One of the things you often need to do as a SEO is look at the backlink profile of websites. This can be useful to see how your competitors have acquired backlinks – which, as we all know, quality backlinks are important for your website to rank well. Yahoo search explorer’s linkdomain command has been a way to do this in the past, but it has grown unreliable and misleading. Alternatives are available, for example SEOMoz provides opensiteexplorer.org and there is also Majestic SEO, but you need a paid account to get the full benefits.
So I was excited to hear Matt Cutts mention on a recent video, that although Google had historically limited the number of backlinks the link: returned due to storage issues that now it was possible to get the full set of backlinks.
We know that the adwords keyword tool shows more keywords if you are logged in (if you are not logged in it just shows 100 keywords), so I thought we had a similar situation for the link: command. After a few tests in two browsers (one logged into a google account and one not), it turns out I misunderstood. You can get a comprehensive list of backlinks from Google Webmasters Tools (navigate to “links to your sites” under “Your site on the web”) for sites that you own, but the link: command still returns a limited set. So the alternatives I mention above are still your best bet for sites you don’t have GWMT access for.
I doubt storage issues are a problem for Google today, my bet is that they are continuing to limit the command to make it harder to “game” the system.
Below is the video, where he comments on backlink tools starts at 0:55
Kathy Alice Brown is a SEO expert specializing in Technical SEO and Content. In her spare time she loves to get outside.