Back Link Counts are Unreliable

For some time SheerSEO is using Yahoo Site Explorer as a source for getting the number of back-links per domain. We are aware that it isn’t perfect, but it used to be the best option around. Lately, their bugs are becoming ridiculous, making this tool unreliable.

Here is how our results look like in the last months:
Yahoo Site-Explorer Bugs
No, we didn’t triple our backlinks in 2 months from around 3.5k to 9.1k and lost them back again. This is simply a bug on Yahoo site explorer, which provides backlinks data.

So, why are we using Yahoo for backlinks in the first place? cause as lousy as the data is, it is the best there is at the moment. There aren’t many companies that scan all pages over the internet and can give reliable numbers on backlinks. Let’s see who those companies are and see what they got.

Google “link:” command
Google probably have the best data on backlinks, cause their main business relies on backlinks, but using their link: command for yields 117. You can try that yourself with “”. So, this is obviously not right. Google is aware of that, but don’t care much about it. Here is what Matt Cutts had to say about that in his blog: “The link: command has always returned a small fraction of the backlinks that Google knows about, mainly for historical reasons (e.g. limited disk space on the machines that served up “link:” data)”.

Google WebMaster Tools
Google were kind enough to show some of their backlinks data on the webmaster tools, but not kind enough to make it really work. This is only a fraction of the links they really have. Here is what Matt Cutts says about this in his blog ( Matt Cutts on backlink tool ): “The backlink tool doesn’t show 100% of the backlinks from Google yet, but I expect the number of links that are available to grow”. This was written in early 2007, but I guess nothing really changed there, cause SheerSEO has around half the amount of backlinks over the Google webmaster tools compared with the data from Yahoo Site Explorer.

Other Back-Link Counters
From time to time I hear about some other tools that try to track back links. To be honest, they all suck, and had wrong data in them. Let’s face it, the task of discovering all pages over the internet and storing their backlink data is challenging, and not many companies can use the right resources to do that. Also, Google and Yahoo have a great advantage in the fact that new sites are being submitted to them, and they don’t need to discover them by themselves.

To summarize the issue. I think Yahoo site explorer isn’t perfect, but it is the best available option right now. I don’t like the idea of Google & Yahoo being the only ones that have reliable data on backlinks over the internet. This also blocks the opportunity of any new company to compete with them in the search engine field. I really wish there was a third party organization that would take this task seriously and keep the data open.

What do you have to say about this?

7 thoughts on “Back Link Counts are Unreliable

  1. lansing auto repair

    I have for years struggled to find out how many links I have for my site. I find it is very frustrating not knowing all your links when you are trying to make no connections and it takes hours of work to just make one. Then you never know if it was ever created on the other end. I end up doing the same ones over and over again hoping one day they will show up.

  2. Chris McLean

    I am experimenting with Sheerseo and I must congratulate the developers on a great product, much easier to use than some of the expensive downloadable software packages. I have always been a little sceptical of backlink counts with google, yahoo etc. However, the ‘main referrer’ tool in sheerseo where it actually lists backlinks, PR of the linking page and any ‘nofollow’ attributes, seems to be fairly accurate, and very useful. I know on the site I’ve used to test the software the links look about right, yet the count is different on the ‘number of backlinks’. I think I will be looking further at sheerseo and probably using it more. I’ll place a lot of emphasis on the ‘main referrer’ tool, the ‘number of backlinks’ tool is pretty irrelevant I feel. I do have a question if anyone can answer it though. the site in question is definitely listed in a few directories, I have seen the listings, yet the backlink is neither in the ‘main referrers’ or the ‘number of backlinks’ tool, it’s a new site and the links are only a week old, should these be showing up?

    Great product


  3. admin Post author

    Hi Chris,

    The main referrals tools tries to identify the main links, but doesn’t find all of the links. This is natural.

  4. Charlotte

    Spot on with this write-up, I honestly believe this website needs much more
    attention. I’ll probably be back again to read through more, thanks for the advice!


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