Google announced on Thursday that it has made a change to how it decides what links to show webmasters when they push the "Download more sample links" button. The feature typically shows about 100,000 backlinks.
"Until now, we've selected those links primarily by lexicographical order," explains Yinnon Haviv, a software engineer with Google's Webmaster Tools team. "That meant that for some sites, you didn't get as complete of a picture of the site's backlinks because the link data skewed toward the beginning of the alphabet."
"Based on feedback from the webmaster community, we're improving how we select these backlinks to give sites a fuller picture of their backlink profile," Haviv adds. "The most significant improvement you'll see is that most of the links are now sampled uniformly from the full spectrum of backlinks rather than alphabetically. You're also more likely to get example links from different top-level domains (TLDs) as well as from different domain names. The new links you see will still be sorted alphabetically."
Soon, Google says, when webmasters download their data, they'll see a more diverse cross-section of links. The goal is for webmasters to more easily be able to separate the bad links from the good.
More link profile clarity has to be a good thing, because people are freaking out about links these days, and Google itself is even mistakenly telling webmasters that legitimate links are bad in some cases. But like Google's Matt Cutts said in a tweet, "I think that's 1 of the benefits of more transparency is that it helps us improve on our side too."