As many of you probably know, Google has never revealed too much information about the backlinks that it tracks for a given website. It does have a search operator for that, link:, but if you try to search for link:yoursite.com you will probably see less than 1% of your total backlinks.
Here is a screenshot when I run that operator for Daily Blog Tips:
Truth be told, that operator is supposed to only list the backlinks to your front page (as opposed to the whole domain), but even considering that the results are a gross underrepresentation.
The most common explanation for this was the fact that Google wanted to protect its backlink data, in order to make it difficult for SEOs who could try to reverse engineer the backlinks part of Google’s search algorithm. Maybe that is the reason, maybe not.
Regardless, I noticed two interesting things lately.
The first one is that you can get many more backlinks listed if you are the -site:yoursite.com parameter to your link: query. So for DailyBlogTips I would search “link:dailyblogtips.com -site:dailyblogtips.com”. Here is a screenshot with the result:
As you can see, with that second parameter the reported number of backlinks for the blog grows from 1,950 to 214,000. An improvement, but still not the total number. Yahoo! Site Explorer reports around 1,590,000 backlinks for this blog.
Curiously enough, a couple of weeks ago I was playing around with the search operators in Google and suddenly it reported back to me 1,540,000 backlinks, as you can see from the screenshot below:
I tested it immediately with other websites, and they were all reporting a bunch of backlinks, sometimes even more than what Yahoo! Site Explorer itself.
I figured that Google was implementing some changes and finally revealing all the backlinks for any website, but after 5 minutes the search queries returned to their normal values.
My guess is that for those five minutes Google’s datacenters were somehow not filtering the backlink queries. It might happen again in the future, so keep an eye on it.
Also, if you have any insights on this whole issue, please share them on a comment below.