Is Google Ignoring Your Backlinks? Webmaster Tools Can (Maybe) Help (Sometimes)
April 26th, 2011 by
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.
[…] Is Google Ignoring Your Backlinks? Webmaster Tools Can (Maybe) Help (Sometimes), http://www.searchinfluence.com […]
I really dont think google does much about good or bad back links, I’ve had a well research website up sice the late 90’s, doctors, professors, researchers have all commented on how informative it is and then I have a competitor who site is basically scraped/spun content and back links to basically user account details in forums and it is right up there with mine and has been so for about a year.
I hear what you’re saying Chris. You have probably heard about the JC Penny SEO scandal in which they became the #1 result for very general searches like black dress by getting anchor text links from thousands of unrelated and spammy directories. What I’ve been screaming since day 1 post-panda is how ridiculous it is when scrapers outrank the site from which the content originated (here is a good post about it: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/postpanda-your-original-content-is-being-outranked-by-scrapers-amp-partners ). Hopefully the Googlers will soon see the error of their ways. Admission of guilt is the first, and most difficult step.
“SEO Dominatrix”, that’s hilarious! I notice links showing up in webmaster tools from major sites that are known for being “nofollow”. Does the link showing up in webmaster tools mean that Google has ignored the nofollow attribute and given my site search juice for the link?
Israel, I think it’s really no indication of whether or not they’re using the juice. There is a lot of debate about this. I personally think that the nofollow attribute on blog comments does what it was intended to do, and prevents the flow of pagerank. If you have a bunch of diggs (which are nofollow), however, even though it doesn’t necessarily flow PR, Google still sees those as votes for your site, and it’s favorable. The funny thing about nofollow though is that, contrary to the name, it seems like Google crawlers follow nearly everything, because they want the biggest index. I have definitely used nofollow links in the past as the sole means of getting a page indexed, but not for getting a page ranked.
Scott, thanks for the reply! I just found the strangest backlink and I’ve been searching all over to find out if it will count for anything. I’m not sure if Google can even see the page I was linked from because I can’t see it. It’s from planetblue.ith.intel.com which it turns out is Intel employee blogs from their internal social network. It would be awesome to have a backlink from the Intel domain, but I’ve got a gut feeling this one will not count.