What's the difference between others linking to you and a backlink?


I've been reading up about SEO that emphasizes the importance of backlinks. It appears that I can find out the backlinks by doing a google search using the syntax link:www.mysite.com My question is, how is this different from regular links from other websites? I know my site has been linked from hundreds of websites but when I do a link:www.mysite.com I see only 20 results. Why the discrepency?

Also, how do I improve on getting more backlinks?


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asked Aug 21 '10 at 23:39
232 points
Top digital marketing agency for SEO, content marketing, and PR: Demand Roll

3 Answers


There is no clear-cut distinction between "links" and "backlinks"; the two words are often used interchangeably.

To me, "backlink" is a more SEO specific term, and probably implies links from other sites to my site which carry rank (i.e. are not nofollow'ed ).

I was once told that Google searches with the "link:" syntax were not meant to be comprehensive. Maybe that's true or maybe not, but in both cases I recommend that you supplement it with Yahoo! Site Explorer. Use the topmost "Explore" search box, and look for backlinks.

If neither Google search nor Site Explorer finds the sites that should link to you, then the causes are most likely on of the following:

  • The 3rd party sites haven't been crawled and updated in the search engine index yet.
  • The links are nofollow'ed.
  • The 3rd party sites are spammy and are disregarded by the search engines.
  • The 3rd party sites do not have enough content to get indexed (unlikely, they have to be really small for this).
answered Aug 23 '10 at 10:29
Jesper Mortensen
15,292 points
  • Jesper has nailed it. "Backlink" is just an SEO term for a link pointing to your site, from another site. Google searches with the link: syntax don't display comprehensive results. http://www.OpenSiteExplorer.org is a tool by SEOmoz that is updated more frequently than Yahoo's tool. If none of these methods show links pointing to your site, the pages the links are on simply haven't been indexed yet (very likely if the pages are unimportant, have few links pointing to *them*, and / or are old / infrequently updated). – Jay Neely 13 years ago


Honestly, I'm not an expert on SEO, but I'm going to offer two possible solutions.

1st, my understanding of backlinks is that they are websites that link to you that you have also linked to via your website. This could be the discrepancy. Could be wrong.

2nd, it's possible that Google just didn't find some of them. I'm not sure how sophisticated Google's link search database is when it comes to end users like us.

In my opinion it's likely the first, but like I said, not an expert. I simply noticed you hadn't been answered yet! :D

answered Aug 23 '10 at 04:02
Ryan Chatterton
921 points


I've noticed that different search engines will return different results when searching for links to a site. Also, the results will not include any with rel="nofollow" in the link, which is basically a link that the author does not choose to give SEO credit to the destination.

answered Aug 23 '10 at 10:06
4,692 points

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