1. Commande / opérateur link de Google : intervention vidéo de Matt Cutts | March 26, 2009
  1. Ryan Rose says:

    Good recap Matt. I’ve always found it very frustrating the Google won’t show more links but can understand that they don’t want to tip their hand so that someone could reverse engineer their algo. I know you already know this, but there are only a couple of good resources out there to analyze backlinks. Yahoo Site Explorer and SEOMoz’s Linkscape tool.

    Viewing the links I have to my site through Google’s Webmaster tools does raise a question. I recall reading somewhere that Google stated they don’t follow links that have been nofollowed. It would appear that’s no longer the case.

    Any thoughts about that?

  2. Bryan Phelps says:

    Google is out of server space?

  3. Ryan Rose says:

    @Bryan Phelps. I thought the same thing… not very probable.

    • Matt McGee says:

      Did you guys miss the word “historically” in there? :-) Did you not watch Matt’s video? He’s saying that was the original reason they didn’t show all the backlinks. Way back when. When you two were just kids, probably. ;-)

  4. Robin says:

    I seem to learn something new everyday.

  5. Ryan Rose says:

    @Robin: So what did you learn? Maybe it’s something I missed and I need to learn too. :)

  6. David says:

    Interesting to note Yahoo does not share the same concerns because the Yahoo link: operator takes the user to Yahoo Site Explorer where all the pages and backlinks of the specified site can be examined!

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