How many backlinks has got a website? Nobody knows that in fact. Different counters give different counts.
A more important question is - why do we need to know the number of backlinks at all? To feed our pride? The count of back links is good for reporting and audit papers, to tell a client how successful we have been in link building. For that purpose any number plucked from the air is good enough.
We check backlinks to see what our collection consists of. Checking backlinks with different tools and on different conditions helps to chart the landscape and make important decisions in SEO.
Google Webmaster Tools says: Top 62 domains that have links to pages on your site. Total links 1,267. Something sounds skewed, and there it is - Google as checked in 1,135 backlinks from the updowner.com, with 200 links pointing to one single page.
Not all existing backlinks are listed in Google Webmaster Central, and some backlinks listed here are omitted in Google searches.
Google Webmaster Tools is precise in showing us links it shows us. Are these the links Google uses to calculate our worth? Unlikely.
What if we want to find out backlinks of our competitor?
Anchor text that contains a domain name isn't a backlink, thus
allinanchor: and its equivalent
as_occt=links are worthless for checking backlinks. However it can hint the competition,
allinanchor: "search engine optimisation" and
google.com/search?q="search engine optimisation"&as_occt=links will show how many anchor texts on the web contain this phrase. Quick check finds about 68,400,000 results. Not very useful to estimate the competition either.
Google search for tuljo.com,
google.com/search?q="tuljo.com" reports about 11,200 results. Fair enough. However, when we arrive on the last result page, it says: "Page 14 of 124 results." Which is right, left or right?
If there are many backlinks and we are too lazy to click out to the last page we can jump to the 1000th or last result using query parameter
num=100 works if the Google Instant search is switched off. Search Settings > Google Instant predictions > Never show Instant results.
google.com/search?q="tuljo.com"&start=990 - Page 13 of 124 results
Google search query has special terms to check who links to the domain -
as_lq= in URL query and
link: in search box query. There is a space after
as_lq= is empty and the domain name has to be in quotation marks.
link: "tuljo.com"- About 4,880 results.
google.co.uk/search?q=link:+"tuljo.com"&start=990- Page 7 of 70 results.
google.co.uk/search?q="tuljo.com"&as_lq=&start=990- Page 13 of 123 results.
google.co.uk/search?q="tuljo.com"&as_lq=&start=990&filter=0&filter=s- Page 26 of 254 results.
Different queries return different results. Webmaster Central (1,267 backlinks) shows domains that are missing in our queries and vice versa. Obviously the reasonable approach would be just to choose one formula and stick to this. In God We Trust.
q=link: "tuljo.com" -site:tuljo.com
+for any whitespace sequences in the search query.
hl=brto get results from Brazilian sites included.
Still we can check only 1000 backlinks per query. Read more about Google search parameters on tuljo.com.
Quick backlink check -
google.com/search?q=link: "tuljo.com" -site:tuljo.com&start=990
Formatted query string -
Check for max number of backlinks -
This last check string will count as backlinks not only proper anchors but also URLs in image alt and src tags and in text. And does not include links that are listed on Google Webmaster Tools. So this does not return a full list of backlinks either.
Another thought. The backlinks give various positive signals to Google. Why shouldn't a src attribute be a signal? It's still a link, right? Or even futher, an URL written in body text? Or our name on a image? What is a backlink at all?
As conventional means of finding backlinks fail to deliver a coherent picture, we try to find other ways to check our links. A fragment like "http://"tuljo.com" would do. But it doesn't because the double quotation mark inside the keyword breaks the search. Insead we try "http://tuljo.com"
This is equivalent to
The best we can do is to run different queries to catch a glimpse. We never get an exact list of links. We can explore the backlinks, and to be honest, that's what we want.
Examples of other uses of Google search string and search parameters for SEO purposes on tuljo.com -
Other sources to read about Google search parameters elsewhere on the web:
How to find backlinks with Google search query parameters for free, how to check competitor's backlinks.