Link discovery and management is often considered an important aspect of one’s SEO services, and historically, SEOs used a special search operator from Google to find these links. The operator was in the format of a search on [link:www.domain.com].
Over time, the link operator has become less and less useful for SEOs and webmasters. Google has told webmasters over time that they should use the Google Search Console link report for better link discovery because the link operator only shows a “sample” of a site’s links.
Last week, Bill Hartzer noticed that the link operator stopped working for many large sites including [link:www.google.com]. It did/does however work for other large sites, including [link:www.yahoo.com].
Gary Illyes, a Google Webmaster Trends Analysts, said on Twitter that the link operator was not removed:
Here is a screen shot showing it not working for a link command on google.com:
Compared to a link command for yahoo.com:
We have emailed Google about this, and they were not able to share more than what Gary Illyes shared above.
Another interesting move was that Google removed the link operator from their search operators page a few weeks ago.
Google again told us that the feature still works as it did, but I guess their advice is still to use the Google Search Console and avoid using the link operator.
We have asked Google to review this operator in more detail and let us know about their plans for its future.