It seems the Google link: (link followed by a colon) search operator or search prefix may have been temporarily or permanently deleted in favour of using links: instead.
OK at least let's say at least it is temporarily unavailable for use in conjunction with google.com and google.com.au and maybe other Google domains.
Update an hour later...possibly some #egg on my face... You may still be able to use the 'link:' string in a Google search but only if it has an asterisk (which may or may not be a wildcard) after the colon i.e. link:*google.com which currently gives 1.16 billion results.
No Google announcement about this I can find but on Google's own webmaster tools help page regarding using the link: search prefix tool it still says use link:.
If you do use link: using Google's example on that page i.e. link:google.com you currently (11.45am 12th Dec 2014) get a page with only 9090 results which is very strange.
If however you change the URL to become links: instead of link: i.e links.google.com you get a page with 938M* results! (*big number alert 938,000,000).
Google webmaster tools breadcrumb trail where the above link is nested (in case it changes).
I just posted to the Google Product Forum page regarding webmaster tools to try to get some answers, my post was as follows:
Does anyone know if the the useful tool "link:" (used as a Google search operator i.e. link:google.com), and which is used for discovering backlinks of the named domain, been temporarily or permanently changed to it's plural "links:"?
If you used google.com as the target domain in conjunction with the "links:" search string i.e. link:google.com then it currently returns a paltry number of backlinks about 8,000. see
but if you use the hitherto unknown "links:" search prefix i.e. links:google.com it returns the much more likely 938 million backlinks.
Is this to disrupt the backlink mining companies like Majestic and similar?
I have used the example from the webmaster tools page which contains advice on using the "link:" string see:
https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/55281?hl=en which is currently not relevant.
Maybe this is a temporary change or will they become two separate tools?
Thanks for listening!
Email I sent to Barry Schwartz who writes for Search Engine Land see some of his articles.
Firstly I love your work and always enjoy your articles!
Nextly re: Your article in Search Engine Land about Google's link: search operator possibly being phased out
Article date: February 15, 2016 at 2:08 pm
I wrote an article about this in 2014 (this page) and also blogged to G+ (with not much response).
Nowadays I find that the link: operator still works IF we use either Link: (singular with capital L mostly gives the highest no. of results, links: (plural - which I personally like because I found it over a year ago) AND if we either drop the www from the search OR replace it with an asterisk.
Thus Link:google.com currently has 256M results and links:google.com has 172M results but link:google.com has zero results.
Adding the www we have link:www.google.com with zero, links:www.google.com has 155M results and with the capital L...Link:www.google.com has 218M.
If you read my article I was also told by someone I can't remember who that link: still works if you replace the www with an asterisk so link:*.google.com & Link:*.google.com both return 852M but links:*.google.com trumps them all with 972M results!