As Kevin Newcomb mentioned yesterday, Danny Sullivan had an outstanding write-up yesterday about Google's enhancement of its "Link:" operator which allows researchers to discover many of the links that Google has indexed as pointing to a particular URL: Google Releases New Link Reporting Tools.
Google will allow users of its Webmaster Central tools to see more thorough reports of inbound links as measured to domains and even particular pages. More information is also available at the Webmaster Central blog.
This underscores the importance of working with Google by signing up with Webmaster Central. Not only will it help to get important pages of a Web site indexed, but it will also assist webmasters in conducting important competitor analysis. In the past, many researchers have almost completely ignored the Google "Link:" command, or operator, since it is known that Google does not display all of the links it knows about. Others have continued to use it, thinking that the ones that Google shows "must be more valuable" than others.
This has in fact been an often discussed topic at the Search Engine Watch Forums, where a sticky thread discusses the topic of the difference in inbound link reporting at various engines, and reveals that the current link discovery tool of consensus choice is the one found at Yahoo! Site Explorer. Although it is unlikely that those many converts will now abandon Yahoo! to use only the Google enhanced version, this news has made many webmasters and search engine optimization specialists happy.
(Begin editorial) Our engineers at Avenue A | Razorfish love to use the Webmaster Central tools, but, believe it or not, sometimes have problems with getting clients to approve the use, since it requires verification code to be placed on the Web site. Perhaps if Google would be more open about sharing its information without requiring this code, it would get a better reputation with some marketers that feel that they require too much "inside information." Google has done a great job in helping webmasters with their Web sites, but still needs to improve its relationship and willingness to work with agencies and other SEO companies, in the opinion of some. (/end editorial)