Backlink Madness

So often when someone lists one of their sites for sale, they mention the number of backlinks it has. The number of backlinks a site has does impact its ranking in the search engines and would appear to be a important factor in valuing a website.

After a little research, I will continue to seek out backlinks for my websites but I will no longer waste a single moment on counting them.
Why not? Simple – those who keep count appear to be doing a poor job of it.

Google has never been known for being 100% up front about the number of backlinks it has listed for a website; so there’s no point in talking about their counts.

Many suggest using Yahoo’s Site Explorer Tool. I thought I would experiment a bit with that one as it does appear to give more complete results. So for a little over two months I kept track of the backlinks Yahoo had listed for each of my sites. I checked approximately once a week for 10 weeks. The results were only somewhat surprising – they were all over the place. My results may be a bit skewed as this blog enjoyed two articles reaching the front page of Digg; but, even with that the inconsistency remained.

My study took place during September to early November. I tracked 8 websites and counted links only from other sites to the entire website – settings Site Explorer makes available.

Let’s take two of my sites…

Site 1
Week 1 – 2,134
Week 2 – 1,757
Week 3 – 1,753
Week 4 – 1,730
Week 5 – 2,674
Week 6 – 1,878
Week 7 – 887
Week 8 – 873
Week 9 – 964
Week 10 – 3,550

Today – 3,920

Site 2
Week 1 – 4,355
Week 2 – 4,056
Week 3 – 4,018
Week 4 – 4,016
Week 5 – 5,256
Week 6 – 3,474
Week 7 – 2,486
Week 8 – 2,173
Week 9 – 2,340
Week 10 – 6,460

Today – 7,790

During this time, I intentionally did not make any special efforts at link building – the Diggs being the one huge exception. However, the Diggs did not happen until weeks 8 and 9 – so the spike in sites on week 5 had nothing to do with getting to the front page of Digg or any other link building on my part. All but the newest site in the list experienced a spike in Week 5 and a huge dip in Week 6. By Week 10, all 8 had slowly worked their way back to Week 5’s peak or higher.

So, what did I learn? Backlinks are a measurement of a site’s value that is mercurial at best and totally wrong at worst. Valuing a site based on it’s backlinks would appear to be as misleading as valuing a site based solely on PR or an Alexa rating.

Am I saying that accumulating backlinks is a waste of time? Not hardly. I’m just saying that there appears to be little point in worrying about how many a particular site has gotten and whatever number of backlinks a site claims to own today will most likely be a different number tomorrow.

A few suggestions for further reading...

7 Responses to Backlink Madness

I started sleeping better when i finally learned to ignore backlinks and pagerank completely. The true value of a site is indexed pages and traffic.

I have a site that I bought for $50…with a PR of 3. In 3 months the PR has dropped to 1 and google refuses to credit a single backlink…which I know it has hundreds of. But…they have saw their way fit to index 5600+ pages for that one site alone. Via this they send the site over 2000 unique visitors themselves. Stumbleupon send twice that much.

I’ve tripled my investment from the adsense alone in 3 months as the clicks add up every day.

Google can continue to play the spoiled child with their backlinks and pagerank as much as they want…traffic, and more inportantly, indexed pages… is king these days.

Comment by James on

Hi James,

I can’t say that I’ve lost sleep over this, but I have to admit that I have somewhat gotten caught up in the frenzy of the game of ‘he who has the most backlinks wins’.

I agree traffic and indexed pages are the only metrics that really matter.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts,


Comment by Michele on

For my backlink count i use a software called WebCeo, it’s free. I use this software for about 5 years now, can’t exactly remember. The result this software turns out have never had any significant up and downs in the link count. i’m adding links slowly, once a week a few. I can than monitor the progress of my backlink count. If i don’t do anything on a site for six month (happens sometimes) than i see a slight dropping of the back links.

An other thing that gets very obvious is, what you mentioned in your article. Google holds back with the back link counts. Even if a website shows thousands of backlinks on Altavista and Yahoo, Google never shows anything more than 50 links on my sites. After a while you get used to it and learn how to interprete this numbers.
Now all of a sudden, over night so to speak, all my backlink couts started to explode including the counts on Google, and went up in the thousands. there must be something is going on. I don’t trust such surprises.

Comment by McHow2 on

There’s been some rumblings on at least one of the webmaster forums that Google is updating both pagerank and backlinks right now. Some suspect that the information is from as far back as November. It might be that could be causing the big jumps in values.

In the long run, I don’t think it’s all that important as long as a site’s traffic continues to rise or at least remain steady – the other statistics and metrics don’t really matter all that much.

Comment by Michele on

Listing a site for sale based on backlinks or Google pr is pointless unless the buyer is going to keep the same site with the same contents. As soon as you change the contents, your backlinks drop and sometimes are de-listed from google and have to start from scratch.

Comment by ngarama on

Hi and thanks for visiting my blog. I’ve never understood the great value everyone puts on PR and backlinks when it comes to evaluating a website. Both are so easily manipulated and unreliable. Sustained traffic, the quality of the content, and earning potential are, to me at least, the true value of a website. But, even traffic and earning potential can be manipulated.

Comment by Michele on

I agree with all of you. I have but only (at last count 14 backlinks according to yahoo), but what I find to be more relevant is exactly what michele stated. If you want to see how your website checks out on all levels go to This analyses your site for several seo basics and can even provide you with an alexa ranking which I found to be quite interesting.

Comment by Jason on

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