Backlinks are taboo, but site owners can now download up to a million external links.
Google is offering Web site owners more insight into who is linking to their sites though a newly improved set of Google Webmaster Tools.
Previously, site owners could glean some information about inbound links using the Google search engine's link: operator. But the resulting list of linking sites, or backlinks in Web site parlance, is only "a sub-sampled list of backlinks." The conventional wisdom is that Google conceals the full list to prevent search engine manipulation, which is more or less a full-time job for many search engine optimization firms, not to mention spammers.
Google, however, has decided to be somewhat more open about its data. It's not making backlinks available to anyone, but site owners can now download up to a million external links from the Webmaster Tools control panel.
Of course there's an argument to be made that ignorance is bliss. In a comment posted on Google Web spam czar Matt Cutts's blog, one Web site owner complains, "I just used it to check my backlinks and found some guy who is stealing my entire site except that adsense account in the site is now his and not mine, so he is making money and I'm not. Any suggestions on how to stop this and protect against it in the future?"
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