It's been surprisingly frustrating to reliably track who's linking to my "Door to the FISA Court" post. I kept pretty on top of the major traffic drivers in Google Analytics and Twitter for the first few days after posting it, and it did pretty well. But 9 days later, my friend Brandon flagged a New Yorker piece that linked to it (among a long piece with many links), and I realized I had no practical way of finding these myself.
Here are some approaches I can take, and their tragic flaws:
- Google includes a "link:" operator in searches, to find anything linking to a particular page, but it's nonsensical. Searching for links to just a domain only matches links to just the domain, and searching for links to individual URLs is terribly incomplete.
- Google Alerts is broken and terrible. I've gotten nothing from mine for ages -- and then for the past week, I've had alerts on "link:isitchristmas.com" and "link:scout.sunlightfoundation.com" send me months- or years-old things, nearly every day.
- Talkwalker Alerts works, and well, but lacks a "link:" operator.
- Google Analytics will show you who referred visitors, but this is incomplete -- anything using SSL (https), like Hacker News won't show up, because this blog doesn't use SSL. I'll be adding SSL soon, which will turn this approach from incomplete into very tedious.
- Google Webmaster Tools will list links to your site, but it has two tragic flaws. It's too much: most of the listed domains, in my case anyway, were people who embedded top Hacker News posts on their site's frame for naked SEO grabs. These domains would also float to the top of the list, because the link appears on every page on the site, leaving me to tediously sift through the long tail looking for stray mentions. It's too little: it's missing things. The New Yorker piece doesn't appear, I suspect because the New Yorker uses a noarchive tag to prevent its content from appearing in Google's cache. While the New Yorker still appears in Google's search results, my guess is ducking the cache prevents Google from doing deep link analysis on the content.
- mention is a popular-looking paid mention tracker, but it does only that: mentions. No links. [Update 2016-03-03: Mention does do links! And there was a period in 2014 where you could get a decent free account. But they've since raised prices considerably.]
- Muck Rack is a well designed service for tracking online journalism. It doesn't do links, but it is useful for seeing which journalists furthered my stuff on Twitter, but their alerts require a paid plan, beginning at $99 per month. Sorry, I'm just a dude.
So, I don't know what to do. I'll spend a bit of money, even. I just want to see links! Please let me pay you to tell me about links!