Since I did a little Google bashing yesterday when asking is personalized search dangerous?, I thought I’d throw a little love Google’s way tonight. On Monday Webmaster Central added a link tab to their reporting, which shows the data we’ve all been wanting the link: command to show for years. Even more it’s showing links in a more useful way than the link: command ever did.
For awhile now the link: command has been pretty useless, returning only a very limited sample of the backlinks Google knows about for a given site. It’s been this way on purpose since Google would prefer that we not use the data to reverse engineer anything in their algorithm. Now we can…well sort of since you can only get reporting for your site and not your competitors.
Ready to see your links? First you need an account with Webmaster Central so if you don’t already have one now is as good a time as any to sign up.
There are already some good posts out there talking about the system. Among my favorites are:
- Google Releases New Link Reporting Tools – Danny Sullivan’s detailed post about the new link data. If you don’t understand what you’re getting from Google after reading this you weren’t paying attention.
- LinkMoses On The New Google Link Analysis Tools – Eric Ward has some good suggestions for what he’d like to see added to the new link reporting tool. I’d like to see them added too.
- Google Offers More Link Data – It didn’t take Aaron long to come up with some tips for how to use the data.
There’s nothing shocking with the link data. It’s essentially what we’re getting from Yahoo Site Explorer, but I think Google is presenting the information better at the moment. The numbers seem to compare well between the two engines and I guess it’s now Yahoo’s turn to improve their tool.
Being able to filter the data in a variety of ways would make it very useful. For example I already know I have several thousand links from forum posts pointing to my home page. I don’t need to see them all or click past them one page at a time to see what other links are pointing to the home page. By the way Webmaster Central team some better pagination would be nice. We need more than just ‘next’ like maybe links to each page we can get to. Also why is there a ‘first’ link, but no ‘last’ link?
Filtering over date ranges would be great as would Eric’s suggestion to get some kind of anchor text information. I’ll happily take filtering the data for any other parameter I can get as well. Maybe being able to filter over a combination of parameters. I also agree with Danny when he says he’d prefer to see a ‘first found’ date as opposed to the ‘last found’ date. Both dates would work too.
Am I being greedy yet? Isn’t it enough to finally have this information about links from Google after all this time? Nope I want more and I’m pretty sure so does everyone else. Please Google take this a few steps further, please.
One thing I haven’t seen anyone mention is that the link data can double for the site: command since all the pages you’ll see listed are the ones Google has indexed for you. They are showing the backlinks for every page they know about after all. Of course if you already use Sitemaps through Webmaster Central you’re likely getting more than this simple list.
The reporting on internal linking is nice and can give you a quick picture of how well or poorly you’ve structured your internal linking.
It’s important to keep in mind that just because you see a link listed it’s no indication that link carries much or even any weight. But I think there’s still going to be a lot of information you can get from the data, especially if you can gain it to several client sites. You won’t be able to do competitive analysis since you’re only seeing data about your own sites, but you should be able to find ways to analyze your own links and learn a few things.
So how about a little love for Google after I bashed them somewhat last night. We’ve been wanting them to give us this data for a long time and now they have. There’s a lot to like as it is and maybe even more to like if some of the suggestions I’ve seen get implemented. And one more request guys. Maybe you can still fix the link: command so we can see some of this info for sites that aren’t ours.