Anyone who is aware of the most basic and fundamental tenets of SEO knows as long as you’re not screwing up your site too bad (using only flash, no content on home page, etc.), backlinks will be the most important factor determining how well your site performs organically. If you don’t believe me check out how much better Dat Dog performs after I gave them a link in my last Search Influence blog (it actually shot up 10 spots in a few days in spite of being new and having hardly any words on their home page). The problem is, Google may or may not be using all of your backlinks, so not all of them will have value to you.
Before any search engine can see your backlinks, it needs to index the page containing them. Consider that search engines are constantly scanning the web for new pages to include in their index, which will be available for searching. To be considered for any search you need to be in that engine’s index. So how do you know if you’re indexed? The easiest way is to search for the actual URL in any search engine, like you see below. In this case, this Scottsdale plastic surgeon‘s Thank You page is not in Google’s index (which is fine because it has no value being there).
So back to your backlinks. You know they are out there, you know where they are, and you know whether they have been indexed or not, but do you really ever know whether Google, or any other search engine, is reading or ignoring the links pointed towards your site? Some people think as long as the page that your link came from is indexed, Google is reading all of the backlinks and boosting your page rank, but it’s not always the case. Let’s say your backlink was added to a page that a search engine has previously indexed: it’s possible that the Google Spider has not come back to visit the page, and doesn’t see your link yet. Beyond this, we just don’t always know what search engines are really doing, it’s highly possible that some may deem a given page worthy of indexing and only feel like visiting some of its links.
Here is the sure-fire way of knowing whether Google has even read a given link to your site: Webmaster Tools. If you haven’t registered for one of these accounts do it ASAP. Here you can submit your sitemap, get warnings about problems you’re having, and much more, including getting a list of your backlinks.
After you sign up and submit your site, your links won’t appear instantly, but will slowly accumulate. In the Dashboard, under Links to your site, click More. Then, under Who links most go to More and you can download a spreadsheet of all the links that Google is willing to admit to knowing about!
This is far from fool-proof. As I read on Search Engine Roundtable, there have been some reporting issues with these links. The least you can do is pull your links from the dashboard and visit the sites that you’ve never heard of before and make sure you really have a link on that site. Many times content gets scraped by spam sites, which is not necessarily bad for you, depending on the reputation of the site and the content that it scraped. Another problem is this: just because the link is not mentioned in this report, doesn’t mean Google doesn’t care about it and has not viewed it, it’s just impossible to know, because the SEO dominatrix won’t tell us. The internet is gigantic and growing every day. Search engines do amazing things, but they can’t be perfect, especially with their free software. Just because you can’t find a link in this report doesn’t mean it is not there; you should be worried, however, if you know you have several different pages that link to you from a given domain, and none of them show up here after months. You might want to stop building links there.
Posted on Tuesday, April 26th, 2011
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