Late last week, Google made some tweaks to the way Google Webmaster Tools is reporting links. In a move that has both please and confused webmasters, Google is now considering links from subdomains (as well as non-www and www versions) as internal links instead of external links as they were previously considered.
Webmasters are happy with the change because it means their internal links in Webmaster Tools are just a little bit cleaner and more accurate. Google had the following to say about the change:
Most people think of example.com and www.example.com as the same site these days, so we’re changing it such that now, if you add either example.com or www.example.com as a site, links from both the www and non-www versions of the domain will be categorized as internal links. We’ve also extended this idea to include other subdomains, since many people who own a domain also own its subdomains—so links from cats.example.com or pets.example.com will also be categorized as internal links for www.example.com.
The confusion was caused by an unclear answer as to whether or not this change only had an effect on Webmaster Tools data, or if it affected the ranking algorithm as well. Luckily, in a Google+ post yesterday, Google employee Pierre Far clarified that the change only affects the way data displays in Webmaster Tools. The start of his post was worded in an entertaining manner to be sure:
Dear webmasters: A lot of people have seen the recent announcement about the recent reorganization of backlinks in Webmaster Tools and are saying it’s a reflection of a new way that Google handles links for ranking purposes.
So there you have it. More accurate linking data display in Google Webmaster Tools, and absolutely no effect on rankings due to the change. Have fun reviewing your updated reports!