How Many Links Could a Link Lover Love?

What good is link love if you don’t know how many links love you? Today I want to talk to you about some of the places where you can go to track down your links. We are going to look at two traditional search engines and two blog search engines.

One of the easier things to do at a search engine is to type in the search box: "link:www.yourdomain.com." This, theoretically, should show you the links that a search engine knows are linking to you.

However, this has never been the case at Google. Google only shows you a sample of the links it knows about. So, doing this query at Google might only produce a few links, but in reality, Google might know of hundreds of links pointing to you.

Link Analysis in Major Search Engines

To Google's credit, it offers a much more comprehensive link analysis tool in its Webmaster Central area. If you have never signed up for a Webmaster Central account, I strongly encourage you to do so.

Google provides webmasters with information that cannot be found anywhere else. One such piece of information is the Links information within the Webmaster Tools section of Webmaster Central. It shows you, by page, how many links you have and who is linking to you. You can also download the information into a spreadsheet.

Yahoo has a more open policy. Going to Yahoo and typing in the query, "link:www.yourdomain.com," will take you directly to Yahoo Site Explorer. This shows you all of the sites Yahoo knows are linking to you and also puts them in order of importance.

Yahoo also lets you create a "Badge" that you can put on your Web site that shows you how many links Yahoo knows is linking to you. Incidentally, Yahoo's open policy is great link building research fodder. You can use it to see who is linking to your competition and then use that information to go after links for your own site.

These two resources are great for long-term link tracking. However, they don't update terribly often. If you are looking for daily and even hourly link tracking, you need to head over to the blog search engines.

Link Analysis in Blog Search Engines

Let's start with blogsearch.google.com. This is Google's blog search engine. Doing the same query, "link: www.yourdomain.com," gets you wildly different results. That's because the results are coming strictly from the blog world. These links are organized by date. You can view the links you received in the past month, or in the past hour. This is truly up-to-the-minute link analysis. Further, you can subscribe to this specific search query and have it sent to either your RSS reader or your in-box via a Blog Alert email.

Another place you might find useful is technorati.com. This search engine is highly focused on things such as links pointing to your Web site. Technorati refers to this as "reactions." Try typing your domain directly into the Technorati search box and view the information it gives you. You can also create an account at Technorati and then set up watchlists to track incoming links to your Web site. These watchlists can be imported into your favorite RSS reader.

Monitoring Your Links

Anything that is measured, can be improved. I recommend cataloguing this information. In a spreadsheet, keep track of how many links each of these resources are reporting. Monitor these numbers on a consistent schedule. You might also include your Technorati Authority and Rank. You will likely enjoy watching these numbers improve and grow over time.

There are two added benefits to keeping track of all your inbound links. Watching this information will allow you to keep an eye on what the word on the street is concerning your site.

The first benefit comes if people are saying nice things about you in blogs or forums. You might be able to drop a line within these sites thanking them. Blog comments often allow you to include a link back to your site. So, you have the opportunity for another link to your site. Be careful when posting in forums that you know the forum's policy regarding links. Most forums these days are very particular about the kind of links they allow within their community. So, you might tread carefully in posting a link back to your site in this type of forum.

The second benefit comes if people are saying not-so-nice things about your site. These can be painful moments. However, you have the opportunity of joining that conversation and giving your side of the story. You can often post a comment or add to a discussion forum, letting the readers of that site know who you truly are.

Link love is a multi-faceted project. But if you have gone to all the trouble of getting links to your site, you should monitor the rewards of your efforts. You might find link love tracking to be one of the more fun parts of the process.

About the author

Sage Lewis started his online marketing company, SageRock.com, in 1999 during a time when most Internet companies were failing. SageRock, however, has thrived under Lewis’ direction -- growing an average of 30% every year, while also being recognized as one of the top ten search engine optimization firms in the U.S. by a third-party resource in the industry, Marketing Sherpa.

Regarded as a web marketing expert, Lewis speaks regularly to business organizations like NEOSA and COSE, serves as a resource for press about industry trends, and teaches a recurring class on search engine optimization at Cleveland State University.

Lewis has created a unique company culture that values the individual employee and client, and he has built SageRock around one principle, “The concern, respect and empathy for the individual people we come in contact with at SageRock is our single core value.”

Lewis lives in Akron with his wife, Rocky, and son, Indiana.

Read more of Sage Lewis's columns at ClickZ.