Google: Give Us Back Our Data
In what may appear to be a continuation of Google’s seeming effort to provide us SEO (and online marketing) folk with less data, the last 24 hours has seen numerous reports of a case of disappearing backlinks in their Webmaster Tools reports.
According to webmaster forums, some people are seeing the drop in the number of links as large as 75%.
Taking my own website as an example, there has been a 27% drop in the number of links being reported between today and Friday. However, with mark-making*, I am seeing a whopping 83% drop – and that is quite a startling change. And that isn’t including the new links which have been discovered in the 6 days between the two exports I am comparing.
The problem is definitely widespread and might even be affecting 100% of people (don’t quote me on that however), with almost everyone I know having a similar experience. Shaad Hamid, for example reporting an identical issue on Twitter early on Tuesday:
I’ve seen the number of links showing on GWT to my site have decreased by 2/3rd. Anyone else seen this on their own sites?
— Shaad Hamid (@ShaadHamid) February 5, 2013
So what’s going on?
Google’s John Mueller posted in this Google+ thread that, as far as he is aware, this change isn’t by design:
“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)”
It is hopefully just a reporting error/bug which will be rectified shortly – these sorts of problems definitely occur with Google every now and again. But, it wouldn’t be hugely surprising if this was indeed by design. Google are being increasingly precious with their data (while making sure that people involved in PPC are continuing to get what they pay for). The number of “(not provided)” appearing as keywords in Google Analytics seems to be increasing month on month, with us at mark-making* seeing a 222.81% increase compared to six months previously (which is not at all relative to an overall increase in organic traffic).
Google are also being stricter with how freely certain sites and services can use their AdWords API, with Raven and SEOmoz both having their AdWords data stripped from them (for as long as they scraped the SERP’s to track rankings).
I don’t know whether this has anything to do with keeping more data from us, but it’s definitely a trend we’re seeing, and will continue to see. Unless we’re paying for PPC of course.
What about you, have you seen a decrease in the amount of links being reported in Webmaster Tools? And do you feel that Google is trying to keep data from us?