Greekgeek's Online Odyssey - Hubpages and Online Article Writing Tips

Which Backlinks Count for SEO?

This is  a huge question. Different tools find different backlinks. For example, checking my Free Web Graphics — How to Get Them (Legally!) lens on SquidUtils’ Backlink Checker, I get this:

This URL has 1000+ links from 6 domains.

  • 1
  • 20
  • 1
  • 25
  • 952
  • 1

(Once again demonstrating the  limitations of social media for SEO, since the links from StumbleUpon, Del.ici.ous. Tagfoot and others don’t show up.)

1000+ backlinks is pretty good, right? Well, yeah, assuming (a) all search engines see the same backlinks as Yahoo Site Explorer (the database SquidUtils uses), and (b) all search engines count those links as relevant. But of course, they don’t.

Checking my Swoosty SEO Tools Firefox Add-on

Legal Free Web Graphics

(Pagerank 4, not bad, could be better…)

Links according to Google:

  • 40, of which 36 are other Squidoo lenses, 4 on my Mom’s blog.

Digg doesn’t show up. That ancient Angelfire site I’ve had since the dawn of the web isn’t listed. More troublingly, my blogs started 8 months (this blog) and 2 months ago don’t count, even though Google indexes their new posts within an hour.

Note that Googling for link: may not does not give all the backlinks that Google considers relevant for ranking in search results. I know Google search results occasionally turn up SquidU posts, so it’s seeing those signature links. [EDIT: Fluff explains why Google’s link: search doesn’t show all the links Google knows about.]

But this test is a sobering wake-up call that using Yahoo tools to count backlinks for Google optimization purposes is like using a German dictionary to translate a French menu.

Okay, it’s no secret that I am better at on-page SEO than backlink-building. But my “Free Web Graphics” lens (and the blogs mentioning it) are less than a year old. How about…

Test #2: A More Established Lens

Ancient Greece Odyssey is a less-searched topic, but it’s been around since May 2007. It’s got pagerank 5 instead of 4, for what little that is worth.

SquidUtils backlink checker:

  • This URL has 595 links from 64 domains.

That’s half the number of links, but 10 times the number of different domains.

Google link checker:

  • 28 links, of which only TWO are from non-Squidoo pages, but they’re my older blogs which are relevant to the lens topic. Surprisingly, one of those links was from Livejournal, which I don’t often hear of as a good blogging platform for SEO purposes, whereas only my older WordPress blogs showed up (the ones 2 and 8 months old didn’t, though Google indexes new posts on them promptly).

Among the Squidoo pages that Google’s link: search turned up as links pointing to my lens, I notice a few things:

  • Some but not all of my lenses turn up. I am stymied as to which lenses get chosen — they’re not all highly-ranked, they don’t all many backlinks, and at least one of them is old, stale, un-trafficked, and hasn’t changed much since 2007. Hm.
  • Lenses with links to my lenses in Plexos did not turn up. I wonder whether Google demotes big lists o’ links.
  • Lenses with regular updates tend to get listed. If you haven’t built a “Latest Ten Lenses” lens, do it now.
  • The Squidoo tag page for the PRIMARY TAG was listed.
  • Other Lensmaster profiles with Ancient Greece Odyssey listed FIRST under Favorites turn up.  Checking Webconf’s Spider Simulator,  it looks like Google may be giving extra love to the first link on a webpage after the header links.

Edited due to comments: As Fluff points out, just two examples isn’t a big enough sample size to let us draw any sweeping conclusions. And the link: search delimiter doesn’t tell us which links Google recognizes as backlinks for SEO; it just shows us “here are some pages that link to yours”.

But it does at least suggest that a good primary tag and links from other Squidoo lenses may help get your lens seen by Google. When you’re looking for places to build links to your lenses, I would start with lensrolling, featured lens modules, careful choice of the primary tag, and embedding links to your new lens  in the body text of your other lenses.


  1. There’s an important thing to note about the link: operator – Google will not reveal all of the links it knows about, and the ones it does display are not necessarily the ones that count. This is to protect websites from being over-analysed by competitors, and to keep Google’s algorithms secret.

    You can’t draw any conclusions about which links are valuable by looking at these links. Looking at just to example lenses isn’t representative either.

  2. Greekgeek says:

    Thanks, Fluff. I’m starting to think I should abandon this blog… I don’t know as much as you folks, and I shouldn’t lead people astray with bad SEO advice!

  3. The best backlinks you can have are from Yahoo Directory and DMOZ (yea right) Getting in DMOZ is a shot in the dark, but if you do, it helps a lot, or can but wont hurt. Google has changed its algorithm to lean more on the bounce rate (how long people stay on your page using a key phrase) than backlinks. A new site gets found easy when bsic SEO is applied to test the bounce rate of that word. A month later (if people dont stay) you dont rank good for that word. That is why it is important to add content (lots) to your site often. Make it quality to your readers! Never right to engines. Getting a do follow link from Ebay (where you can do it your self) could be useless now, maybe. It doesn’t hurt. No way will I go around submitting to link directories EVER. Google knows when a backlink from a high ranked site puts your link on there. Article submissions are good, but dont do as many as you used to. Duplicate content allowances are stiffer now. Google wants you to be natural. Keyword density? No way. Once in the first, third and last sentence is all I do with as much content as possible to read comfortable ( This dont count…I am falling asleep here)

  4. Greekgeek says:

    I am very suspicious about backlinks being the holy grail of SEO. How do we know? Is it just that everyone uses backlinks as their main strategy?

    So many people claim backlinks are the most important factor, yet the only person I know who has done longterm, detailed, controlled tests of search engines year in year out — testing each factor in isolation on test pages, to see which ones move a page up or down in search results — has vigorously disputed backlinks as the most important factor.

    They are one factor. They definitely should be part of SEO strategy. But maybe we need to be looking at other things more than we do.

  5. Helenee says:

    As a newcomer to Squidoo and on-the-verge-of creating my personal blog, I am really interested in SEO issues. Concerning your scruples about the usefulness of this blog, I have to say that I would be sorry to see it disappear, and I’ll explain why.
    It all depends on your point of view: You don’t have to claim being an absolute expert on the subject, having all the right answers. But you are quite experienced and inquisitive, always testing and seeking what works best, willing to share your findings with fellow bloggers and Suidoo-ers. Being just that is service enough. And, I can tell you, I’m already learning enough from your work.
    You can see this blog as a platform for dialogue, questioning and experimenting, also as a place for people leaving their input, their bits of wisdom, which you/we can test and experiment on; maybe contest some SEO “myths” that many so-called experts obstinately support. Applying and testing all this can further our knowledge, perhaps make us come up with some better answers – at any rate make us improve in what we’re doing.
    And, as a newbie, I can tell you that it absolutely poses several issues I haven’t thought of (naturally!).
    Then, after working on these thoughts and suggestions, you can offer even better and more weighed answers.
    Questioning yourself is good – it’s the road to wisdom. Maybe you’re not an SEO goddess; you definitely are an SEO hero, boring your way to Olympus.

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