Like all Web marketing, the greatest aspect of link building is the trackability. This helps you quantify your progress and prove your worth to your superiors and clients.
However, there hasn't really been a standardized tool that the industry accepted as "the" link monitoring tool. In fact, there are more tools that will tell you wrong information than there are tools that will tell you right information.
Most of the major search engines have link identifying queries that you can do. The standard search query is: link:www.example.com.
If you do that search, you'll get a list of pages linking to that page. Because I can get you the complete set of data, I'll do this for SageRock.com.
That's a major difference! This is because Google intentionally doesn't want to disclose all of the links it knows about a domain, which explains 30 links versus 2,113 inlinks. Google only gives a small sampling.
The more realistic number is 2,113. Yahoo is more open when it comes to link disclosure. Virtually every link analysis tool you use (such as SEOQuake) relies quite heavily on Yahoo's link data.
Incidentally, you can do those searches for specific pages to see how many links point to that particular page on your site. That information can be telling of how a particular story or link bait tactic is fairing in gathering links.
However, the link reporting trail doesn't end there. There's one final way of getting a much more comprehensive tally of the links pointing to you. The most comprehensive, detailed list of links pointing into your site is found at Google's Webmaster Central.
If you haven't setup your site in the Webmaster Tools section, I strongly encourage you to do so. All you need is a Google login. Then they ask you to either upload a page with a strange custom URL they give you or add some meta code to theof your site. Doing that verifies you own the site.
This gives you complete access to a ton of great information about your site. Not the least of which is your link information. If you recall, the total number of links Google showed on their front-end search query for SageRock.com was about 30 links pointing into that URL. Yahoo had 2,113. Google Webmaster Central has 2,471.
This data is a much better comprehensive list. In this case, the difference between 2,113 and 2,471 isn't earth shattering. However, I have seen client data that is shockingly different.
Additionally, Webmaster tools nicely lays out how many links are pointing to each page of your site. Here are some of the results for pages on my site:
- http://www.sagerock.com/ -- 670
- /articles.html -- 47
- /search-engine-relationship-chart.html -- 1
- /about/psychic-source-case-studies.html -- 2
- /about/staff.html -- 4
- /institute/ -- 14
- /ohiowebmarketing/cleveland-seo.html -- 1
- /weblog/ -- 1709
This information is interesting because I can instantly see that our blog gets nearly three times the number of links than that of our home page. This tells me that people are more interested in linking to the blog than the home page. So, as I move forward in asking for links I probably would want to suggest people link to our blog.
I also see that our Institute has 14 links. This is new for us in 2008. We've done no link building campaigns for the Institute. So, I'm encouraged to see that people are already linking to it with no suggestion on our part.
Finally, I would be able to take this data to a client or superior every month and track the progress of any link initiatives taking place. I would easily be able to chart link growth on a page-by-page level.
One caveat, however.
Google discusses their link reporting here. At the bottom of that page, they write, "Note: While the External links page provides a larger sampling of links to your site, not all links to your site may be listed. This is normal."
So, even in the Webmaster Tools section, we still may not know everything Google knows. But in the words of a former defense secretary, "You go to war with the army you have."