Have you ever received one of those emails that says,
“As you may know Google puts a great deal of store in incoming links. We have noticed that your site has very few incoming links according to Google. You can try this for yourself by typing ‘link:www.yourwebite.co.uk’ into Google. This will show you how many incoming links Google can see for your website. As you can see you only have 23!”
The email usually goes on to say what a wonderful job they could do for you and how 23 links is a pretty rubbish effort.
As you probably know Google has always treated the ‘link:’ command in a very lacklustre way. This is the direct opposite to the way it treats literally any other search term. I have always been quite puzzled by this and thought that Google may as well just pull the facility rather than leave something out there that was, at best, poor and at worst damaging.
So based upon my last post ‘Google Search Operators‘ I thought I would have a small play with the ‘link:’ command mixed in with some other operators. The theory is that any insight you can get into how Google views links must be worth something.
To start with this is what usually happens with the ‘link:’ command in Google. Listed below are the results for this site and some others.
Search Kingdom ‘link:’ results in Google
Search Engine Land ‘link:’ results in Google
Matt Cutts ‘link:’ results in Google
Apart from the fact that both Danny’s and Matt’s sites have infinitely more links than me (boo hoo), you can see the way that Google treats sites with more importance (and links) with the ‘link:’ command.
The results you get usually mimic the ratio of internal links/pages and external links. Both Danny’s and Matt’s sites have thousands of incoming links from a wide variety of websites. So the results the ‘link:’ command returns for their sites are varied and depicts the ratio of incoming and internal links on the sites in question. Try this for yourself on your own site or any sites you may be working on. Are there many results? Can you see more internal links than external links? Are the internal links/pages at the top of the results? Do you see a site wide external link coming up first? If so how many pages are shown and what pages are they? Do they look pretty random?
Answering some or all of the above may be a small insight into the way that Google looks at link weight and importance of your site or in general.
Now, after mixing the ‘link:’ command with other operators and having a little bit of a play with this it seems in most cases the results go crazy! If you are going to play with this yourself pick websites that have small to medium amounts of links and in contrast also ones that have lots of incoming links. The craziness for a site with a smaller to medium number of links is really interesting and seems to go really off the wall. For instance the ‘link:’ command really breaks down if you use this site (www.searchkingdom.co.uk) as an example and then add the ‘-site:www.searchkingdom.co.uk’ operator to the search command. For example:
Weird incoming ‘link:’ search results for www.searchkingdom.co.uk
The results really expand from the paltry ‘3’ for the ‘link:’ command without any operators. As you can see the thread works for some of the time through the results, but Google also decides to mix in some results for the term ‘search kingdom’ and include pages that do not link to this website and seem to be about Kingdom Hearts. There are lots of references on the web to ‘search Kingdom Hearts’ and for some reason Google decided to mix these results in with my ‘link:’ command. Does this mean that the operator has ‘broken’ the results here or just made them more interesting?
Try this on your own site and also test this out with some more operators. Also, have a look at the ‘related:’ command. Both of these commands mixed with other operators spit out some really interesting results that are worth examining.
Overall, there is a definite possibility that the ‘link:’ command in Google is just a broken and forgotten about thing that no one pays much attention towards. This is certainly the reputation the command has built up. However, it is worth having a closer look at the craziness that some of these results throw up and seeing if these can give us even a small insight into how Google views some of its link structure, the weight it places on some links and how it deals with unique links.
Now we all know that a good link is one that is relevant, not bought, intrinsic and valid. These are the links you need to find to give your site the importance and exposure you would like it to have. The quality of your content and the way you market that content will give you more reward than anything else. However, Google holds the cards in this particular game, so shedding any light on what hand they have is always useful.
I would be interested to hear from anyone who has discovered some more interesting results. This will help to see whether it will be valid and useful to take this analysis further.