Yandex, the leading search engine in Russia has now decided to hide the true number of incoming links to each domain, known as backlinks. There were previously two ways of finding out this information in the engine, the first was by using the command in the search bar (link=”domain.com”), the second was by using the box in the advanced queries page.
The link command is still working but returning far fewer results than usual, we’re not sure yet if this is just less results or randomized in some way.
Yandex certainly aren’t the first search engine to take these steps. Google has previously broken their link command, claiming that the function opened them up to automated queries which would affect their performance. Others have pointed out the real reason may have more with hiding information that can be used to gain advantage in the rankings, such as the number and nature of incoming links to their competitors. Yahoo! also randomizes the results that their link command returns which makes it hard to gauge accurate numbers.
MSN surprised the marketing community by providing a very accurate back link count in the new Live engine, even creating a new command “Linkdomain”. However they rolled this back earlier this year, due to “mass automated usage for data mining“.
Update: Looks like Yandex have now disabled all methods of finding back links, including the command line option