Google apparently can’t publicly make up their mind as to whether or not the link search operator works or not. About a year ago I noticed that the link search operator (e.g., link:billhartzer.com) wasn’t working reliably for any website. At that time, Google’s Gary Illyes said that that “short answer is no”, implying that they didn’t remove it. But now, about a year later, Google’s John Mueller said not to use it.
Google’s Gary Illyes, in a response to a tweet about my February 2016 post, said this:
In response to that, I *DID* email email@example.com about it… and a year later I’m still waiting for a response from Google about the link search operator. I’ve reached out to them again about this, and if I hear back from them this time I’ll update this post.
We Know It Doesn’t Work
As an SEO Consultant who has been helping sites with Google rankings for a long time, I can tell you that several years ago SEOs stopped using Google’s link search operator. It doesn’t give you an accurate (or even a close to accurate) list of the links to a website. It’s actually SO BAD that a search for link:hartzer.com shows pages from BillHartzer.com, and I know for a fact that my site, billhartzer.com, does NOT link to my other site, hartzer.com.
SEOs know that it doesn’t work. So the pros don’t use it. We use tools like Majestic.com and other link tools or Link Research Tools. However, the problem I have here is that it does show results. There are misinformed webmasters and website owners (business owners) who actually DO still use the link search operator to look at their links. By Google showing results for that search query, it’s misguiding them. It’s making them think that the list of pages that Google returns is, in fact, a list of links to their website.
Google should just remove the link search operator once and for all and stop misguiding people on this. Google doesn’t give you a list of link to a website when you use the link search operator. You do, however, have access to a list of links in Google Search Console once you’ve verified your web site.
In response to my post, John Mueller has responded, on Twitter, about the link search operator:
— John ?.o(???)o.? (@JohnMu) January 11, 2017
John said that “things change over time… and as far as he knows the link search operator is no longer live in search. So, that’s good news. Don’t use it, as it’s not going to show you any useful data about the links to your site. I’ve updated this post’s title to reflect the fact that the link search operator is no longer live in search.