Earlier this month, Google released a new Link option within Google's Webmaster Tools. Google allows you to look up which websites are linking to your by using search commands like: link:www.domain.com, links: www.domain.com, plus other variations through the regular search. However, Google only allows you to see a sample of those back links.
The new Link option now provides you with a larger sample of those websites linking to you. Although you won't get to see all incoming links to your site, including those listed in Google's supplemental index, you will see a larger sample than if using the now outdated link commands. The Link option is only for your website, so you are not able to check out your competition's strategic linking programs. You will still need to use the above mentioned link commands for competitor analysis.
To use this new link option, you need to be a Google Webmaster user. Once you've verified your website, click on the My Sites screen and choose your domain. Then you will see the following tabs: Diagnostic, Statistics, Links and Sitemaps. The new Links tab allows you to see external and internal links for your website. External links are the links most people are concerned with. These are links coming from outside of your site. You can see what other sites are linking to you, whether it is the home page, or the interior pages. Internal links tell you how well your site is interlinked within itself.
The new Links tab definitely offers valuable information, plus Google also allows you to download the data into an Excel spreadsheet making management of the data much easier than before. So, why did Google decide to offer this new feature? Google spokespeople claim they decided to offer the option because of feedback from Webmasters. Google is more comfortable with the idea because the info is only going to specific site owners, rather than to everyone. Either way, I'm happy with the new tool!