Google Webmaster Tools: Now with less link data!

Sorry to bring the bad news guys, but it looks like Google’s dumped as much as three quarters or your link profile from the latest link report in Google Webmaster Tools.

Ignored Links

I first heard from Jim Munro and later from Jason Mun who both noticed suspicious reductions in the amount of available link data suspecting at potential impact of link disavow tool.

Upon closer inspection of several websites in Google Webmaster Tools I realised it was just Google deciding to show us less.

What this means is uncertain and a few things I am still to check are:

  1. Are excluded links nofollow?
  2. Are excluded links disavowed?
  3. Are excluded links ignored by Google (will have to ask this question in the next hangout)
  4. Is the drop random or follows some patterns?
  5. Is the drop tied in with links form the same domain? (truncating single domain representative sample)
  6. Is there a a date cut-off point?

data-drop

It appears that aged links seem to be missing from the export too. In this example you can see anything past 2009 has been excluded from the report as well as number of links reduced from 23,406 to only 6,390.

Note that changes in link export are not likely to affect your rankings, but only limiting the amount of link data Google supplies in this particular link export mode.

I will keep you posted if I find anything more. In the meantime have a look at your latest links report and see if you’re missing any.

Link cut not intentional?

John Mueller

It is likely that what we’re seeing is a bug in Google Webmaster Tools rather than an intentional  link cut.

John Mueller from Google:

“I’d love to have some site names, if you’re willing to post them here that would be great. While fluctuations can always happen, afaik this isn’t by design so I’d love to have someone follow up on the details (I’m currently mostly offline, but I’ve pointed people to this thread)”

 Via Google+ Thread

Ongoing Link Analysis

We used two link export files from two time periods (before and after the drop in numbers) and extracted only the difference. So any links which were detected as being removed from the new file were analysed using a custom script. In a data sample of roughly 5000 URLs we found the following distribution of nofollow/dofollow and link found versus not found:

nofollow ratio

found ratio

It seems that the drop may coincide with linkrot and nofollow. Our analysis continues over the weekend and we’ll report back with any new findings.

Large-Scale Analysis Statistics

Total scanned links: 20,137
Ratio of deleted links: 51.95%
Nofollow links: 60.23%
Links from cached pages: 96.10%
Timeout: 3.59%

Link Disavow Tool Research: Help Needed

We’re currently collecting data for an upcoming analysis of link disavow tool usage. Please contribute to our research, submit your own disavow file using the upload form below. (read more)

Dan Petrovic is a well-known Australian SEO and a managing director of Dejan SEO. He has published numerous research articles in the field of search engine optimisation and online marketing. Dan's work is highly regarded by the world-wide SEO community and featured on some of the most reputable websites in the industry.

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18 thoughts on “Google Webmaster Tools: Now with less link data!

  1. Very interesting. My link profile got reduced from 11k links to 1k links. All of the youtube videos that were linking back to me have been excluded from the report as well as the Tumblr Links.

  2. Hi, I just checked – at first it seemed very random but then I checked the “All linked pages” tab and fount that all of the links pointing to our domain page have been excluded from the reports. GWT shows only the links to the subpages now.
    Logic points that the links to the domain should still bring value but I’m going to see what the impact on our rankings is now.

  3. It is good to learn that I am not the only one noticing this. It is absolutely bizarre! For me, it was quite a drastic drop, the website has a strong hold of around 2-3k links reported in GWT for the last 24 months. No dodgy link building stuff happening. This morning, I noticed it drop to the hundreds.

    Thanks for writing about this Dan.

    Will report back if I notice anything else.

  4. It’s been a while, but when I had my first big client I noticed GWT had a limit of 10K (from memory) results that they would let you download out of the 100k backlinks this particular client was reporting.

    What I found interesting was that they would change the sample set every few weeks, so over time I could create a more complete picture.

    I also found Majestic SEO would report more results, but Google had more in their index.

  5. Just noticed the same thing today. I don’t know if it has anything to do with this, but my website just got upgraded to PR4 a few days ago. Most likely the link issue is a glitch.

  6. I noticed that all my homepage links disappeared from Google Webmaster Tools also. It happened about two weeks ago. I also noticed a considerable drop in the SERPS for my homepage which I’m hoping is a glitch. I have also noticed sites with zero backlinks or credibility outranking some of the sites which would have been dominant in my niches.