First, when checking back links in Google, why do I get a different answer when I use "link:www.yourname.com" (16 links for my URL) vs. "link: http://www.yourname.com"
link:www.yoursite is the correct syntax, link: www.anysit will show pages with the URL and the word link anywhere on the page or link,
Second, what types of links are you actually checking with this method? I ask this because I do not see many links from my distributors or sales reps who all have a link somewhere in their site back to my home page.
This command is completely useless these days when it comes to google, they show only a small percentage of links a site posesses, For some sites we monitor they show only 10% of the links they know of, Forget that command, check yahoo, yahoo shows most of the links they know of pointing to your site,
Third, when setting up external links, is it critical that these links be to the first level, or home page, and if not, how many levels down do you think is too far to have a positive impact on rankings?
What type of external links you are talking about, you mean links to other sites, there are no proven evidence outbound links effect rankings, it doesnt matter which page level the link is, it plays minimum value in SE ranking algos, If you mean anything else post it here ill try to answer it,
Finally, in an older article, I believe Jill talked about tweaking one of her pages to add some internal links back to her home page. Did I remember this correctly, and does it have some impact on page rankings (I do know external links are better)?
Internal anchor text links play a vital role in google ranking these days, those links gives complete power to the page they are voting inside your site, it is worth optimizing your internal anchor text to the targeted internal page,