Just what does the link:mysite.com Google query do? Returning odd results for me

This makes no sense to me: when I run the following Google search for my site: link:jobstr.com
it returns only 6 results. WHY? There are dozens, if not hundreds of links to jobstr.com online, and they’re on sites that I’m sure that Google has crawled/indexed. Just as an example, search for site:.edu “jobstr.com and it returns 10 linkbacks on .edu sites. Moreover, my Analytics and WMT accounts show hundreds of live inbound links.

So what am I not understanding here? I thought that running the link:jobstr.com was essentially telling Google “show me all of the websites where people are linking to my site”…but that can’t be right if it’s only returning 6 results. So just what IS that query then?

Matt Cutts replied on this some time back saying that Google doesn’t do a very good job of handling the link: operator at all. Here’s a link I found from SEOmoz with a good article explaining it: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/google-link-command-busting-the-myths.

Basically you should be using Webmaster Tools from Google and Bing to see what they think of your total links. Those are tools more specifically tuned to measuring what you’re doing.

Yes, Google used to allow the link: operator in a search to work like that, and while I don’t think it ever showed you a comprehensive list of all your incoming links, it gave a reasonable selection. (Yahoo! used to give a better list, but again, that has bitten the dust). But now it doesn’t. I don’t know whether that is because they had technical problems with getting it to work (but hey, this is Google, so I’d say it’s pretty unlikely) or more probably they just wanted to steer more people to use Google Webmasters’ Tools, which gives you the inbound links and a whole lot more besides.

That query is telling Google to “show me a small random sample of the links to the page”.